The Woodstock School of Art (WSA) has been reinventing itself to accommodate life in the time of Covid 19. The institution is currently serving more than 90 students per week in three virtual classes conducted by faculty and other professional teaching artists, with more offerings promised in the near future.
“Covid 19 has forced the school to close its physical doors, but by popular demand several of our teachers are leading online classes, something we have never done before. These online classes have proven to be a great way to stay connected with our current students and an opportunity for us to meet many new artists from a wider geographic area,” says Nina Doyle, WSA executive director.
“By the second week of the quarantine, we knew we’d have to do something to stay in touch with our students,” explained instructor and board member Kate McGloughlin. “It would be a way to ‘be community,’ one of the most valuable tenets of our school. We had been using Zoom for board meetings, like everyone else, and we thought we’d give it a whirl to see if it might work.”
McGloughlin did a trial run using members of her printmaking classes. “At that point, I knew I’d have to do something completely different than usual, because most of them don’t have presses at home. I decided to use essays that I’d written over the years, based on my teaching notes from the field and shop — I’ve been both teaching printmaking and landscape painting for years — and see if hearing the words, then seeing samples and watching a demonstration on how to employ the points made in the essay might reach them.” She said she didn’t know whether she’d be effective without the students in the studio – “they sort of spur me on” — but it seemed to work.
Behind the camera, staff figured out how to manage registrations and payments, edit the videos, and use the Zoom platform more advantageously. Would other instructors be comfortable with the idea?
“Les Castellanos and Hongnian Zhang and Lois Woolley jumped on board immediately, and started with still-life painting demonstrations, which were gorgeous to watch,” McGloughlin recalled. “I’m always teaching, and never had a chance to be in either of their classroom studios …. It was amazing to see what they could convey through this new teaching platform.”
“For me, the bright side has been the ability to reach more students at one time,” said executive director Doyle. “My studio classes typically have waiting lists. This way, I can have up to 60 students during the session.”
“While artwork can be an isolated activity for some of us, at times we need to be balanced with some socialization, so we remember how to have a chat, perhaps tell a joke and recall our humanity,” said WSA board member and photographer Dion Ogust, who has taken photographs of some of the sessions. “To enter this moment of no more classrooms and very limited contact with the outside world, it has been especially important for artists to be able to connect with teachers and feel a sense of being seen and expanding their skills — and remember we are not alone.”
Advance registration is required to participate in WSA’s online classes. More information, including how to register, can be found at www.woodstockschoolofart.org.