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COLUMBUS, Miss.-- The solace came first.

Jewel Bishop had experimented with smaller art projects like bookmarks and journal covers, but she didn’t branch out to bigger projects until the death of her father, Silas W. Bishop. Jewel’s foray into Diamond Painting, a mix of paint by numbers and cross stitch, allowed her to grieve for her father, a retired United States Naval officer who passed away due to complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) on March 11, 2020.

Silas Bishop’s death coincided with the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Jewel and people throughout the world had to cope with the isolation of a lockdown and social distancing.

But Jewel turned isolation into inspiration, and now Mississippi University for Women plans to showcase her artwork and that of other faculty and staff members in a fund raiser for The W’s Student Emergency Fund. The Student Emergency Fund has supported students in crisis throughout the COVID crisis and beyond, providing a lifeline that allows them to stay in school and get a degree that will change their lives. The URL for giving to the fund is

“I hope people take from this that anyone can be creative and any hobby or craft can be a mental or physical release and we should share them with others,” said Bishop, a student success navigator in The W’s School of Education / College of Arts & Sciences.

Amanda Powers, dean of Library Services / professor, said Fant Memorial Library seemed to be the perfect place to show off the artwork that has been created in the last year. Rachael Damms, a library associate, suggested holding an event to auction off the items for the Student Emergency Fund.

“When I heard about Jewel’s idea, I related because I had begun dabbling in old hobbies and picked up some new ones during the quarantine,” Damms said. “I thought it was a brilliant idea because I knew so many people shared the same experiences. I agreed an exhibit of these projects would be a fun and powerful way to show the creativity that blossomed out of this shared challenge.”

Campus members can use a Google Form to sign up to contribute their work. An exhibit will be created from those submissions. The deadline for signing up is Monday, March 15. The drop-off will be at the check-in desk at Fant Memorial Library. Participants can drop off their contributions as early as Tuesday, March 16.

“We hope that as people view the exhibit they will want to participate and we can grow the collection from there,” Powers said.

The auction of the donated arts and crafts will begin April 1 and end by graduation April 23.

Working at a drafting table in her living room at home or as part of a socially distanced Diamond Painting lunch group, Bishop has created 15 Diamond Paintings and is working on another. She said her work in isolation created a lot of talk when she returned to work. Once back at The W, Bishop discovered numerous co-workers also had started hobbies, and some joined the lunch group. She said that group started with Brittany Hunnicutt and Christi Dillon and has since added Melinda Lowe, her daughter, Katelyn; and Penny Mansell.

“Everyone wanders in and out for some crafting as needed,” Bishop said. “Everyone chooses a section and we work. Sometimes we work in silence and sometimes we talk, but we always go back to work a little more relaxed.”

Bishop said she would like to try painting with actual paint, but that she has enjoyed immersing herself in a world where thousands of tiny resin or crystal “diamonds” or drills are applied to a coded adhesive canvas to create the art. She said the colors used depend on the artwork, and that she has some paintings that are dark and moody and some that are bright and fun. 

“The number of colors varies depending on the piece,” Bishop said. “I have some that have as few as 20 colors and I have some in my stash that have close to 80 colors.”

Bishop said she also has 14 paintings in her stash that are “waiting for their turn to shine.” She and Damms hope everyone at The W will contribute their projects to an event that will raise money for a great cause.

“I hope people look at the exhibit and feel a sense of community amidst the isolation they’ve faced, and that they are inspired to create or try something new,” Damms said.

All of the artwork will be photographed and put into the Fant Memorial Library’s online institutional repository to highlight The W’s creative side and to build a unique collection for future researchers curious about how COVID-19 affected the arts.

March 12, 2021
Contact: Adam Minichino
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