‘This doesn’t feel like real life’: Art majors cope with new realities of online classes

Arts major experience varying emotions about the transition to online classes. Photo courtesy of butler.edu. 

EMILY SCHLORF | STAFF REPORTER | eschlorf@butler.edu 

Every college student worldwide has experienced varying ramifications of the coronavirus. From the abrupt transition of on-campus independence to having to live under strict parental jurisdiction to the awkward and somewhat-hard-to-take-seriously Zoom classes, the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into everyone’s lives — especially students’ academic motivation. 

However, one group of majors has been hit especially hard: Butler arts majors. Without recitals, presentations, and senior performances to prepare for, many arts students have lost concrete goals to strive towards and worry about their professional careers, and have struggled to get into a routine without their peers. 

Cody Maggiore, a junior dance pedagogy major, said online learning is different from a dancer’s typical day at Butler. 

“Normally in the morning we would have dance academic classes, then lunch, ballet and modern partnering or jazz in the afternoon, then rehearsals in the evening,” Maggiore said. “Now it’s way different…it’s very much an abridged version of our normal day.” 

With in-person classes canceled for the rest of the semester, dance classes are recorded by faculty and posted onto Google Drive, where dancers can access them to take classes on their own. 

Unfortunately, these classes are difficult for many, since not everyone has access to a dance studio, nor possess adequate space in their homes, while others struggle with solid internet connection. 

Destiny Billot, a senior dance pedagogy major, said while she is thankful for her professors’ efforts to deliver some form of her courses online, most of the responsibility of progressing as a dancer and keeping the training she’s worked years to perfect falls on herself. 

“It’s hard because you have to motivate yourself to do more, and I have to be the one to tell myself ‘today I’m gonna put on my pointe shoes and work on my feet so I don’t lose my pointe-work abilities’ or ‘today I’m gonna do some conditioning so I don’t lose my muscle growth,” Billot said. 

For art and design majors, art shows and final presentations have been watered down to video recordings of students’ final projects that will be posted onto Canvas. Mimi Holden, a junior art and design major, said professors have been challenging students to create art with different goals in mind. 

“Right now, I’m in a drawing class, which focuses mostly on observation and so obviously we can’t work with models or groups in class anymore,” Holden said. 

Instead of focusing on visual assignments, art professors have come up with alternative assignments, challenging students to integrate more imaginationative concepts into their craft. 

“Our professor is having us do more conceptual pieces instead, so we have to think more about [subjects] like isolation and boredom, and work more conceptually than visually, since working visually is difficult when you can’t leave your house,” Holden said. 

Though Billot, Holden and Maggiore agree that professors have done a commendable job at making the transition to online classes smooth and in a timely manner, many arts majors have struggled with finding adequate spaces to practice their craft. 

Mitchell Remington is a first-year jazz studies and economics major who, like many arts students, does not have access to the same facilities provided by Butler — like sound-proof rooms for his trumpet playing.

“I’m in a house with two other people working from home and when they’re on calls, my practice time is incredibly limited,” Remington said. 

Remington also said he misses the interactive facet of music-making. 

“Losing that element because you’re just submitting recordings of you playing with recorded backing tracks or taking lessons with your instructor over FaceTime is not the best, and it is hard to stay motivated as a musician when you can’t see live music or interact with other musicians,” Remington said.

Gabbie Peppin, a senior creative writing and music double major, can no longer perform her senior recital for a live audience. Instead, Peppin has to record herself to a pre-recorded piano accompaniment part. Arts majors will not have the opportunity to showcase their work to the public. 

“It is really difficult and is not nearly as rewarding as performing in person,” Peppin said. “I ended up driving past Lilly [Hall] at one point, and that was the first time I cried. In general, I think it’s been a lot of disbelief. A lot of us thought it was very surreal, like we’re at the beginning of an apocalypse movie. This doesn’t feel like real life.” 

Some musicians have been able to find a silver lining in the madness of “Zoom University” and the asynchronous state of arts classes: the abundance of free time. 

“I was supposed to play for nine recitals by the end of the semester, so having that much free time with just focused and directed practice has been exciting,” Remington said. 

Claire Porter, a sophomore piano major, also felt a wave of relief in response to classes getting moved online, as she was experiencing something many arts students encounter in their college careers: burnout. 

“This semester has been really challenging for me, as far as my mental health and my social health, so moving online was actually a perfect way for me to have the time to reset and reflect on the things I maybe didn’t do so well in the first half of the semester,” Porter said. “It’s been really good to find what I love about music again and to have the space to do that without the deadline of a recital, studio class or of the constant pressure of being a music major.” 

Though the time away from Lilly Hall has been therapeutic for some, others, such as Billot, cannot ignore the uncertainty induced by the job search right now. Artists and companies in all disciplines are struggling to find alternative ways to bring in funding due to the sudden plunge in ticket sales and live performances. 

“In the long run, companies are closed so dancers in companies aren’t going to be leaving, so there won’t be any open spots, and we may not get jobs for next season,” Billot said. “It’s really sad. But we’re gonna keep our heads up and hope this all turns out well.”

Though arts students have varying emotions in terms of the cutting short of the semester — from worry to relief — all anyone can do is continue to do the best they can while staying inside and practicing social distancing. 

 

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