Art classes push through the pandemic

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Yeonwoo Suh

“The Daffodil” is a painting that student Yeonwoo Suh is currently working on.

Lizzy Camp, Staff Writer

Art has been a source of comfort for many people during 2020. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, election, and other stressors, art has persevered. Art classes at Fossil Ridge High School have given meaning to students and teachers alike during this tough time. 

Art classes have been different this year, but teachers Karen Lemmon and Chelsea Ermer have been working to keep the feeling of the classes “normal.” Art classes like pottery and photography have changed significantly in a time of online learning. 

“We had to just do straight handbuilding. Normally my pottery classes divided handling and pottery throwing our wheels,” Lemmon says. “Then in photography, they couldn’t do dark room because they can’t come into school to the darkroom, they had to just do digital.”

Both teachers also spoke of how the pandemic has taken away the flexibility of art classes. During a normal year, they can move around the curriculum and change it to fit their needs and time schedule. But this year, they have had to plan everything, and keep it that way. 

“We have to have every single project planned out down to the tiniest little thing, because we have to give kids all the materials at the beginning of the semester,” Lemmon says. “It’s a lot more prep work and like pre-thinking on our part.”

Teachers have not been the only ones adapting to online classes. Art students have been creating art in a whole new virtual world. Yeonwoo Suh, an AP art student here at Fossil, says one thing she misses most about the class is the people. 

“Not just my friends and classmates, but even the teachers,” Suh comments. She says that trying to think of new ideas with no people or changes around her has been hard. But, she also says that individuality has flourished during virtual classes. 

“Since we’re online now, you have to hold yourself accountable on being productive during asynchronous times,” she says. 

Lemmon and Ermer agree. “We do see more originality in projects that are turned in. Kids aren’t being influenced by all the other students around them. They don’t try to do the same thing as the kid next to them. They’re really pulling from their own creativity,” Ermer comments. 

Even though staff have been doing all they can to make the classes feel the same, it has been hard. 

“I’ve always loved art class because of the collaboration I could have with others and the environment of having so many talented and creative people around me,” Suh says. “By going online, it’s hard to have that same environment and support from the people around you.”

Lemmon has noticed that certain students flourish during online learning, while others stall out. 

“You’ve got the high fliers that are already really artistic and really into it, and would do art in a cave and to be fine. You’ve got kids that are kind of in the middle that are really interested in it, and are putting forth effort and they’re getting better. Then you have the kids where this whole experience of not having somebody there to help them makes them shut down,” Lemmon says. 

Students are not the only ones struggling during the pandemic, the staff is struggling too. 

“As fast paced as this has been for students, it’s been the same for us. We’re writing lessons, writing curriculum, grading. And it’s everyday, it never stops. We’re just exhausted,” Lemmon says. “The hardest part I think is when it’s just like us talking to a little avatar on the screen.”

Both teachers say that interacting with students helps. “When students actually interact with us, because we both get our energy from interacting with kids, we can push really hard through stress if we’re interacting with students,” Lemmon says. 

Art has also been a lifeline for both students and teachers during this time. Suh has been working on her art portfolio, while Lemmon has created pieces for a museum. Ermer has also been using art as a coping mechanism, creating her own bookmarks, along with commissions. 

“Art’s always been a coping mechanism for me, and with all the crazy things that are happening this year, it’s been a big help,” Suh says. 

During 2020, many people have turned to art as a coping mechanism, and the art staff are no exception. 

“[Art] was something that kind of saved me a little bit last quarter when I felt really stressed out. I did let that art be the therapeutic thing for me,” Ermer says. 

This school year has been different from any before it. Each subject and club has had to adapt to the change of online school. Art classes have continued to thrive, and create, during this difficult time.