COVID-19 Tests the Creativity of Contemporary Arts Students

Shepherdstown, W.Va.,- While COVID-19 has altered life on campus for all of the Shepherd University students, the lives contemporary arts students have been particularly disrupted. 

Photo courtesy of Teila Peggues.

Students in the arts education program and in the fine arts have had to cope with a number of challenges specific to their major, including having limitations on using the arts studio, adjusting to virtual homework submissions and feedback, and having to create new spaces to make art.  

While these students are used to using their creativity, contemporary arts students have had to find novel ways to get their projects done while complying with the COVID-19 rules on safety and social distancing.  Those adjustments have not been easy for all arts students to make. 

Sophomore Maddie Thomas is a contemporary arts major at Shepherd, studying arts education. She reports on some of the ways that life has changed for fine arts majors. “We are now only allowed to have 10 people in the art room workspace at one time,” Thomas explains.   

 “Also, we are not allowed to leave the area of our workstations and easels, we have to wear mask while working in the studioand we have to sanitize our work stations before we leave.”   

While she understands the need for these restrictions, Thomas explains how these changes impact arts majors.  “We are not allowed to move around the art room to freely interact with other students while we are working there,” Thomas explains.  

These distancing restrictions may make sense in other learning environments, but Thomas reports that it changes the atmosphere and creativity of the workroom for the artists working there“These restrictions stop us from reflecting freely on our peers work, to view and get inspired by their work, and to have them give us feedback on our work,” says Thomas. These restrictions make working in the studio less “free and laid back” for artists like Thomas. 

COVID-19 restrictions have also changed the way that Contemporary Arts students submit their work and get feedback

“Now when we are finished with a project, we don’t submit it to our professors directly,” notes Thomas.  “We take a photo of the work and upload it to the Base Camp app.  We also receive feedback and comments on our work from our professors on the app, too.”  

While the arts students are adjusting to this new way of working and getting feedback, Thomas says that she misses the spontaneous and sometimes more in depth, in person interactions that she got to have with her professors before COVID-19. 

Since there are restrictions on the number of students who can access the Arts Studio, contemporary arts students have had to get creative about making a space to create art.  One of Maddie’s roommates, Abby Bowman, is also a contemporary arts major, and both have several art projects due this semester through their curriculum.  

In order to always have a place to paint and draw, they have turned their dining room in their offcampus house into a mini art studio.  The room now holds multiple easels, paints, brushes, and a drawing desk; several half-finished canvases line the floor.   

“I actually enjoy the freedom of working at home now,” says Bowman.  “By having a dedicated space to paint at home I can work on my projects on my own time in my own space. I also have Maddie and my other roommate here who can see my work and give me feedback on it,” explains Bowman.  

While Thomas and Bowman both occasionally still use the art studio, they report that they are glad that they have a space in their home to paint and draw freely on their own schedule. These creative students have found a place and a way to continue to make art in the time of COVID-19. 

Teila Peggues
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