By Harshini Dinesh ('23)
Dabbing brushes in bright red paint, wiping clay off of hands, and penciling in details are all part of some students’ favorite class: art class. Some students love expressing their creativity through their artwork and relaxing in art class. For many students, art class is easy and fun. It is especially fun in South Brunswick High School where students can take part in various activities such as the annual art show and creating art that is displayed on school walls. However, this year is different. Since the high school is closed due to the pandemic, education has changed for staff and students.
It’s especially difficult for classes like the sciences and art, where experiments and projects are hands-on. Now, art students do not have access to materials such as clay and various paints that they would have had in the classroom. Art class has become slightly more difficult, but it is still enjoyable.
Art student, sophomore Lakshmi Kottapalli, mentioned, “I’m taking Honors Art Portfolio I right now, and it is going really great even though everything is virtual now. Even though there’s a lack of art supplies, we are still able to do fun projects. My favorite thing about art class is that I can relax and take the time to work on something I enjoy.”
When compared to other classes that are slightly more difficult, art class provides a sense of relaxation and content to students. Students still enjoy art class, but how are their teachers doing?
SBHS art teacher Mrs. Rebecca Bufis explained how art class is going for her so far, “I really wasn't sure how this would all work, teaching via Zoom. Especially since art is such a hands on process… You really can't see the students' artwork well when they hold it up to their Zoom window, so every class, students are required to turn in progress reports. However, the benefit to teaching via Zoom is now that everyone has a screen to look at, the visuals I provide are much clearer than 30 students crowding around a table trying to watch me demo or projecting in the classroom.”
Mrs. Bufis, her art colleagues, and most teachers have to work harder and for longer hours to teach students effectively. Specifically, art teachers experience issues with checking and providing feedback on students’ work, and they have to think of creative ways to provide the same opportunities and maintain their curriculum from prior years.
For example, in 2019, students in Mrs. Bufis’s class had the opportunity of making a clay palette to use for painting. Art students can no longer do clay projects like this because they do not have access to clay, glaze to paint the clay with, or a kiln to fire the clay in. Regardless, art teachers are working hard to ensure students can complete art projects. Mrs. Bufis mentioned how she rose to the occasion to help her students out:
In November, “Because of the pandemic, many supplies were backordered, especially individual items. I was in the process of putting together individual art kits for the students to pick up. The kits contained supplies like watercolor paper, toned paper, watercolor palettes, oil pastels and charcoal pencils. I finally distributed the kits two weeks ago. Another teacher and I distributed kits on the same day and stood outside for 4 hours while students drove up. There are still some students who have not come to get the kits, but those were left at the Main Entrance for them to pick up during school hours.”
Art teachers have additional pressure, as do students, to perform well. They have to find new, creative ways to teach students, and students need to stay focused on completing their artwork in a timely manner. To teach students new art techniques, teachers have been applying teaching methods such as demonstrations through videos, presentations of slideshows with art during Zoom meetings, and providing feedback through Google Classroom comments.
For students, this means that they have plenty of resources to still learn concepts and improve their artwork. It also means that they have the flexibility of asking questions through Google Classroom comments, during Zoom class, or through email whenever they want. Moreover, art students still get a good amount of time to work on their projects during class and finish on time without having any homework.
Art students and teachers are working together to get through this difficult time. Although it is tough, both students and teachers are learning new lessons such as how to manage their time, use certain software like Zoom, be continuously patient and persistent, and how to think of creative solutions to issues like a lack of materials. Undeterred by the challenges caused by the pandemic, the SBHS art program is still enjoyable and even thriving.