Art survives despite pandemic

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Nisa Sripraram

Art teacher Laura Milas mentors students in her painting course in September.

When the lockdown and remote learning took effect in March of 2020, many instructors and students pivoted to online learning; however, with courses that inspire through their hands-on approach, the task to continue learning was more daunting. 

Some art students found themselves lacking motivation and inspiration or in an ‘artist block’ during quarantine. Being inside a lot and having limited social interaction made creative processes hard to stick to.

“I was sort of blocked when I was home because I did take an art class during quarantine and I got stuff done, but [I] didn’t feel inspired,” said Margerete Noonan, Painting 1 student.

On the other hand, there were students who became more inspired because lockdown gave them more time. Their schedule that was once taken up by extracurriculars and daily commutes became free for practicing, sketching and painting. 

For AP Studio Art student Samita Ukani, lockdown was a time to explore new themes and ideas to express through art. Ukani did a digital art series on mental illness in the wake of what she observed in quarantine.

 “The mental illnesses, considered in that series, were insomnia and anxiety, which would have been a big part of quarantine because (you’re) always being in your house and not being able to sleep without any social interaction,” Ukani said. 

And in terms of theme, both Noonan and art teacher, Mrs. Laura Milas, noticed students drawing an ideal outside world as means to escape the pandemic.

“We’re using the art to escape because [students] saw [COVID-19 news] too much.  So, it was like, ‘OK, what I’d really like to do right now is just paint a beautiful landscape and not worry about COVID,” Milas said. 

The final products typically reflected these desired locations and alternate realities.

“If we were doing a landscape project or something, or even a portrait, [students] sort of had the impulse to make it serene, calm content, or like, ‘Oh! This is where I want to be’,” Noonan said. “[Students] painted things in an optimistic light because they were stuck in their house.” 

While art is something viewers and creators engage with, both students and teachers said the online community still offered enrichment for aspiring artists. 

“[Leading class discussions] was really hard to do. Because kids felt awkward on camera. But I was busy, almost throughout the class period, answering emails, looking at images, and answering questions kids had,” Milas said.

So, while the Zoom format allowed for interaction between the instructors and students, the 2021-2022 school year has offered normalcy with its back to in-person learning. This in turn has motivated students to delve deeper into what they started during the remote aspect of their learning. 

“But now that I’m back in the building, I feel like I’m finding inspiration [in the] little things,” Noonan said. “If someone in one of my classes is like doodling next to me, I’ll be inspired by that, which I think I might have just ignored before quarantine.” 

To see this year’s artwork, you can visit the Art Department’s webpage