Art Program Gets Creative During Remote Learning

Chiara Douglas, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The Arts at West Springfield High School allow students to open their minds and work together to create lasting memories and pieces of artwork all can admire. Although the ongoing pandemic has limited students’ abilities to orchestrate their own works using whatever material they desire, our Art Department has worked hard to keep students engaged and creative. 

While remote learning offers its own challenges, especially towards more hands-on projects, Mrs. Kasunick, an art teacher for 2D Foundations, Drawing and Painting 1, and Mixed Media, remains focused. “It has definitely been a learning curve and out of my comfort zone although we (teachers) have been getting a lot of support and encouragement from administration and fellow teachers,” Mrs. Kasunick explained. She continued, “my goal is to keep it as similar to what we create together in person in our studio classroom.” Although limited access to material, like paint and physical interaction, poses a disadvantage to the experience, certain assignments are modified in hopes for success. 

Along with varied art classes in the Art Department, the West Springfield High School Chorus and Band brings a further gesture of peace for students and faculty. Ms. Oliver, the chorus director and teacher for vocal and piano music at WSHS, relayed that pacing has decreased the chorus’ productivity due to proximity issues. “Chorus won’t be working on as much material, but we will be making some cool recordings!”  Abigail Murphy, a senior flute player who is part of Tri-M (the Music Honor Society) at WSHS, imparted, “there are no plans for in person performances right now, though as soon as we are given the green light I’m sure Mr. H. will try to work something out for our regular performances. The current plan is to make videos of the band performing to share with the community… We have been having completely optional but encouraged after school rehearsals on the practice field. We have to maintain social distance, so no field show, and we have to wear face masks anytime we are not playing.” She also revealed that the band has met in separate groups to encourage social distancing, where Mr. Holesovsky, the band director, has been assigning different themed days to keep rehearsals fun.

Drama and performing arts also plays a major aspect in the creativity that is shared within West Springfield High School. Ms. Corduff, an acting teacher at WSHS, explained, due to the small numbers in my acting classes in remote, students do get a more personalized approach to the subject. Working on personal monologues and reading through scripts to work on voice and tone has been a focus. For performances, I have students record themselves and self evaluate before performing in front of the camera. We’ve also done a lot with researching theater history. I’ve had to get creative in finding ways to make the experience work. It’s not the same as in school but students have been great and willing to work with the challenges.” Mrs. Svec, the Co-Advisor for the Drama Club, said that it is still early in the year, but they have been continuing to conduct scenes and act… she was even able to hold a live Zoom performance with her advanced class last year.

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I am really impressed with their sense of responsibility, their flexibility, and perseverance… A few have said that our class reminds them of being in school- I take that as a positive!”

— Mrs. Kasunick, Art Teacher

As remote learning presents difficulties for all, each classroom endures its own. Mrs. Kasunick related, “a big challenge for both the students and I is that it is challenging to give them guidance and feedback as they are working.” Ms. Oliver adds that the experience is very unique. “Piano is a neat experience seeing students pick up music from our lessons from many miles away from each other.” Ms. Corduff explained, “When teaching acting in person students are able to move around and use the space in the theater for body and vocal warm-ups. There is also a comfort level that is established as students build the skills and confidence to perform in front of their peers.” 

From a students perspective, learning new material is not the only aspect of school that is challenging. Abigail Murphy confided, “in all my years of being in the band program I have really valued the family we form and this year I feel like those connections are suffering. We haven’t had any opportunity to connect with each other and especially with the freshmen members since band camp was cancelled. I feel very disconnected from them, especially the freshmen flute players, and that I can’t provide them with the same support and encouragement that a regular season allows for.” Madelyn Drohan, a senior at WSHS taking AP Drawing and Painting with Mr. Bell, also commented about the challenges she is faced with while creating at home. “The art supplies that I have access to are significantly less than what I would be able to use if I were in school. Also a big part of what makes art fun is being able to talk to your friends and help each other, but now that we’re not in school, it takes part of the fun away.” 

As we move into a hybrid model, the Arts teachers continue to accommodate the rules and regulations caused by the pandemic. “We will do what we have always done, just masked and a lot less hugging,” Mrs. Svec emphasized. Mrs. Kasunick added, “you will notice that the class sizes are smaller and that we will be adhering to the physical distancing and cleaning protocols. I am certain that the WSHS studio art classes will still be the spaces of calm, joy, and free expression that we know them to be even in a hybrid model.” Ms. Corduff specified, “teaching acting in a hybrid model still won’t be the same because of the limits that distancing and masks will have on the amount of interactions students will have while maintaining safety. I’m not sure how it will work, but we will continue to be creative and try to make the experience worthwhile for everyone.”

Students in the drama club and chorus plan on performing. Mrs. Svec explained that they have not been able to get together during the pandemic, but they will be having live rehearsals soon and plan/hope for streamed and possibly live performances. Ms. Oliver also plans to have students perform. “The chorus will be working on a host of digital performances to be aired on Channel 15,” she shared. 

It remains a consensus that the students are engaging with the material provided. Mrs. Kasunick concluded, “I am really impressed with their sense of responsibility, their flexibility, and perseverance… A few have said that our class reminds them of being in school- I take that as a positive!”