Arts & Humanities Faculty Research in the time of COVID-19

May 1, 2020
Clea Felien

When did you first start thinking about COVID-19? I mean beyond responding to it in your daily life, sheltering in place, and in your professional life, reconfiguring your classes for remote instruction?

Before we went on Spring break I told my students to take all their materials home with them, just in case.  I had been paying attention to the news.  All of my students were able to get their materials from the classroom and their studios except 3.  These came back and got their materials the day you approved.

What were the research questions you were asking beforehand and when did you first start connecting COVID-19 to these questions?

I teach non-toxic oil painting.  No solvents or dryers, safer and less toxic than acrylic. My students can safely work from home and not worry about chemicals. They were able to set up a space to work in their bedrooms, garages, anywhere. 

Also, all my classes have always been on Canvas so I can easily grade and see their work remotely.   My students are used to photographing their work with their phones and uploading these images onto the assignments in Canvas.  In Canvas I have examples of other student work for each assignment, a detailed description of the assignments, and a rubric for grading. 

What questions do you think you’ll be asking six months from now?

In my classes now we are meeting on Zoom for the regularly scheduled class times.  Tuesday & Thursday 1-4 for the Advanced Painting class and Tuesday & Thursday 4-7 for beginning Painting.  Meeting is optional, not a requirement.  All of my students but one come to Adv Painting. And she had problems meeting before we went remote.  All of my students except 2 are meeting in Beginning Painting and they both had problems with attendance before the Shelter in place as well. 

I have found that students need a sense of community, they want normalcy continuity and structure.  I have allowed them this without making it a requirement.  My Advanced Painting students have made some of the best paintings of the semester.  I start this class the same way I always did by having a group check in and then I take each student one by one into a breakout room for an individual critique.  The students have the option to hang out or leave and they always hang out. They talk to each other in the large room – for lack of a better term.  I always start every class asking how everyone is, and if they have everything they need.  And I do this individually in the break out room.  I have found that they share when they need to how hard it is, but they really want to talk about art and painting. 

I also send both classes information about rent, PG&E, and internet moratoriums in the state as declared by Gov. Newsom. I let them know about food pantries, when SSU hands out food, and other essential information.

I also send out links to virtual museums and galleries, films and videos of artist that are online for free.  There are endless art links.

I have found that my classes seem to have a closer community through this.  We are bonding through Zoom.  I have recruited 5 students for the BFA program, which means they will stay for another year. 

Over the summer I am going to continue the Art Club, and be a part of it.  I am also going to start this week an art film club, so students can watch on their laptops through Zoom art films and videos that I curate.  I wanted to do this on campus in the outdoor classroom I have been talking about for over a year.  Students seem very excited about the film club and the art club.

The questions I think I will have in 6 months is are we going to be able to have class on campus anytime soon.  I am acting as if that’s not likely.  Just so I am prepared. 

Beginning painting students