Arts & Entertainment, Features

VSCO year-in-review features young Bostonian, celebrates artists’ resilience

Last year was a colossal year for everyone.

Boston-based artist Alexis Higgins was featured in VSCO’s 2020 Year in Review. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

VSCO, a popular photography app, aimed to capture the impact of the historic year with art and photographs, releasing “The VSCO Lens: 2020 Year In Review,” which recounted the most popular trends on the app and impactful moments throughout the year. The list was released Dec. 15 of last year.

The premise of the project was to showcase the art that 2020 allowed people to create.

Shavone Charles, head of communications and creative partnerships at VSCO, spearheaded the 2020 Year In Review.

Charles encompassed the year’s trending hashtags, art and statistics into the review to illustrate how teenagers in 2020 used creative outlets like VSCO as a form of “self care,” she wrote in a statement.

“Our community shared their most authentic moments and how creativity helped them to navigate through 2020’s ups and downs,” Charles wrote.

Alexis Higgins, a 22-year-old artist from Boston, had her work shared on VSCO’s Instagram, which has a little over 4 million followers.

Higgins, who attends Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is passionate about creating collages, said being featured in VSCO was “a huge opportunity.”

“I’d never been published before,” she said. “I had seriously never been in a zine before this, so this was really, really exciting for me.”

VSCO posted several of Higgins’ original works, including an “abstract painting” she said she is especially proud of. The feature also contains other pieces made by hand, as well as a couple collages.

After being laid off twice during the pandemic, Higgins turned her time and creative pursuits to art, she said — more specifically collage making.

“In my free time, I was always collaging, especially right after I’d been laid off,” she said. “It gave me a lot more free time to explore my style and what I wanted to do with my work.”

Higgins used her art during quarantine as an escape, she said, especially through the pandemic’s first few months. Her collaboration with VSCO, she said, allowed her to feel connected to people in a time when everyone was so far apart.

“It was a way to just kind of sit back and escape,” Higgins said. “I got so much feedback from people that I hadn’t talked to in years. Especially during a time of extreme isolation, it made a huge difference in knowing that everybody is going through the same thing.”

Higgins was not alone in seeking creative stress relief — a survey VSCO conducted with JUV Consulting revealed just how intrinsic this desire for creativity was for Generation Z, Charles wrote.

The survey, conducted in November, had 1,000 respondents aged 14 to 25 years old from across the globe and featured “significant” responses from people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Of respondents, 34 percent said creative outlets were the “most important” factor in getting through the year. Connecting with loved ones and practicing self-care were ranked lower on the list.

Charles added 66 percent of respondents reported spending more time on creative hobbies and 44 percent reported reduced stress levels when doing so.

To Charles, this project demonstrated how even in times of struggle, art persists.

“History proves that even in the hardest of times, creativity can thrive and have a profound and positive impact on people’s lives,” Charles wrote. “We saw it firsthand on VSCO throughout 2020 and that resilience inspired us to create our first-ever Year in Review to explore how next-gen communities spent their year creating and thriving, against all odds.”

For many, most of 2020 was spent within the same four walls. COVID-19 was and still is a dominating factor in everyone’s lives. Highlighting artists such as Higgins, Charles wrote, was an important way to illustrate how art allows people to heal and cope.

“They made creativity part of their daily routines and a form of self care,” she wrote. “They showed us how they were preserving connections—even in isolation—with images celebrating relationships with family and friends, both near and at a distance.”


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  1. Former COM staffer

    Alexis Higgins is my wonderful talented niece! I couldn’t be happier to see the Free Press featuring her work and interviewing her about her artistic life during the pandemic. Thank you FREEP!