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Taylorsville Journal

Taylorsville High creates a virtual art show during the pandemic

Jul 15, 2021 11:31AM ● By Hannah LaFond

Heba Alhamdani stands with two pieces, "Pen of A Thousand Stories" (on the right) and "I 'C Major' Talent" (above), at the Granite School District's Best of the Best' art show. (Photo courtesy Heba Alhamdani)

By Hannah LaFond | [email protected]

In a typical academic year, Taylorsville High School hosts an in-house student fine art show. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the art department adapted to a virtual presentation. 

Nicole Lavely, one of the art teachers at Taylorsville High, was responsible for organizing the online show this past school year. For most students, participating in the end-of-the-year show was voluntary. However, AP art students were required to present a portfolio as part of their coursework. 

Along with allowing students to present their art while maintaining social distance, the virtual format also made the art show more accessible. Instead of going to the school at a particular time to view the student's work, friends and family can go to the website to view the pieces at whatever time works for them. It also makes it possible for the students to share their work with people who live out of state.

Because of this convenience, Lavely said she might continue to implement a virtual art show in upcoming years along with an in-person event. 

Using a virtual format was a great way to adapt the art show for the 2020-2021 school year. However, according to Lavely and her students, there were many other changes and challenges they faced throughout the class. 

"If you know me, you know that I absolutely love my job and I work really hard and I have fun with it, but this year has been by far the hardest yet. It felt like I was juggling two jobs having the face-to-face and the online students," Lavely told the City Journals.

This balancing act was a struggle that many teachers faced during the past year as they tried to make their classes accessible to online and in-person students. On top of that, Lavely had the challenge of taking something as hands-on as art and adapting it to a virtual model. 

She put together simple kits at the beginning of the year that her online students could use from home. Because they weren't on campus, Lavely couldn't make the variety of supplies she usually lets students experiment with available. Lavely also typically assigns collaborative projects that she had to skip this year. 

"I just felt like I couldn't give my students the full experience that I normally would..." Lavely said. “So, I felt like they did miss out on some opportunities, which made me sad."

One of Lavely's students who did her classes in person, Kaitlyn Hansen, talked about how beneficial she found that creative environment. "I was able to work side by side with other incredibly talented artists who happen to be some of my closest friends. It was nice to have a break outside of the reality of chemistry, math, history, etc."

Hansen saw her art class as a relief from the typical stresses of the day. This was the case for many students, but the strangeness of working in the pandemic still affected the class. 

Another art student, Heba Alhamdani, talked about how difficult she found navigating her senior year amongst all the changes. 

"There were definitely days where I felt overwhelmed," Alhamdani said. "It didn't help that we shut down three times (two weeks per shut down) and had distance learning Fridays; because of that, we regularly missed time in class that we would've had in a normal school year. Some days I'd stay up late finishing projects so I could be on track to submitting my portfolio to the college board."

Jason Dieu, another art student, discussed how that feeling of stress seemed to be present throughout the entire school. 

"I loved my art classes this year, but the pandemic really did impact how everything was handled," Dieu said. "You can tell that this year didn't feel the same. Everyone had that slight hint of burnout, and while we tried to continue normalcy, we realized that we don't know what normalcy truly is."

Despite the hardships, many students said art was the perfect outlet for what they were going through. By persevering and finding workarounds, like the virtual art show, students could still progress through the class and their projects. 

"Some of the things that some of my students did create in response to everything that came out of this was really special. I feel like people who needed art gravitated towards it and used it to their advantage to get through this time," Lavely said.  

One student, Miles Moore, said that though the school year was challenging, he also thought it made him a better artist. 

"Because of Covid, I was able to really work on my projects more than I have in previous classes," Moore said. "I was able to grow and learn in so many ways. In art class, we left behind the stress and constant motion of the world to create and imagine and that has helped me so much."

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