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Arts Continue to Inspire

DIY Photography at HCC.

While the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center has gone dark during the coronavirus pandemic, center leaders and Howard Community College faculty members have developed dynamic online classes and programs to inspire students and engage the community.

Online Student Art Exhibition

Taking all the information, demonstrations, lectures, and examples from a weekly four-hour studio class and packaging it into a digestible, easy-to-follow assignment has created challenges, said Thomas Engleman, assistant professor of visual arts and gallery director. 

“Faculty have had to get extremely creative on how to work around these hurdles and still provide an optimal learning experience,” he said. “Students have been asked to be open minded, creative and resilient when it comes to studying from home and juggling their daily lives. I think we’ve all done really well given the circumstances.”

With the current situation increasing the amount of time people spend on social media, holding a student art exhibit on Facebook seemed like the “natural way to go,” Engleman said.

The Student Invitational Exhibition ran through May 17 on the Horowitz Center’s Facebook page and featured art students created after the shift to remote instruction.

“Faculty chose two students from each section they teach to represent their class,” Engleman said. “Mediums range in techniques and practices, from drawing to painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography and digital design.” 

To see the show, visit facebook.com/horowitzcenter.

DIY Photography

When photography classes are held on campus, Donna T. Jones, photography coordinator and associate professor, teaches students what she calls the “DIY” way of operating: how to deal with a lack of space, gear restrictions, and subject matter limitations.

These skills came in handy when the college moved to remote learning and Marylanders were encouraged to stay home. Suddenly, students’ photography tools and subjects needed to either be a few inches away or just outside their doors.

“A chair or box with a clamp and piece of paper becomes a background for a still life,” Jones said. “A piece of aluminum foil on a sheet pan becomes a reflector for a portrait. And part of the leftover tomato from lunch turns into assignment subject matter.”

While some students have struggled with class software, Jones said she tries to inspire them by showing how photographers deal with less than optimal conditions and that “ingenuity is the best medicine.”

“I am teaching students ways to enhance their imagery through post production so that they can go back to work produced earlier in the semester and pull out a gem or two,” she said. 

As a result, many are producing work that is better than what they created two months ago, Jones believes. 

“Artists benefit from working with limitations, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time that you are doing it,” she said. Everywhere you turn, there is an image waiting to be made. If (students) have noticed a shaft of light on the wall or some oranges spilling out of a bag on the counter, and it suddenly became alive and assignment-worthy, then these are their finest moments.” 

Zoom Dance Classes

Teaching dance techniques like pliés, leg swings, and inversions on carpet, in front of a computer and over Zoom videoconferencing hasn’t been easy, said Elizabeth Higgins, associate professor of dance and dance program coordinator. But keeping an open mind has helped her and her contemporary modern dance students, she said.

Higgins asked her students to “see their new spatial configurations as challenges.” 

“My students have remained responsive and engaged, showing up to Zoom class meetings, handing assignments in on time and showing gratitude for the work I’ve done to make the transition to remote teaching,” she said. “They have persevered and have remained deeply committed to their learning.”

Higgins also takes time during each session to discuss students’ lives outside of their virtual classroom. 

“I ask about challenges and adversity they face,” she said. “And I try to encourage them and remind them that they are not alone in their struggles.”

Virtual, Live Improv

Arts Collective’s What Improv Group?!?! (W.I.G.) launched its first-ever virtual, live improv program in April, where “audience” members could comment through Facebook and shared suggestions based on improv actors’ prompts, said Sue Kramer, Arts Collective’s producing artistic director.

“It was important to Arts Collective to find ways to stay connected to our artists and the community,” she said. “I saw a few others doing live videos on Facebook via solo performances and loved the idea. Every show was followed by a brief Q & A. The goal was to bring a fun, creative, family-friendly distraction to folks, stacked with a lot of laughs.”

“W.I.G.-Wednesdays” took place every Wednesday through May 27. To join in, visit facebook.com/artscollectivehcc.

Topics: Arts & Culture
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