Student creativity thrives in quarantined art classes

Thomas Chen and Megan Hinkel

Julia Mackey’s art project (Photo by Julia Mackey)

Art classes are enriching while in school, but can be lackluster online because they require hands on learning and materials that most people don’t have laying around at home. However, WHS art classes have adapted to keep students creative during quarantine. 

Dealing with the limits of distance learning, WHS Fine Arts Teacher Dr. Edward Ruggieri said, “There is much greater flexibility in how I structure the projects due to students’ lack of specific materials.”

This presents a challenge for many students. They are not provided with these supplies and must use what they have at home. This forces students to get creative with their tools. 

“Searching for materials available in their home, such as paint, Legos, rocks, pencils, markers, cut paper, magazine clippings… is part of the joy of distance learning for the past several weeks because each student’s creativity is allowed to blossom and is limited only by their own imagination,” Ruggieri said.

WHS sophomore Charlotte Schwartz is currently taking drawing. She said, “I miss…the constant access to extensive supplies and media. I’ve run out of the paper that I brought home with me at the start of quarantine and resorted to using old sketchbook paper or even printer paper if that’s the only thing I can get my hands on.”

For Fine Arts teacher Annora Conway, online learning has dramatically changed her teaching method as a demonstrator and storyteller. Conway said, “We always read and discussed projects so students could hear the voices and ideas of other students. That’s gone.”

Conway doesn’t use scheduled class time for online meetings and instead provides weekly slideshow lessons. “Art takes time, more time than those two hours,” she said. Conway wanted her students to spend quality time working on their projects and to keep her instruction consistent and simple.

Comparing her experience teaching online instead of in-person Conway said, “In class, I can talk to everyone, read their eyes, walk around and talk about their projects and answer questions throughout the class.”

To Conway, online learning lacks the interactions a real class session possesses. “Students learn from someone else asking a question and having me explain that to someone else. That’s missing,” she said.

Charlotte Schwartz’s art project (Photo by Charlotte Schwartz)

Despite the challenges of online learning, less communication between teachers and students means that art students have been given more individual freedom for their creations and how they spend their time.

To Conway, “art is a way of expressing and finding self awareness.” Conway created projects for her students that allowed them to visually express what was going on in their lives amidst the pandemic.

“Some were really self-reflective about what they appreciate now that things were put in perspective. Other students were still very angry [about the current situation] and their work and writing expressed that,” Conway said. 

In world crafts sampler, students were given the task of creating signs with meaningful quotes or phrases. Ruggieri said, “The works truly show the ingenuity of the students. In such a difficult time, the act of creating combined with the positive phrases help to liven any spirit.”

As a result of the pandemic, students have been able to spend more time on their art projects, which they previously had to share with homework and other activities. Conway said, “Some students have been able to step up and put extensive hours into their work.” 

Despite missing the class environment at school, students find peace in doing their projects. WHS junior Julia Mackey said, “It’s definitely been helpful to have these projects, I usually do them towards the end of the week when I’m done with the rest of my homework and it’s like a debriefing session.”

Schwartz said, “Obviously everything going on right now is unprecedented and hectic, so having art as a distraction has really helped me navigate my extensive time at home.”

Despite the dramatic change for students and teachers alike, Ruggieri commends everyone for adapting to the situation and continuing to create quality work.