Creativity without a Classroom

Visual Arts students and teachers share the challenges they have faced amidst a semester of digital learning.

Although distance learning has brought about changes for every course at Mitty, visual arts classes have been presented with a unique set of challenges. From a lack of physical interaction and collaboration to technological issues at home, both teachers and students have had to navigate through this unknown world of distance learning while still managing to create amazingly unique artwork. 

Students did not anticipate that much would be accomplished with an online Visual Arts course but were pleasantly surprised when the school year started. Regarding the Graphic Design course, senior Sarah Conti stated, “I actually did not expect to do as many projects as we did. I was only anticipating about four this semester.”

However, students like Sarah have managed to remain as productive as under normal conditions in large part due to the work of teachers. In fact, Sarah added, “Mrs. Leather did a good job of moving us along and getting work done.” Mrs. Leather herself remarked, “The curriculum is exactly the same… I have always had in-depth demonstrations of the project or technique the kids are working on… I was able to just use those same movies previously utilized for demonstration purposes. The students are able to go back and access those movies as often as they want.” While the closeness of in-person learning is lost, the ability to rewatch these videos has managed to help many students through their struggles. Junior Elaine Ma says she “absolutely depended on these video tutorials,” since she “came in with zero experience in visual arts programs.” 

Elaine Ma is one of several upperclassmen who has pursued a variety of creative artworks this past semester. Attached above is an experimental piece she worked on outside of class, dealing with the idea of “striving.”

However, despite the successes in adjusting to distance learning, there are also a number of hindrances that accompany online work. Sarah Conti experienced difficulties completing her projects when her desktop computer suddenly broke. She explained, “I had to use my iPad. Luckily, Mrs. Leather was able to help me learn how to use an app called Designer, which is very similar to what I had used during previous visual arts classes in-person.” Sarah also mentioned how difficult it was to receive proper feedback on her work in comparison to in-person classes. In response to issues like this, Mrs. Leather allots time in which students can visit her individually and work with her over Zoom to better understand the material and provide suggestions to enhance their art pieces. She stated that this has also allowed for students to ask for help without feeling embarrassed when asking for help in front of classmates. Teachers and students have worked together to combat these issues and create a positive learning environment.

Along with technical difficulties, several students and teachers alike have noticed the absence of collaboration that accompanies in-person classes. Senior Jack Smith explained, “It has been frustrating not being able to work as freely and socially as we would be able to on campus,” and Sarah Conti related that she “misses that human interaction, where you could easily ask for other’s opinions about your artwork.” Art 1 and Cinema Arts teacher Mr. Petersen said, “I really miss being able to talk one-on-one with my students and watch them work directly… And I miss the fun of the classroom where everyone knows each other and can share their work much more easily.”

Regardless of these drawbacks, distance learning has challenged everyone to become a better version of themselves. Mrs. Leather actually remarked that creativity and individuality have increased, as seen by the higher average scores from her typography project. Distance learning has motivated students to take initiative to ask teachers for help and prompted teachers to be more aware of students’ needs. For Jack Smith, “it is difficult to be limited socially and creatively, but I have learned a new level of patience in my work and everyday life, which I think is true for a lot of people during this turbulent year.”

To visit the AMHS Visual Arts gallery, please click here!