Creativity in Crisis: How Southeast students and staff are taking advantage of the extra time quarantine has granted them


Artwork by Harrison Hebb

Lilly Young and Keelie Kraft

It’s long been said by many that the American education system has ruined the creativity of the nation’s brightest, most expressive students, in an attempt to implement a more effective, more inclusive teaching method. Whether that idea is actually true or not, now, America’s schools — including Lincoln Southeast — are not in session, and when left to their own devices, these same students have been given the opportunity to show their “true colors.” Hobbies — such as drawing, painting, writing and yes, even toilet-paper-roll caricature creations — that were previously put on the back-burner in exchange for that 4.0 GPA or one’s exhaustive work schedule, are now in the limelight. Quite literally, Lincoln’s students and teachers alike have all of the time in the world, and they’re using it to their advantage. 

Southeast senior Harrison Hebb is a painter, but, with the strain of school work and juggling all of the activities of a busy high schooler, hadn’t previously had as much time for it as he would’ve liked. During quarantine, though, he’s been able to invest more time in this hobby.

“I paint people mostly, so it’s been very helpful to paint my friends and make artwork for them, because it reminds me that I’ll see them!” Hebb said. “I also love painting, because it’s relaxing and it gives me something to do to take my mind off of things.”

Similarly, Hebb is also into other forms of art. 

“Aside from painting, I love digital art/communication art! I absolutely love fonts and formatting stuff,” Hebb said. “I also love acting, of course, because it’s an activity to do with people and it’s an art that brings you closer to people, and a deeper understanding of other people through playing characters.”

It’s no secret that creativity can act as a definite stress reliever, and although students at Southeast aren’t experiencing the typical anxieties of test scores or packed schedules, there’s no doubt that this viral illness has placed an unprecedented stress on personal lives. 

In an Entrepreneur article titled, “Science shows how creativity can reduce stress,” written by contributors Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal, “By focusing intensely on a creative task, you can achieve the state of ‘flow,’ the term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and which is typically defined as the ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’” 

In fact, this sense of rhythmic flow is often what students feel they need most, even if it’s not in the form of a mandated 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. timetable. 

“Perhaps we experience positive feelings because creation is ultimately an act of freedom. You manifest the world you want to see one music note or financial forecast at a time,” Chopra and Sehgal wrote. 

Southeast Biology teacher, Laurel Schmitz, has taken this time to slow down and invest in some of her own creative outlets as well. 

The additional time I’ve had available has allowed me to make elaborate meals more frequently, because I’m not as stressed and busy on school nights,” Schmitz said. “To help provide things for meals I make, I’ve been setting up my garden of herbs and hot peppers. I also use the hot peppers to make fermented hot sauces.”

In addition to making meals, Schmitz has also been making toilet-paper roll characters as a simple, stress-free way to pass the time. 

“My crafting hobbies have helped me relax and find joy from the end product. It doesn’t matter what I’m making, but the act of creating something new from raw materials provides a feeling of accomplishment,” Schmitz said.  “It’s nice to make someone else smile with what you’ve created, whether it’s a handmade card, or a person made out of a toilet paper roll.”

More than anything, though, Schmitz misses the interaction she is used to having with her students every day. 

“Whenever someone comes to office hours, I enjoy getting the chance to help them on work and then just catch up. This sounds very silly, but I find myself getting teary-eyed almost every time I get to see a student in office hours,” Schmitz said. 

Quarantine has brought out another Southeast senior’s creative side. Lila Donahoe (12) hasn’t been able to spend much time with her friends and has gotten used to being alone with her paintings. 

“I paint when I am stressed and it calms me. I think it helps because it is a distraction. I started painting at the beginning of quarantine. I had done it a little before but not intensely,” Donahoe said.

For students who are struggling to find purposeful activities while maintaining social distancing, Donahoe suggests painting. 

“Your first few paintings might be bad or you might think they’re bad, [but] just hang in there and keep going,” Donahoe said. 

There’s no doubt that the beginning of 2020 has been incredibly rocky and full of surprises, but as these students have proved, there are many ways to stay grounded in all of the chaos.


Art by: Harrison Hebb

Photo by: Laurel Schmitz