The lemon tree art from ACT

ACT Students Respond to Pandemic with Collaborative Visual Art


(Willimantic, CT) – While experiencing the isolation and anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, students at EASTCONN’s Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) collaborated on “The Lemon Tree,” a large mixed media artwork that can be viewed at East Brook Mall in Mansfield Center starting on Thursday, November 11 as part of Windham Arts’ Abstract Art Exhibition.

Many of the 19 artists – Mikey Aston, Kelly Avery, Tiara Azeez, Jay Barbeau, Calista Bochicchio, Olivia Briggs, Kayleigh Brousseau, Kyle DaRos, Savanna Dawson, Ella (Sal) Durkee, Mykaila Hills, Nessa Jacobs, Drihan Kimmel, Shawn McDaniel, Sarah Murphy, Morgan Potter, Sevyn Redding, Jeylisha Velez and Denisse Zamudio-Reyes – are students at ACT, a public, performing arts magnet high school with free enrollment for Connecticut students.

“We are all isolated in little pods, masked, headphoned, microphoned, connected, virtual, hybrid, distant, and thoroughly disconnected from what we loved,” the artists said. “Anxiety was high, motivation was low, and it seemed like the whole school year was destined for the garbage heap.”

The 8’ by 4’ artwork consists of pieces of recycled plastic, hot glue, cardboard, acrylic, found objects and tree branches affixed to plywood during the 2020-2021 school year.

The idea behind “The Lemon Tree,” the artists said, was to gather things that were “bound for the recycling bin – plastic bottle caps, forks, fast food toys, and other scraps of the disposable transience of everyday life” into something more permanent.

“The process of making ‘The Lemon Tree’ was both wonderful and revolting,” said ACT student Jay Barbeau. “Washing trash from our own bins was gross, but gluing it together and painting it felt harmonious and natural… The fruits of our labor are definitely paying off and sharing them is very enthralling for an art student and my class of artists alike.”

Windham Arts’ Abstract Art Exhibition runs at the Coffee Break Gallery at the East Brook Mall (95 Storrs Road, Mansfield Center) until November 28. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, November 11 from 6-7:30 p.m. Many of the pieces will be for sale.

EASTCONN is a public, non-profit, Regional Educational Service Center that has been serving the education needs of schools and communities in northeastern Connecticut since 1980. Learn more about EASTCONN at