Temple student artists create, sell art online during pandemic

While social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, some students are selling custom art designs on platforms like Etsy or Redbubble.

Caroline Khoury, a sophomore film major, displays two of her paintings outside of Vantage apartments on Sept. 21. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Since high school, Caroline Khoury ran a face painting business during the summer, working for hire at parties or for free at nonprofit events.

But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought her business to a halt. 

“It definitely affected a huge chunk of what my summer profits, like that was my summer job,” said Khoury, a sophomore film and media arts major. 

Khoury turned her extra time during the pandemic to sell painted portraits of celebrities and magnets instead, and started a business on Etsy, an online shopping platform for independent artists. 

Student artists at Temple University like Khoury are using online selling platforms like Redbubble, Etsy and social media websites to expand or create art businesses to supplement their income during the pandemic. 

Artists are among the most severely impacted workers during the pandemic in the United States, with 95 percent reporting income loss, according to a May report by Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes arts advocacy and research. 

From April to July, the fine and performing arts industry reported a 50 percent loss in jobs and a 27 percent loss in total sales, according to a report from The Brookings Institute, a nonprofit research organization. 

Samantha Henken, a sophomore art education major, started selling handmade jewelry, ashtrays and coasters on Instagram in November 2019.

When Temple moved classes online in March, Henken had trouble adjusting to her courses’ workload, so she stopped selling her products for almost a month and half, she said.

Then, when she restarted her business in April, Henken she noticed a decrease in sales. Since then, business has been steadily increasing and she wants to expand it by making new products, like bowls, she said.

“I have been making a good amount of money, which is nice especially during the pandemic,” Henken said.

Julia Wynn, a junior finance major, used her extra time this summer to launch a line of custom Temple-inspired stickers and magnets. When she started selling in August, she received positive feedback from Temple online communities on Facebook and Reddit, she said.  

“It was during [COVID-19], so I wasn’t really sure how it affected other artists,” Wynn said. “I feel like now the pandemic, people are kind of splurging on things.”

Wynn also makes products for commissions from students at other universities, like students from Stockton University in Galloway Township, New Jersey. She attributes these sales to the positive reception of her Temple sticker line, she said.

Kathleen Saier, a sophomore english major, bought Wynn’s stickers because they were cute and affordable, she said.

“I always really do like supporting small artists, because I know that’s what my friends need,” Saier said. “I know that for them, it feels really good when someone says, ‘Hey, I like your stuff so much that I’m willing to actually give you money for it.’”

Like Wynn, social distancing allowed Lilli Taylor, a sophomore visual studies major, more time to focus on her personal art projects and grow her art business, where she sells stickers, clothes and other printed items.

After Main Campus closed in March, Taylor’s goal was to make one new piece a day. She created a Redbubble shop to sell her items.

Taylor started creating Black Lives Matter prints when Black Lives Matter protests began this summer, she said. It is important to use her art as a way to represent people and support social movements, she added.

“Being here, I had access to the resources needed to create art for other people, but I didn’t necessarily have the time,” Taylor said. “I have nothing but time now. As an artist, I think it’s a good time to explore who you are and what your art means to you.”

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