Even during COVID-19, art flourishes

By Kevin Thomas

With quarantine in full effect for at least eight months now, many people are adjusting to the new normal. People are used to working from home, students have started adjusting to their Zoom meetings, and businesses are opening up albeit relatively hesitantly. 

One field that has had an iffy time recovering during this period, however, were the arts.

Traditional art – think paintings, drawings, sketches, etc. – is generally shown to the public via places like galleries. This is also where most traditional artists make their money. They paint, submit their painting to a gallery, and make their profit. But galleries are closed. Studios are closed.

But there was hope.

“Non-traditional art really took over” says Pensacola State College (PSC) instructor James Rhea. “Like, the Graffiti Bridge became a convergent place where art just flourished.”

Rhea teaches several art classes at the art department of PSC, a department that lost some funding and has had many problems since quarantine.

“I really love what I do, but it’s tough” says Rhea about teaching his classes. He compared teaching his classes over Zoom to be like hosting the Bill Nye television show, except you also have to manage the cameras. “I really hope my passion for art translates to my students.”

For the majority of students and teachers at PSC, adjusting to COVID has been a difficult journey, and for many artists, that difficulty is tenfold.

“I get my artistic energy by going somewhere exciting and just taking it all in,” says PSC art major Frank Lasagna. 

For Lasagna, coming home after a day out, or going into a studio and seeing what other artists are doing is how they get their motivation to do art. The lack of a physical teacher there to show you proper technique and help you correct mistakes on the fly also makes things very difficult.

Projects are also a concern. Rhea teaches a 3D design class that requires students to use materials to make 3D sculptures. Before, the art department would give the students their materials, but now his assignments require students to make sculptures out of materials that the majority of students will have lying around the house.

Even once the projects themselves are completed, turning them in and getting feedback can be difficult. “Not all students are technologically literate, and that can make projects difficult, especially the first couple as they get used to the process.”

However, in the art community, everyone works differently. Some people work better after a nice day out, others work better bogged up in their room for a month. And these differences were only exacerbated in quarantine.

“I’m so much more motivated after COVID. Everything is shut down, all I have to do is grab a piece of paper and I’m off” says Gage Rodgers, an art major at PSC. 

Rodgers says that the free time he has had over the last year gave him the ability to play with different mediums and the time to get better with the mediums he already knew. 

“For me, projects are a lot easier because they’re all laid out in front of you” says Rodgers.

Rodgers also believes that the art community as a whole has benefited.

“COVID was a time that could make or break artists, and I think everyone having the time to work on the little things in their head really helped bring out some cool artists.” 

The Internet is also an avenue that more and more artists are taking up. YouTube is a very popular spot for painters and people who sketch especially as time-lapse videos have become common-place.

“Personally, I have posted my art and had people ask if they can buy prints or stickers” says Lasagna. Social media like Facebook and Instagram allow for artists to become their own merchants, selling their art to their friends.

“Art really is about your passion. If you want to do it, you will.”

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