Art Curriculum Finds Workarounds: How LASA’s Creative Department has Adapted to Online Working

LiLi Xiong, Staff Writer

Walking into LASA’s library, one might stumble upon a set of pointe shoes decorated with colorful flowers or a pair of running shoes encrusted with shiny metals. Despite the struggles distance learning brings for a class that involves physical drawing, sculpting and creating, LASA’s art program has put together a curriculum that has produced a variety of student work. 

Freshman Sofia Francis is taking Art I this year and said she is especially excited for the class’s current project. The class has utilized paints, graphite and other mediums of art for their projects, but now students are using crayons in class for the first time.

Right now, we’re doing this wax crayon portrait project,” Francis said. “I’m really interested in it because we’re using a kind of unorthodox method to do it where we shade in a cool color and color in with a warm color to match the color of our skin. I think that the portraits are really coming together and really showing what we’ve learned in the class over time.”

According to Art I teacher Elizabeth Hewitt, students have used the year to figure out their specific art styles. She has taught art at LASA for 11 years and has witnessed the curriculum, as well as the students, evolve.

“Our students, especially in upper-level classes, are developing more of a unique style,” Hewitt said. “Students are focused on emphasizing that even more now that we’re online. We definitely have more students taking ownership of their voice in the art process.”

When Francis was choosing her elective, she didn’t know if Art would be virtual or not, but she said the course has gone fairly smoothly. An art supply kit was provided in the beginning of the year when students picked up their textbooks.

“LASA has put together a really great art program this year, even with the boundaries of being at home, then in-person, and then at home,” Francis said. “Honestly, the only issue has been not being able to get the teacher’s advice during class. You don’t always have someone constantly over your shoulder saying, ‘Hey, you should change this.’ It’s hard to get feedback, but otherwise, it’s been very good, and we all have the resources that we need.”

Remote learning for Art at LASA involves a combination of recorded and live examples and students taking pictures of the progress they’ve made with their projects. According to Hewitt, even with all the technology at her disposal, there were still parts of the normal curriculum she had to cut out.

“In a typical year, we would bounce between 2D and 3D mediums a lot,” Hewitt said. “For example, students might draw a house for one unit, and in the next unit we would sculpt a house out of clay, and that gives people an option on what to choose if they want to do something on paper or make something out of clay for their bigger piece or work. We haven’t been able to do that this year, but we’ve been trying to incorporate as much push and pull of styles as we could this year.”

Freshman Art I student Marin Maycotte has enjoyed this push and pull of styles. According to her, it’s been an interesting experience because it tests everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We don’t just do drawing,” Maycotte said. “We once made shoe sculptures, and I think that the next unit is crochet. I’m good at drawing, but I wasn’t good at some of the other projects, so you explore all different types of mediums.”

Despite the obstacles art classes have faced due to the unconventional school year, many students, such as Maycotte, have found time at home and isolation to be inspiring for their art. She said that art became a social outlet for her as well.

“Isolation gives me more time to focus on art,” Maycotte said. “In the summer, I had nothing to do, so I spent two weeks straight just creating art. It gave me more opportunities, like going on Zoom calls with my grandmother once a week and creating art together. We also got a few friends to join in on that.”

According to Francis, the pandemic has allowed her, too, to spend more time on her art. The extra time and continued practice have helped her improve her skills as an artist. 

“When I get bored, I definitely have a tendency to want to draw,” Francis said. “So the pandemic has been very good for that.  I’ve drawn a lot more than I usually do. Also, there’s been improvement. I don’t usually improve very much in my art because I don’t practice it so much, but this year I’ve had a lot more time to practice it.”

Hewitt said she believes that resilience is key to keeping the creative juices flowing. Even with online learning, she said that she continues to appreciate being able to teach at LASA.

“Teaching here is wonderful,” Hewitt said. “I love it. I literally wouldn’t teach art anywhere else. The student body is so different and more passionate, hardworking, persevering and resilient than any other campus I’ve ever been at. It’s a joy to work here with you all. We can set the bar way, way, way high, and students will keep jumping to meet it, no matter what that bar is. Also, we’ve always gotten the support that we need financially from students, parents and the admin to make sure that we have this lovely little art world here.”