Illustration by Olivia Dyer

By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer

It is no secret that COVID-19 has displaced the spring semester, let alone the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Students living on campus were sent home and courses were forced to create an alternative online curriculum. While this epidemic has strained students and faculty alike, it is particularly taxing to those who directly utilize campus resources in their curriculum. Artist’s have lost their studio area as well as gallery spaces, leaving them with little options.

Natasha Shacklett, President of the Society of Student Artists, believes that the communal aspect of Art has not transitioned well into an online format. The studio was an essential place for students to congregate, without a physical class peers are limited to technological means. Despite this absence, she appreciates the adaptability of her professors, who have been generally lenient due to the circumstances. 

Shacklett is taking a print course as well as an advanced sculpture course, which both heavily utilized studio resources. She emphasized the fact that this often consists of large equipment; in her case, the studio’s large printing press. Without access, previously planned coursework is no longer possible. While Shacklett believes that the midway switch is appropriate, she finds it to be drastically different:

“It’s hard to have a sculpture class when you don’t have a structure for assignments or a way of communicating with your peers really.”

This situation has certainly displaced USM’s art community, especially those taking advantage of student housing. Luckily commuters such as Ashley Ricker are not as displaced. Ricker is another member from the Society of Student Artists who feels like this change drastically changes their learning experience, specifically because the tools are no longer accessible. In her fourth year, Ricker was finally able to start learning woodwork in the woodshop but was cut off abruptly due to the campus’ policy. Ricker believes that this hands-on experience is essential to an artist’s learning experience.

“It takes a lifetime to be able to acquire all the tools and resources that we have at USM, with even just one concentration.”

Ricker believes that despite the online shift, the hands-on experience should be encouraged due to the learning and growth that comes with it.

Artist’s aren’t only losing out on the hands-on experience, but the showcasing experience as well. Many gallery spaces are out of commission, canceling many planned shows and trips for USM’s art alumni. Carolyn Eyler, a USM art display and educational veteran, assures that student jurors will still be judging work and distributing prizes, just under different circumstances. She’s also exploring ways to create a virtual USM gallery. As a result, students would have to learn proper online formatting rather than focusing on framework and matting. Eyler expresses that these skills are still professionally relevant, just not originally anticipated.

Although Eyler appreciates the alternative, she does not enjoy being cut off from work-study students that had to move. She admits that she will miss out on the student interactions at public juror shows but hopes that students continue exploring new art nonetheless.



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