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Showcase: Historical Bust Project

Historical Bust

February 2021

In late 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restricted in-person performances and classes created several problems for Performing Arts at Illinois instructors, which in some cases were solved by applying developing skill sets to projects in new ways. As part of her commitment to providing students with ongoing professional development and assistantship hours, Binky Donley, head of the Properties Design and Management MFA program for the Department of Theatre, assigned her students this hands-on bust project.

Three students chose a photo of a historical marble bust to study and emulate. The beginning blank canvases—or in this case, the male foam torsos—were the same for each student. Material was then carved away or added to enhance cheekbones, hair, clothes, and other features. Once each bust was sealed, it was sprayed with textured, speckled spray paint so that from a distance, it appears to be carved marble.

This project suited students’ needs—the materials could sit for any length of time and they could resume work at their convenience without damaging their piece. It also was intended to use both old and new skill sets and serve as a physical learning experience rather than a video tutorial. 

Properties Director Binky Donley notes, “As creative people, we like to make things. It makes us feel good, and we have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. It’s also important to know that in your career, you need to keep learning and attend workshops and summer classes to learn new things. This was a great opportunity for the students to dive into a project for their own professional development, a project we wouldn’t necessarily have had this much time for during a normal academic year.”


(hair bun)
Sammy Boyarsky
1st year Properties MFA

Emma Brutman
2nd year Scenic Design MFA

Binky Donley
Properties Shop Director

(sea life)
Timothy Swift
1st year Properties MFA

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