Recently, Gov. Tom Wolf has issued a stay at home order on Pennsylvania citizens due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Having to stay-at-home can cause a lot of stress and loneliness for students, and IUP professors want to give them all a reason to enjoy this time. Faculty in the art department are especially trying to combat student struggles.
Sharon Massey is a professor who works with jewelry and metal. Along with professor Sean Derry, the two worked together to create the “Quarantine Companion Project.”
The project consists of participants taking items from around their home to create a “friend.” This could be any type of material. Some participants have used rags, grocery bags and old clothing.
“We created kits with a needle, thread and googly eyes that can be mailed upon request to help facilitate making the companions,” Massey said. “But, really, anyone with a needle, thread and a little creativity can make a pal.”
Massey said the idea came during a Zoom call between faculty and students from the Sculpture Support System, a group who help create more professional experiences for students that involve the Indiana community.
After face-to-face classes were canceled, they wanted to help ease student anxiety in some way. They knew that students would be struggling with the sudden change, especially when it meant being away from friends.
“After a lengthy discussion, we agreed that helping people make a ‘companion’ and providing a platform for sharing them would be a worthwhile project.”
The art department had other previous projects planned for the year, but needed to cancel them due to the outbreak.
For a while, kits were available in spots near campus, such as Robertshaw. Wanting to take more safety precautions, kits are now only available by mail.
Interest in the project has already been high with more than 40 kits shipped out across the United States.
“Most requests come from Indiana or Pittsburgh, but we have also gotten requests from Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska.”
Some participants have already uploaded photos of their pals onto Instagram using the hashtag #TheQuarantineCompanion.
Massey said that art and projects such as The Quarantine Companion are especially important during these hard times, as it can be therapeutic.
“Art makes us think critically, creates a commentary for contemporary events, provides cultural stimulation and reminds us that we are part of a larger society,” she said.
In a news release, she said, “the act of gathering materials from your home and hand-stitching an object with personal significance reaffirms the value of art in our lives.”
The project is open to anyone who is interested. For those who would like a kit, they can fill out a form at
After creating the pal, participants are asked to upload a photo online using the hashtag #TheQuarantineCompanion, along with their pal’s name. Photos will be featured on the website’s gallery.
To learn more about the project, The Sculpture Support System can be reached at
email@example.com and also on Instagram @sculpturesupportsystem.