Art teachers get creative while adapting to online learning this year

Isabelle Pala

Wilson’s art teachers are not well-versed in teaching art without supplies. Doing it without hands-on instruction and real-time feedback is even harder. 

One the one hand, Sculpture and Drawing & Painting teacher Alia Hasan has struggled most with not being able to see her students in person. She describes how hard it is to forge meaningful connections with students, to know “whether they’re paying attention to my teaching when I’m staring at a bunch of gray rectangles with initials.” She reflects on her in-person routine, in which she would be able to walk around the classroom, overseeing students’ progress and collaboration with each other – successful teaching techniques that online classes don’t have. On the other hand, Hasan does note one benefit of distance learning being a reduction in behavioral issues, as well as an increase in participation with students who are more reserved in a traditional classroom environment. 

Avram Lubliner-Walters, Art A and Printmaking teacher, echoes the same struggles while bringing up the issue of equity to the table. “Some students have all the art supplies in the world while other students have very little. Some have a wonderful environment to create artwork in, while others do not,” Walters explained. To minimize this issue, he has been mindful in creating assignments that could be completed with a ”very limited amount of supplies.”

In returns, many students have expressed their appreciation for the special efforts art teachers have been putting in. Junior Eleanor Gallay elaborates on her online Drawing & Painting III experience. “Ms. Barnes tried to make sure that everyone could work on a variety of different artworks […] by putting together packages of different art supplies and allowing students to pick them up at school and even dropped them off at people’s houses if necessary.” 

Junior Emily Shaw, who is taking both Ceramics and Drawing & Painting II, highlights how her Ceramics teacher was really thoughtful about her teaching. “She made sure we each had a place set up at our house to work and to put all of our projects and she would have us keep out camera on in class to show our project so she could see how we were doing it and correct us if we were using the wrong technique or anything like that.” 

Teachers have also tried to find the silver linings in Teams art classes. Mary Barnes, Drawing and Painting teacher, has encouraged her students to get outside on nice days and introduced her cat to the class to lighten the mood.

However, each student has had their independent struggles. Gallay has found finding the inspiration for her artwork very difficult because, “it’s hard when you are just in one space for the entirety of your day doing all of your school work, and you’re not really surrounded by things that could give you inspiration.” Shaw has struggled with motivation to put full effort into assignments and “it’s just really difficult especially when there’s not someone right there telling you what to do.”

With the barriers of a virtual classroom and limited access to supplies, art classes have definitely felt the brunt of the effects of the pandemic, but nonetheless, students and teachers alike have found ways to overcome these hardships and make the most out of the experience. With the learnings of the first virtual semester, second semester is sure to be an improvement, especially now that some students will be able to go in person.