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What Are Virtual Art Classes Doing?

  • Luca Mezzanotte

As a result of the school shutdown and quarantine, art classes, much like almost every other class, have had to drastically alter their plans. However, unlike Math, English, or Science classes, the art curriculum is not based upon group discussion or problems from a textbook. Painting and drawing, ceramics, woodworking, photography, and digital video exercises are facilitated by the number of available resources or weather conditions; they maintain a bit of spontaneity as a result. As outlined by Mrs. Kaplan, “Not everyone has copious amounts of art supplies at their disposal.” Thus, planning a curriculum over spring break that would accomplish the goals of teaching art students proper skills and techniques and challenging their creativity while also being engaging presented a challenge to the art department. 

Ceramic and woodworking students were first assigned to create a creature using found and recycled items from around their homes. “Students seemed to find this challenging and fun,” Mrs. Kaplan said. Few guidelines were set in place, and each artist was limited only by the variety of materials in their homes. The students met the challenge and designed unique, personal creatures constructed with materials ranging from food and chip bags to aluminum foil and toilet paper which can be viewed here along with other art pieces. The students were then asked to utilize positive or negative space in their art in an assignment inspired by Scottish installation artist Andy Goldsworthy, who creates sculptures without tools, utilizing only what surrounds him. They were encouraged to go outside and use only natural items. The students created temporary sculptures with the materials in their respective surrounding environments like Goldsworthy, resulting in the use of a wide range of forms in a predominantly natural setting. The students’ current assignment is as follows: “you have just been invited to submit plans for a new play park in your neighborhood/town. You must design a playground with a minimum of seven structures, three of which being original designs.” The size is limited to no more than one football field, which is significantly larger than traditional playgrounds and parks and allows for more creativity. 

In Drawing and Painting, students were sent home with a range of pencils, charcoal, colored pencils and other drawing utensils, a sketchbook, and several types of paper. They have been assigned both short-term and long-term assignments and are primarily focusing on exercises that can be completed efficiently and conveniently, such as drawing still life the students themselves arrange or sketching the view from their window, an egg, or their hand and foot. 

The Photography and Digital Video curriculums were much easier to coordinate. Mr. Duarte noted, “My classes lend themselves to remote learning. Photography and Digital Video are mediums that take place in the real world and so my students are able to work on assignments as they normally would. What’s more important now is how we, as artists, react and experience this monumental period in history.” The art will serve as documentation of the time and provide the artists with the ability to reminisce on different periods in their lives. The photographers and videographers were assigned projects that would uncover and transmit a sense of isolation as a result of being apart from school and their classmates. New emotions are explored through each project, which Mr. Duarte says has been an “interesting and rewarding experience.” 

Art continues to be a significant part of the Belmont Hill student life in quarantine, and through these unfortunate circumstances, new forms of artistic expression have arisen. 

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