‘A mixture of sadness and gratitude’: College of Fine Arts adjusts to online learning
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‘A mixture of sadness and gratitude’: College of Fine Arts adjusts to online learning

Singing for a large audience, showcasing artwork in a packed gallery and acting in a crowded auditorium are just a handful of things that won’t be happening in the College of Fine Arts this spring. Since classes are now strictly online and all university-sanctioned events are canceled, USD’s musicians, artists, singers and actors are getting even more creative.

Like the rest of USD, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the course of the semester for the College of Fine Arts. Interim Dean Bruce Kelley said the greatest impact has been the cancellation of events such as the Jazz Festival, opera, spring musical, one-act play festival, as well as recitals and art shows.

Although these cancellations sting, Kelley said, students and faculty have adapted to the changes. Several students are making their art shows digital and live streaming their final recitals.

“Our students have responded magnificently…” Kelley said in an email interview with The Volante. “I am proud of our faculty and how they have worked to transition our classes to remote delivery. They have been amazing at finding creative solutions to teach these courses.”

Fine arts faculty are now giving private lessons online in addition to offering hands-on courses like sculpture, ceramics and dance. Additionally, Kelley said the College of Fine Arts has also used the Center for Teaching and Learning to ensure the most effective online learning. 

Levi Sternburg, a junior sculpting major, said the transition to online classes has been especially challenging since all his work is done from home.

“My studio classes are now Zoom meetings where we upload images of our projects and discuss them,” Sternburg said in an email interview with The Volante. “It’s nice being able to chat with other students, but many of us are having a hard time staying motivated in isolation.”

Along with visual arts, students involved in musical arts are also adjusting to the transition to online classes.

Abby Beach, senior music education major, said she has struggled with online classes because she prefers face-to-face instruction.

“This has probably been one of the hardest parts of online learning because as a musician, my favorite classes are the ones I get to make music in and we are not able to do that anymore,” Beach said in an email interview with The Volante.

Beach said she was fortunate enough to have her senior recital and participate in the Chamber Singers annual spring tour before the move to online learning.

“It has been a very hard change and a very sad ending to my college career, but I understand the first priority is to keep students safe and I commend USD for acting so quickly to all of these changes,” Beach said.

Making music with fellow students and working in an art studio are just a few of the activities students in the College of Fine Arts won’t be able to engage in this spring.

In these diffcult and confusing times, Kelley said he advises students and faculty to take it one step at a time.

“Hang in there. We will get through this and be stronger for having overcome the challenge,” Kelley said.

Even though Sternburg’s day-to-day schedule as a scultpting student has been turned upside down, he said his professors have been extremely helpful and understanding throughout the process.

“All of the events we were looking forward to this spring are canceled, so we are looking for ways to make our art more shareable online,” Sternburg said. “Art students in general are having a hard time this year but suffering is what makes art good.”

While it’s been challenging transitioning to online and remote instruction, Kelley said, the collaboration with faculty and students has made it much more bearable. 

“It has been a mixture of sadness and gratitude,” Kelley said. “I miss the personal interaction with our wonderful students, faculty and staff. I mourn for the lost performance opportunities.  At the same time, I’m thankful for the people I work with.”