Virtual Arts Go Virtual

Mr.+Zunino+edits+through+photoshop+to+give+feedback+to+his+students.

Mr. Zunino

Mr. Zunino edits through photoshop to give feedback to his students.

Dora Lin '23, Contributor

During a pandemic, visual arts courses at Loomis Chaffee are much different than years past, especially for those that study remotely.

Mr. Bob DeConinck, Associate Director of Studies, said “[In] this term, of the five available sections of art classes, there are three sections of visual art courses in which there are online students.” These include two sections of Photography and one section of CL Art Seminar.

Meanwhile, in the 2020-2021 Course Offerings, 18 visual arts courses were listed, with some that are supposed to have multiple blocks, such as Photography I.

The small number of visual art students studying remotely has adapted to a new way of learning. Mr. Mark Zunino, Visual Arts teacher and Dorm Head of Harman Hall, utilizes a flipped classroom technique and creates video tutorials with step-by-step instructions for his students. The students can then see their assignments on Finalsite’s calendar page. The classes also have 15-20 minute check-ins via Zoom every week where they discuss their progress.

“Once the students have watched the videos, they draw and submit after each step via Dropbox, where I review and comment on the drawings, edit them in Photoshop, if necessary, and return them,” says Mr. Zunino.

However, for many visual art students studying from home, it is difficult to get access to the equipment needed for their classes. For instance, the photo studio on campus usually lends cameras to any student enrolled in a photography class.

Addressing the issue, photography teacher Mr. Christian Ryan said, “With some students working off-campus and with concerns regarding shared equipment, we thought it best if students use their smartphone cameras in photography. Students that have their own cameras are still encouraged and welcome to use them.”

Furthermore, though equipment in the photo studio can no longer be utilized, Mr. Ryan encourages his students to shoot outdoors. Since many students are studying internationally, photos from countries all over the world are being shared, which “really reflect how much of a global community we have here at Loomis Chaffee,” writes Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan has also noted the importance of students maintaining connections with each other and their teachers, especially under the special circumstance that is remote learning. To do so, Ryan’s classes are utilizing Microsoft Teams, a platform that allows students to share their work and receive feedback from others.

“One advantage is that all sections of Photography classes use the same Teams group—which expands opportunities for peer learning and collaboration,” said Mr. Ryan.

While the shift to turn half courses into a class meeting for only one mini-term has provided the visual art teachers with the challenge of reformatting their classes, the visual arts faculty remains optimistic.

“It really forced me to look at what’s essential and important for students to get from my classes. Even though I had to take things out due to time restraints, I’m also able to focus on what’s important: having students use visual art to express their ideas, identity, and unique voices. In the end, that’s what really matters.” said Mr. Ryan.

Another challenge the faculty faced was to make sure students are moving at a productive pace—something that differs from the student.

“Those same challenges exist in the classroom, but adjustments are more easily made face to face. I have changed my assignments significantly to fit this online format,” said Mr. Zunino. However, he does remain optimistic; “I do think…that some of these distance learning resources will eventually work their way into my regular classroom teaching.”

Although visual arts courses have changed due to the online format, teachers are ready to meet the challenge of online art instruction in the future through altered schedules, new platforms, and creative solutions to a lack of materials. Ultimately, the arts faculty believe the goals of these classes are still being reached, virtually, and in-person.