Online art classes aren’t really art classes
Silence drowns the halls of campus buildings once buzzing with creative chatter. Table saws silenced, woodshops locked, work benches cleared. Kilns sit empty and cold, ceramic wheels left stilled. Mirrors reflect the motionless studios in Lathrop Hall, void of their daily dance entertainment.
For studio-based art students, going online has ultimately halted their education.
“I think for the most part, online art classes aren’t really art classes,” junior graphic design BFA student Ellie Braun said. “It is hard to recreate that experience, if you think about painting students or screen printing students, they are not getting the education they signed up for, they are not able to gain those skills because it is such a hands-on thing.”
The skills for their tactile professions adjourned for the rest of the semester, forcing graduating seniors out of the nest sooner than anticipated.
“I feel like I graduated early. I was just shoved into the real world way sooner than I expected,” senior BFA woodworking student Lauren Newby said.
“Being cheated out of our last months of undergraduate is a huge deal and I feel like no one is talking about that,” senior BFA dance student Alice Svetic said. “I have given my heart and soul to this dance department for the past four years, that is all I have cared about.”
Not to mention how spring break unintentionally marked the end of the in-person semester, leaving incomplete projects stranded in the studios.
“But there wasn’t really much we could do, especially the way it coincided with spring break…it was like ope, now everyone is locked out,” Newby said.
Even for students not graduating, going online has resulted in longing and disappointment.
“I am quite bummed out because I had so many ideas for projects I wanted to do…outside of class. And now I don’t get any of the opportunity, but I am still paying for it…” Braun said.
Paying for classes that do not have the same effect online has spurred even more animosity. Especially when professors have taken their own liberty in enforcing varying levels of involvement.
“It is hard because it is so individualized, how is everyone having a similar experience…when I can basically dance full out and other people I know are not having that but we are all paying the same amount of money,” Svetic said. “My ballet class, I am getting zero personal instruction and we’re still going to have to pay.”
“I feel the implications because you can’t get help as much, you can’t interact with your classmates as much. So I think it [going online] has a huge impact, the whole art department is online and the vast majority of those classes have to be taught in person,” Braun said.
“A lot of technique classes for dance are actually lab courses, not lectures; they are actually in the studio hands-on so how are we supposed to do lab courses when we are not in the studio, when we’re not face-to-face, so give me my money back please,” Svetic said.
Students struggling with their mental health in this especially unstable time has added another dimension to navigating online classes.
“There are individuals with severe mental health problems, and they don’t know from day to day; [one day] they could be able to have their video on and be super present, but the next day they are just unable to do that, so they can’t show up for class, so then how are we all expected to have the same experience…” Svetic said.
Cabinets left cuts away from completion, pieces choreographed without a showcase, skills on a potters wheel left unknown.
“We didn’t really even get to make anything on the wheel. I got one pinch pot out of the entire class,” Braun said about her ceramics class.
“I won’t end up with two [cabinets] which was ultimately the plan. But it is okay, I think we have all come to terms with it,” Newby said.
Still those creative minds constantly need stimulus, with some student’s appreciating the structure and taste of normalcy classes offer.
“Honestly this [having classes via video] is the only thing keeping me sane, having a scheduled dance class and having that embodied practice in my schedule,” Svetic said. “I am thankful for these online classes and the teachers making us do the most because that is giving me just a little taste of normalcy.”
Some even find the extra time nifty.
“It is a nice way to scour the internet for opportunities, as a senior especially; it is giving you so much time to really contemplate where you want to be and what you want to do and to research opportunities which I do not think I really gave myself time to do before,” Newby said. “Giving yourself something to look forward to and keeping your name out there.”
Others find classes a burden to their creative flow.
“I feel like I have so much homework where I cannot even do the projects that I want to do which is frustrating because I don’t care about these [school] projects anymore…Keeping motivation to produce work that I care about is just different when you are not around your classmates, and you’re not able to see what they’re doing,” Braun said. “I think it is hard to create the atmosphere of art classes where you are not commenting on each other’s stuff as the process goes along and able to ask for help from your classmates.”
With creativity at the core of their identity, going online will never match the communities these art students have built themselves upon.
“If not a dancer, I don’t really know who I am. Yes I can dance a little bit in my house, and make these silly dance projects, but it’s just not the same…When literally all of your identity is based off this thing you cannot do anymore…I don’t understand how I am supposed to access that kind of sense of self,” Svetic said.
Going online impairs art students’ opportunity to their education, and even to their sense of self, something the university is going to have to consider moving forward.