If you’re a reader of The New York Times, you’ve seen Yuliya Parshina-Kottas‘ art, thought you might not have thought of it as such. Parshina-Kottas does not so much draw in her day job as she paints with data, animating information to produce pieces like the 3-D simulation of how the coronavirus COVID-19 spreads, an explanation of last year’s devastating fire in Notre-Dame or an augmented realty look into the Statue of Liberty’s torch.
“I am an animator who brings data visualization to life,” Parshina-Kottas, who was the winner of the first Verona Arts Chalk Fest last year. She has been invited back to be one of two featured artists at this year’s Chalk Fest, an event that is being spread across driveways and walkways all over town because of the continued presence of COVID-19.
Her work for the Times is a childhood dream come true. “I dreamed of being a journalist when I was in middle school when I had just arrived in this country,” says Parshina-Kottas, who was born in Moscow and came to the United States when she was 11 1/2. She grew up in Brooklyn and moved out here six years ago.
But it was not a dream that she arrived at directly. After an undergraduate degree in computer art from New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Parshina-Kottas worked for the American Museum of Natural History and other museums, as well as advertising agencies and children’s television. She networked her way into the newspaper after completing the graduate interactive telecommunications program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Her job, she says, is at the intersection of journalism and art. Sometimes she partners with a journalist and sometimes she does the reporting, reaching out to experts for the data she needs. Sometimes she has the luxury of time to do her work and sometimes she doesn’t. When Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the Philippines in 2018, Parshina-Kottas turned it into a 3-D animation in three days. “But we’re talking 24-hour days,” she says.
Parshina-Kottas’ appearance at Chalk Fest was also the product of long days. She had just had a baby, and had a toddler at home as well. “Chalk Fest was my treat to myself,” she says. “I draw and paint, whatever physical art I can do out of my digital life.” Parshina-Kottas has posted many examples of this art, which often has a folkloric quality, to her Instagram page. “When the kids are asleep, I let loose on physical projects. There’s magic in being able to touch the things you are drawing.”
She is still finalizing her thoughts on Chalk Fest but she says that this year’s piece will draw on magic and folklore. “It will involve some sort of magical creature,” she says, “coming out of the woods.”
Chalk Fest II will feature just two artists in front of Town Hall, Parshina-Kottas and Rick Shick. The dozens of other participants will be chalking from home. You can get directions to all the art through Verona Arts’ Facebook and Instagram pages on Saturday morning.