Virtual Artistry: How CB Art Classes are Working Around Online Learning

The arts program is definitely something in which Christian Brothers High School takes pride. Many CB students are incredibly talented artists who showcase their art in various ways through the school. But art classes took a major hit during the Coronavirus pandemic as students are unable to work with their teachers in person. This differs […]

The arts program is definitely something in which Christian Brothers High School takes pride. Many CB students are incredibly talented artists who showcase their art in various ways through the school.

But art classes took a major hit during the Coronavirus pandemic as students are unable to work with their teachers in person. This differs from other subjects because art is predominantly based on visual learning and a teacher’s help. But CB Art teachers have utilized small breakout rooms on Microsoft Teams to make the most out of this year.

Because ceramics can be considered a particularly hard task to pick up, instructor Mr. Rob Boriskin is doing everything in his power to help his students master the art. In previous years, he flipped his class, meaning that all content for the class was online, and in school, his students got guidance.

“I’m no longer the sage on the stage — I’m the guide by the side,” he says.

The ceramics teacher feels that he has an advantage in digital learning because of this transition made years ago, . He definitely misses the physical teaching aspect, but he is able to recycle videos he made years ago to guide his students and feels confident in their effectiveness. This familiarized his technological knowledge and he can host Teams classes productively.

Mr. Boriskin has also been able to inspire other teachers to do the same and create well thought out videos. His class is very much centered around social interaction, so he maintains this concept through breakout groups. He believes that through these groups, he can stimulate the “creativity that comes from deep inside us through social interaction.” He thinks it is helpful and healing for students to have direct communication and encourage creativity.

“In an in-class setting, it’s natural to interact. In a virtual setting, it’s much more contrived and sort of forced,” he says. “I’m not big on forcing people to do things.”

Instead, Mr. Boriskin wants to encourage his students to try to replicate the in-class environment. He feels like online learning creates some structures to his class because of the way he gives assignments. He assigns all homework at the beginning of the semester and has found that through online school, assignments are completed more thoroughly given the space that students have. Mr. Boriskin takes significant pride in his class and even with the Coronavirus, he has still maintained a healthy work ethic that he passes down to his students. 

Mrs. Christine Kerr is another arts teacher at Christian Brothers High School who teaches Introduction to Art, Art Survey, Advanced Painting, and Honors Painting and Drawing. Three years ago, Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Boriskin collaborated on a teaching video, intending to benefit the flipped classroom setting. Although this was out of her comfort zone, she is grateful that she did this, as it helped prepare her for Digital Learning and to make videos for her students.

She feels that physically working with her students is one of her greatest strengths as a teacher, and it’s definitely affected the way students are understanding the material. Working with four different classes, Mrs. Kerr observed the positive way that the breakout groups affect the students.

“I definitely find that the upper division students use it more effectively to collaborate and brainstorm ideas. They tend to get in their zone while working on projects.”

Recognizing this, she has encouraged her other students to do the same. It’s not a replacement for being in class, but it’s the best they can do.

“Artists don’t work in a vacuum. While when we do want to go off, we want to get in our zone. And it’s being around other people that inspires us. It’s contagious when you’re around others who are creating.”

Mrs. Kerr is vocally passionate about her and her students’ artwork and strategies, and that’s definitely something she’s struggling without. To her, a benefit of online learning is time management.

“By working at home, when they get really in to whatever they’re working on, they are in charge of their own time management, and if they want to spend three or five hours, no one is telling them to clean up.”

She believes her students can benefit from this because it gives them an opportunity to perfect their work. 

Raquel Silva (‘21) is taking Mrs. Kerr’s Honors Painting and Drawing class in the 4 Year Art Program.

She has mixed feelings about the online learning of art. “Digital Learning has turned this class into a more independent form of learning rather than working with others.”

Original artwork by Raquel Silva (’21)

She references back to past years and how there was a major social aspect to the class andt how the students would use each other for references, to formulate ideas, and just interact in general. Now she is forced to work on her own improvement from home.

Because she has been a part of the arts program for so long, she has gotten a sense of her classmates’ artistry. She admires that every student has a different style of work,and loves to see how everyone interprets prompts differently.

But since everyone is currently working from home, she says “now,I find that it is very difficult to find inspiration when I am not surrounded by such creative and talented people.”

That’s definitely one of the biggest struggles that Raquel faces through the online experience. She also finds it challenging to find inspiration through a screen.

“While my art teacher [Mrs. Kerr] does a very good job at making sure my class is not sitting in a meeting for 80 minutes, much of our learning still depends on technology and staring at a screen. I am a very ‘hands-on’ learner, so staying focused in a meeting while simultaneously trying to find inspiration for my next piece is very challenging in the digital space.”

She tries to make the best of the circumstances and finds inspiration wherever she can. She is able to see the bright side of digital learning as well.

As Mrs. Kerr pointed out as one of the benefits to online learning, Raquel is very happy that she now has her own workspace, and it makes her feel inspired and comforted. The senior appreciates her teacher and the way that Mrs. Kerr has tried to accommodate her class to the digital learning days.

She plans to go back to school in person and is very excited because “visual art is made to be experienced and actually seen, so I do crave the in person experience of sharing my art and its meaning with others.”

I am very fortunate to have gotten Raquel’s perception of the online arts program, as she is one of the most talented artists at CB. I am currently enrolled in Ceramics B with Mr. Boriskin. Because I took the first part of the course last semester, I can properly compare in-class learning to online. As he said, Mr. Boriskin’s class is centered around the communal aspect, allowing others to engage with one another to spark creativity.

In my experience, he has done an excellent job of maintaining the social part of the class. We are able to go into breakout groups during the period and work together. I find this very helpful as I am a very social person. I am very fortunate to have taken this course last year because I have a sturdy understanding of how to do ceramics. I can now utilize my skills from last year and implement them into my current work from home. 

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of being stuck at home, art teachers and students are doing their best to stay creative. The arts program is definitely one of the most amazing things Christian Brothers has to offer, and it is impressive how teachers have maintained the creativity through digital learning.

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