How Cam High’s Art Classes Continue Creating Despite Distance Learning

After the COVID-19 pandemic caused the initial closure of high school campuses across the nation in March of 2020, all Cam High classes and lessons have since become virtual in order to protect students and staff from COVID-19. The distanced learning forum has been applied to the art classes as well, and the teachers, along with the vast amount of students enrolled, have had to make the immediate transition from in-person to online. However, for the artists who have had yet to take an art class, they had been forced to go in blind.

Many of the students new to art this year have felt discouraged as they explore unfamiliar ways of working independently.

Colin Rak-Amico, a senior Visual Arts student, said, “While in a distance learning environment, it is difficult to be properly engaged in what techniques we are learning, as well as following what the teacher is trying to demonstrate, making it harder to follow their lead.”

The teachers of art at Cam High have also had difficult experiences of their own as they adapted to socially distanced instructing. So far this year, there has been pressure on the school’s staff to create a productive environment over Google meetings, alongside keeping the artists motivated to learn. In many circumstances, lacking the same energy and social interaction as previous years has been discouraging to students, thus negatively impacting their eagerness to get to work.

Mr. Darren Cartagena, a Visual Arts and 3D Sculpture & Design teacher at Cam High, said, “I have learned that it is important to be keeping busy with something, because if not, your mind tends to wander and you get bored, you get depressed, and there has been a lot of depression going on. Not all people have the skillset to deal with being stuck in this kind of a classroom environment.”

In spite of the stumbling blocks created by distance learning, the students of the art department have been persevering and utilizing the resources available to them. Mrs. Terry Donaldson, a teacher of Painting, Visual Arts, and AP Studio Art at Cam High, has been pleased with the results of her students’ recent efforts.

“I have to say that I am proud of the work my students are producing. There is always a broad range in my classes from beginners to students who make art all the time. Some students have expressed that their art studio time is a nice meditation or shift from academics and that they feel they have been improving in skill,” said Donaldson. “I hope to expand our reach as the year progresses so that their work can inspire others which in turn may spark more in themselves.”

The students and staff seemed to be making their lessons work well over digital platforms, but the artists continue to hope for a transition back to class time on campus. Donaldson believes that while she has learned about and grown more comfortable with the technology and digital tools required to make the current year work, the atmosphere of the physical classroom is rather irreplaceable.

Donaldson said, “I do believe our art students are currently meeting the standards for their classes and what they need to successfully move on to more art classes in the future. However, I look forward to the day we can safely return to campus. There is nothing quite like being together and seeing one another, working on art, helping each other, sharing supplies, making a mess, sharing stories, et cetera.”

Although it is uncertain whether or not Cam High will reopen completely for in-person education in 2021, the art classes continue to work hard and tackle their assignments online.