Romy Ruukel, director of the Shipley Center for Digital Learning & Innovation, didn’t consider herself to be particularly artistic before the pandemic. But when the world went into lockdown, like so many others, she soon craved something other than Zoom and walks around her neighborhood.
The first thing she did was return to knitting and crocheting, hobbies she had taken up in middle school, but hadn’t kept up with. Some of her first attempts at fiber arts are displayed on a wall in her third-floor Bay State Road brownstone office, reachable by a narrow winding staircase. On another wall is a framed drawing of two dignified, well-dressed cats, which carries its own interesting pandemic-related backstory.
The drawing belongs to one of Ruukel’s friends and came to her by way of an art swap. Three years ago, the 20-person group of friends started schlepping the art they had displayed in their homes to one member’s driveway. They would then take turns picking a new piece to bring home and return it the following month. The swap is still going on.
“At first I thought, I don’t have any art, I’m not a fancy art collector,” says Ruukel, who was 13 when she moved to the United States from Estonia. “But it turns out most people have things that other people would love to look at for a month.” Not to mention that the art comes with a cool backstory of how it arrived there. “It has felt nice to be surrounded by these pictures, because it reminds me that I’m not doing it alone, and that we’re not in isolation,” Ruukel says.
Looking around her office, Ruukel says it’s the first time she’s realized how much art she has on display. She says she likes to feature her own textile art because it offers a lesson in personal development.
“I like looking back and seeing what I made a year ago,” she muses. At the Shipley Center, “we pilot so many projects and support faculty in trying an experiment. So I think I like being surrounded by reminders of the process of learning, being brave, and taking a chance.”
In our Office Artifacts series, BU Today highlights interesting artifacts professors and staff display in their offices. Have a suggestion about someone we should profile? Email email@example.com.