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From the gallery to your screen: Art showings will be virtual as studio classes shrink in size

Noah Dantes


Willamette’s art department has made all public events this fall virtual, according to department head Alexandra Opie. The end-of-semester art show will be held over Instagram at @wustudioart. The Instagram account will also be used to show works-in-progress throughout the semester. The department had planned on hosting two visiting artist public events this fall, both of which have been moved to Zoom.

The department is holding a second art show, unique to this semester, displaying the thesis work of last year’s graduating art majors. This display usually takes place during the spring term. The show will run from September 5 to 19 in the Rogers building gallery and in the student gallery in the Art building. The students whose work will be displayed are Bailey Dickey, Claire Read, Joya Biebel and Andrew Nelson.

The department made several changes in order to reopen safely. All art classes can be attended in-person—to do this safely, the department has shrunk class sizes. While fall class registration began before Willamette shifted to distance learning in the spring, class sizes were reduced without removing students from rosters. One class closed registration before it opened for first-years, while others lowered the enrollment cap over the summer so that as students dropped, new class spots did not become available. The classes that remained too large to hold in-person were broken into two groups, with groups taking turns attending class in-person and attending virtually.

Bigger tables have been removed from classrooms and many spaces have been reoriented into a row-like configuration, which Opie claimed is more efficient in getting students safely in and out of the classroom. All class group events have been made virtual, including group critiques, where students would gather around one piece and discuss it. Art will still be displayed physically in campus buildings, though the official end-of-semester art show will be virtual.

Additionally, Opie has worked with physics professor Daniel Borrero Echeverry to test the air quality in classrooms. “He’s got a very wonderful system for testing the air quality in terms of COVID-19 and safety and we’ve been making all the changes that need to happen [to ensure good air flow],” Opie said.

The department has made preparations in case Willamette returns to distance learning. They have prepared work kits for students to take home with them, something they are continuing from spring term. Opie hopes that even if all classes go virtual, students will continue to have access to campus studio space. “There’s precedent for that at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where their plan for the semester is that classes are not meeting in-person but students can go into the studios,” Opie said.

Art department students work with materials, which is different from many humanities classes, where the focus has mainly been on ensuring social distance. “Studio art classes are very space oriented—it’s been about creating safe spaces,” Opie said.

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