Brightly colored confetti

Isolation Celebrations

Isolation Celebrations is a collection of artifacts from the events that my family has celebrated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. As the second of six children living at home with all of my siblings and both of my parents, our household is busy and often only comes together for dinner in the evenings. To maintain morale during quarantine and help us bond as a family, we have thrown household parties for various events. From prom to birthdays and back-to-school, each party had a different theme with decorations and props. They are all homemade—hand drawn, cut from paper, and taped up on the walls or placed around the room. These items have taken up permanent residence around my family’s house and now symbolize experiences and memories that we share.

Click to view a recording of the virtual exhibition opening.

Isolation Celebrations

Isolation Celebrations Isolation Celebrations is a collection of artifacts from the events that my family has celebrated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Our first celebration was in May 2020. One of my sisters was finishing her junior year of high school and had anticipated going to prom, but it was cancelled due to COVID. She already had her dress and we knew she was disappointed, so we decided to throw a family prom at our house instead. We used the same theme that her school had planned—“under the sea”—and had a blast taking pictures, eating a themed meal, playing games, and dancing afterwards! We even made a version of cornhole with shark mouths, seen here.

A shoebox covered in construction paper with a shark decal and a hole in the center to play cornhole with.

In June 2020, my youngest sister, Nola, turned ten years old. In our family, there’s a rule that you can’t chew gum until you’re ten because my mom was always concerned that we would accidentally get it stuck in our hair. As a result, Nola decided that she wanted a bubble gum themed party for her birthday. We decorated with gum wrapper streamers and pink bubbles, some of which had advice or messages from us written on them. The one here reads, “Artists don’t make mistakes, they make unexpected possibilities!”

A section of streamers with Trident, Juicy Fruit, and Big League Chew logos on it underneath a collection of pink construction paper bubbles.

The next birthday we celebrated was my sister Talia’s thirteenth birthday. Beginning her teenage years was very exciting to Talia, so she wanted a party that felt equally mature. Since she had made her own dress for our at-home prom in May, we decided that a fashion-themed birthday party would be perfect! Shown here is a poster that we made, complete with a designer logo and some fancy writing to make it seem as official as possible.

A fashion-themed poster with a birthday cake and two shoes.

When the fall rolled around, so did my birthday. I had nothing to do with the planning, but remember hearing whispers about whether they should decorate using charts and graphs because I study data journalism. In the end, they settled on a frog theme because they are one of my favorite animals. Here is one of the decorations they made, which were smiling frog heads in many different colors. My siblings hand drew and cut each one!

Two frog heads mead of construction paper. One is orange and one is blue.

In the winter, Christmas was our cause for celebration. Though there were lots of decorations in red and green, my favorite was a game that we played that was a variation of pin the tail on the donkey; however, instead of a donkey, we constructed a snowman! Shown are the eyes, nose, and mouth pieces, but we also had to pin on buttons and a name tag!

The eyes, nose, and mouth of a snowman made of paper to be used for a game.

The most recent celebration we had a party for was my parents’ anniversary. They got married on January 8, 1994 in Iowa during one of the worst blizzards in decades, so my siblings and I planned a winter wonderland date night for them. This included a cake topped with snowflake sprinkles and a dining room fully decked-out with homemade paper snowflakes. We not only taped the snowflakes on the walls, but also hung them from the ceiling!

Three paper snowflakes.

Want to have your own household party? Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A space to party! This could be your living room, bedroom, or any open space in your house where you can move around.

2. Music! Pick anything that gets you into your groove. Here’s an example playlist to get you started.

3. (optional) Decorations! You and your household partygoers can pick a theme and add some festive flair to your space with anything from taped up pieces of paper to spare scraps of string.

4. Water and a smile! When dancing, it’s important to stay hydrated, so have a water bottle nearby. And have fun!

Emilia Ruzicka studies data journalism and will graduate in May 2021. Her current work includes a year-long personal data collection project, a podcast about the USPS, and her senior thesis. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter @EmiliaRuzicka for regular updates.

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