Illustration by Sofia Reeves

Pandemic prompts restructuring of art classes

While many lecture and discussion-based classes have little difficulty switching to hybrid teaching or going completely online, it is not so simple for studio and performing arts. Classes such as sculpture and ceramics have required in-person components, meaning that these classes cannot be taken by fully-remote students. 

While classes involving in-person studio art may seem to require the most reorganization, other classes in the art department have also had to modify their usual coursework. This semester Alaryx Tenzer ’23 is taking Studio Seminar, a discussion-based class that studies artistic texts and art pieces and would normally feature presentations by various artists. 

“We can’t bring people in in-person anymore to have conversations,” Tenzer said. “We’re moving that to Zoom, which in a way is nice because it can be a lot more international, but you’re losing the one-on-one interaction with an actual artist.”

Studio Seminar students are primarily juniors, who must now do their portfolio review digitally, which Tenzer described as being “a big roadblock.”

As for music performance classes, courses have responded in various ways. Community Chorale, for example, is taught over Zoom, while many instrument-based classes use hybrid and in-person models. For Frankie Spurbeck ’23, who takes Community Chorale online and Classical Guitar Private Lessons in-person, this means adapting to practicing alone in their room and no longer sharing sheet music with other students.

“We warm up and we all have our microphones muted,” Spurbeck said. “We use breakout rooms to divide into sections, and then we will learn whatever sound we’re learning … and you just have to do it by yourself. It’s hard for me because I rely on people around me knowing the part.”

In addition to changes to class structures, students must now reserve time slots online in order to access the art studios in Fields Center for the Visual Arts and practice rooms in Evans Music Center, as compared to previously being able to go in at any time. With only a certain number of people allowed in a studio at one time, studio art classes in particular must now reconsider the amount of work assigned outside of class. Spurbeck described feeling less inclined to use practice rooms, due to the added requirements, despite getting distracted more when practicing elsewhere.

Both Tenzer and Spurbeck expressed that online classes impact the way they approach the creative and performative aspects of art and music, respectively. 

“A lot of artists are working on finding ways to create within the circumstances, rather than creating despite them,” Tenzer said. “I definitely think that’s the only solution, because (online classes have) just a completely different way of presenting anything that you’ve made.”

For Spurbeck, online choir has lessened the amount of time they spend practicing and how confident they feel when singing.

Online and hybrid classes inevitably change the way artists interact with their work, but the persistence of creation in today’s reality proves the importance of art and music in a world full of uncertainty.

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