Zara Fina Stasi ’08 remembers the first time she exhibited her art in the Mariboe Gallery.
It was the spring of her senior year. In her time at Peddie, Stasi explored visual art in a variety of media, was inspired by Peddie’s art teachers and made her tiny studio in Swig Arts Center into a home away from home. Inspired by nature, she had spent hours sitting outdoors on campus, sketching bushes, trees and leaves. And now, she was nailing pieces of cardboard and roots pulled from the ground onto the walls of the Mariboe as part of the show that would be the culmination of her time taking art classes at Peddie.
“I didn’t think at the time, ‘I’m going to remember this forever,’” Stasi recalled. “But it is something that I have seen as a thread throughout all of my work. I was really challenged and pushed by the art department, and that experience is still relevant to how I do my work now. I have some of those pieces in my studio now, among my new work and among things that inspire me.”
Today, Stasi is the founder and artistic director of Good For The Bees, a creative studio in New York City. Using her fascination with the science behind visuals, space design and effective learning environments, Stasi helps businesses create spaces where people thrive. This takes the form of bright, engaging murals that create lively, inviting learning environments. It also takes the form of live capture, a process where Stasi sits in on a talk or meeting and creates a live art piece that helps to illustrate and visually conceptualize the discussion for unique and dynamic learning. It’s an unusual career path, and one that Stasi designed for herself. “There’s always going to be the need for you to know your why, your passion, but also your purpose, and let that drive your decisions.”
In March of this year, Stasi was asked to make her return to the Mariboe Gallery as a featured artist. Mere weeks before her gallery show, everything changed. The school moved to online learning. Campus was closed. The show was cancelled.
Working from home during the height of COVID-19, Stasi wrestled with anxieties, fears and frustrations. As her shows were canceled and projects were delayed, and as the scarcity of nature on the streets of Brooklyn, New York started to wear on her, Stasi found herself spending a lot of time at home, staring at the art on her walls.
She had believed her Peddie gallery show was complete, but as she reflected on her work so far, she realized: “It wasn’t whole yet.” Stasi developed a new quarantine routine: Each morning, she would work on her Peddie gallery show, creating new works and adding to old ones.
“I loved how this show came together,” Stasi said, “because it was a very honest mix of pieces that I felt were finished. Some took the year. Some took four hours. It didn’t really matter. I found the finished pieces in a way that I was struggling with before this. They feel like a cohesive body of work.”
The show Stasi finished in quarantine became grounded, a meditation on nature as seen from above and below, just as she saw it in the city. In September, grounded became the first Mariboe Gallery show of the new school year and Peddie’s first-ever virtual art show. Stasi was excited to return to campus, especially as a pioneer during such an unusual time.
“I’m really interested in the science behind keeping art in places like classrooms, how that creates a shift in how we learn and how we treat ourselves when we get something wrong,” said Stasi. “It’s a nice full circle of art being in a place where it can be a tool and not necessarily just art in a gallery for art’s sake.”