Artist in the Community Course Gets Creative with Online Learning

By Caitlin Burns | April 22, 2020
Bogert with community artist showcasing their completed project.

How do you make an artistic connection at the community and global levels when coronavirus forces the need for social distancing and stay-at-home orders?

This is the question pondered by Linda Ruth Paskell, adjunct professor of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, when the University transitioned to online learning in March. Her Artist in the Community courses pushed to finish their collaborative art projects with members of Active Day, Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Justice, and Our Lady of Confidence. There were final presentations that needed to be done and projects to be showcased, all of which share personal stories that students have explored and developed into an artistic expression.

Through the use of innovative online resources, Paskell transformed her course so students still had collaborative one-on-one time with her. To keep the class going, Paskell found that the answer lies in having an open mind and optimism. Instead of their planned presentations, Paskell offered students an alternate choice to present the four art projects they created in a one-on-one video conference. Paskell scheduled over 100 video chats through FaceTime and Skype with students across her courses.

“I am in constant communication with my students,” said Paskell. “My goal is to assure them of our support, encourage them to maintain the highest level of commitment to their work, and to meet them where they are.”

One student in the course, Biology major Camryn Bogert ’20, found that the adjustments to the course helped her transition to online learning.

“I think being able to present all four of my projects at the same time was definitely easier,” said Bogert. “To have that one-on-one video with Linda Ruth, we were able to spend time going over my projects instead of feeling rushed.” 

Bogert presented four pieces of art that she had created throughout the semester:

  • transformation project, which was a swamp scene with crocodiles made from clothespins; 
  • global art project, which was a Vietnamese paper bowl that used rolled magazines to create a layered bowl; 
  • “My Life” project, which is an artistic expression of the story of her grandfather’s life; and 
  • local heart project, where she showcased the people (and dog) she loves with heart-shaped objects.

“This was a fun class for me to express my creative side that I don’t usually get to in my science classes,” said Bogert. “I think the heart one was definitely one of my favorites because it was fun to make the pictures and also to do it with my family.”

Usually at the end of each semester, students showcase their projects and the art they’ve completed in the community at the Art of the Syllabus exhibition. Due to COVID-19, the exhibition was postponed to next fall. Instead, students had one last assignment: Efforts of Encouragement, where they shared with two students how their work inspired or impacted them.

“This class has made me aware of my creative ability, and I think it’s also helped me work with other people in a way I haven’t previously done,” said Bogert. “Going to Active Day definitely taught me a lot about interacting with different people, but it was also nice to go and have fun with others, and create art—it’s something so simple but made them as well as us so happy.”