State-wide lockdown measures have forced people and institutions to make changes, to say the least.
The professors at the Fullerton College Fine Arts Department understand that all too well. Few adjustments were made to general education classes like art history and music appreciation, some of which already had classes being taught online.
Whereas classes that rely heavily on group rehearsal like choir underwent a complete overhaul of its instructional format.
Both students and professors alike have dealt with their fair share of challenges navigating the online learning environment.
“The world is a dumpster fire right now,” said acting professor Michael Muller. “Balancing home life with work has been a struggle, as you can tell by my two boys in the background.”
Choir professor Nicola Dedmon said she had a student who had to take three jobs after a member of their family got laid off. She said that students should never feel ashamed to reach out to a professor for help, especially as the pandemic widens existing socio-economic divides.
“I would bend over backward to help a student in need and to not leave music,” Dedmon said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
She admitted, however, that asking for help, while not always easy, should be a skill that students should pick up during this time.
Most professors reiterated the same thing, communication is key to a student’s success in this new, online environment. The only way for a professor to understand their students’ needs is for those needs to be expressed. Students are not bothering their professors by doing so, in fact, they are helping them.
One of the most effective methods, Dedmon said, in lowering the often awkward barriers of Zoom communication are breakout groups to before and after class, simulating the natural conversations that would occur in-person.
Art history professor Kristin Mihaylovich actually found that those barriers often helped rather than hindered communication in her class. The confident students whose off-the-cuff remarks dominated her in-person classes were replaced with an equal level of participation amongst everyone.
“People are given the change to pause for a few seconds before responding,” Mihaylovich said. “It gives the more introverted students a chance to speak up.”
She encouraged students to venture outside of museums and seek public murals, graffiti other art forms in their own backyards to substitute the in-person experience of seeing and feeling art.
Outside the classroom, Mihaylovich noted that Fullerton College is still offering assistance to students through food banks, emergency assistance, and laptop loans. With regard to technology, Dedmon reallocated unused field trip funds to allow her students to use Soundtrack, a voice syncing software, for free.
Either way, the world of fine arts has seen significant cutbacks. The Americans for the Arts Association found that over one billion dollars have been lost and 27% of organizations have reported an “extremely severe” financial impact.
Despite this, the professors encourage their students to keep trying.
“Do what you love,” said Dedmon. “Stay with it, you might need to delay your educational plans, you might need to adapt them, but I would not walk away.”
Muller’s advice for aspiring actors remains hopeful. Most auditions are formatted where an actor sends in a videotape as an audition rather than going in-person, so the practice in his class would be valuable for that.