Students and professors staying creative during COVID-19

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Andrea Hammack

Trojan Living Editor

Artists are always looking for new outlets and ways to express their emotions, but what if their studies and ways of creating are compromised?

Troy University students and professors are trying not only to handle the current pandemic as carefully as possible, but also use it to their advantage when they can. 

Taylor Lovelace, a senior art education major from Enterprise, Alabama, explained that with the extra precautions being put into place, she feels her already intimate classes are perfectly safe. 

“I do notice a big difference in the way things are being conducted in the classroom,” Lovelace said. “The classes are being split up and have added measures to help us as students.

“For example, one of my classes has a Facebook group for us to ask questions and share ideas with each other. It definitely isn’t the same as an in-classroom brainstorming session, but it gets the job done.”

Though hesitant to come back, Lovelace also expressed how this pandemic has given her new opportunities to challenge herself as an artist.

“Being able to put so much time and effort into my craft has definitely made me a better artist,” she said. 

“Since quarantine, I’ve been working on a lot of painting and digital art, and I think no matter what your craft may be, we’re all learning how to thrive in this new normal.”

While some students have chosen to come back to campus and brave settings with other people face to face, others are doing all they can to take classes remotely.

Lyrica Wright, a junior graphic design major from McKinney, Texas, is one of those students ready to experience college in a different way. 

“What made me come back was the realization that you only experience college one time,” Wright said. “Since I’m taking my classes remotely it will definitely be different without hands-on experience, but I believe that in any work you do, you should feel comfortable in the space you are in. 

“This allows your creative thinking to flow and you can be relaxed when tackling a project.”

Students are not the only ones struggling with this new transition in their everyday lives. Professors are also doing what they can to push their students creatively while keeping their classrooms as safe as possible for everyone involved. 

Beverly Leach, a lecturer of art and design, has used her experiences from earlier in the year to better prepare herself for this semester.

“It feels like we never really left,” Leach said. “There’s something very familiar, yet my teaching style has to be a little different right now – less physical – and that’s the mental adjustment for me.”

Wearing both a face mask and face shield, Leach made sure she was prepared to make her classes feel safe for both her students and herself.

“I didn’t realize how ridiculous I would look with a mask and a shield,” Leach said. “I feel like wearing the shield is making me more aware and respectful of the students’ space, as well as my own.”

Physical distancing rather than social distancing was a point that Leach kept coming back to throughout the conversation.

“I would like to think we’re socially connected through all our digital forms of communication even though we have to physically be distant,” Leach explained. “For a lot of students, this is their first college experience so I’m trying to make it as unawkward as possible.

“I’m also trying to be as empathetic as I can and give students enough flexibility for them to still be successful.”

Leach explained she is looking for more ways to improve the digital content she provides for her students already. 

“I’ve always been pretty good with online learning, and it’s one of the aspects Troy really prides itself in,” she said.

“We have so many digital ways to help students feel like they’re a part of something even if we’re more physically separated. 

“I’m hoping my teaching style will allow students to feel both comfortable and responsible so that we can help each other get through this.”

Though planning new ways to provide students with digital engagement, Leach stressed the importance of community within the art department that allows for creative thinking. 

“A lot of times a conversation sparks a new growth in ideas, and I like that spontaneity that happens in the classroom, which leads to new thinking or approaches,” Leach said.

“But I’m finding there are ways that I can integrate technology to not only teach my classes but to inspire students to use them as artistic expression.”

While they have the chance to physically be present with their students, teachers are using this situation to push students creatively. 

“The classes that are prompting us to think about the pandemic for first projects are really trying to get us out of our comfort zones, and with something like this, there are tons of angles to look at it from,” Lovelace said. 

“From an educational standpoint, they are asking us to think about safety and come up with new ways of teaching but from an artistic standpoint, they want to know how we’re interpreting everything.”

Ways of interpreting have not only shifted for students but for the professors as well – and both are getting the chance to experiment and discover new ways of creating. 

“I love to sketch and paint, and since the pandemic started, sketching has remained consistent because I can access a pencil and paper more easily than paint,” Wright said. 

“However, I have been experimenting with digital media a bit more.”

“I have definitely seen a change in my artistic process,” Leach said. “With fewer physical commitments, I have actually been very prolific as a personal artist.

“I’ve done a lot of work that is utilizing objects that visually appeal to me, and even with very vague ideas, I’ve been able to make things that are unlike anything else I’ve made in the past.”

Though projects will now require a different kind of thinking, both Wright and Leach encourage students to keep creating through these difficult times. 

“I think in years to come, these students will sort of feel like they have this badge of honor when they look back on what they went through,” Leach said. “It will build self-confidence and fortitude that you will need to succeed in any creative field.”

“Create work that inspires you or that you can make from learning experiences from this pandemic,” Wright said. “People need to see some creativity during this time of sadness and fear.”

“Mental health is just as important as all the protocols we have in place to keep up physically healthy – it’s the only way we’ll get through this,” Leach explained. “If we don’t nurture ourselves, we can’t be creative.”

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