A hands on class through a screen — Art Class in 2020


Julia Nardone

The NPHS Art Department has encountered many new circumstances this year, but by putting their creativity to the test, they were able to overcome those challenges.

LANSDALE — Walking into North Penn High School’s circular J-pod, the first thing one notices is the smell of paint, the faint noises of chatter from within the classrooms, and the abundance of creativity and imagination being expressed through art. Now imagine it empty, silent, and dull. 

There’s no need to worry, there is never a lack of creativity at North Penn, there are just currently, a lack of people.

This year, art students and teachers are experiencing a year like no other, especially with their classes being some of the few requiring hands-on learning. Art teachers have had to adapt to teaching art class to students at home which is not an easy task.

Nevertheless, the art department has been doing their best with the materials provided, striving to make sure students have access to supplies, kits, and instruction on a daily basis.

Computer Animation teacher and the head of the North Penn Art Department, Michael Werner, explained the process he and the rest of the department had to refine to make classes go as smoothly as possible.

“It certainly has been tricky and challenging,” Werner admitted about the work done to make art class as normal as possible. “The teachers and the students in this department have really stepped up to the challenge.”

AP Studio and Design art teacher, Colleen Cooney expressed her early concerns with virtual art class back when decisions were still being made about the status of whether students would be returning to school or required to stay home.

“I think it’s safe to say the biggest concern for our department was equity of resources and materials,” Cooney said. “Things certainly haven’t been perfect, but we’re committed to adapting to meet the needs of all of our students.”

Things certainly haven’t been perfect, but we’re committed to adapting to meet the needs of all of our students.

— Colleen Cooney - AP Studio and Design art teacher

Cooney explained how at the beginning of the year, art kits were made and distributed to all art students with materials to help them with their projects and assignments. 

“Those of us teaching the more tactile 2-D and 3-D courses knew we needed to get art supplies into the hands of students,” Cooney said. “Those teaching digital arts have vetted numerous programs and techniques so that students would have access to the technology necessary to be successful in those courses.”

Various students have had different opinions on the pros and cons of virtual art class, the main one being work ethic and quality.

I’d say it’s been a struggle for me when it comes to managing my own schedule and productivity to make sure I complete all my pieces in time,” junior and AP Studio Art student, Julia Kim, expressed. “I’ve definitely been forcing myself to improve on that aspect.

Even though their situation is less than optimal, Kim believes that her learning experience has been running as smoothly as it can.

Mrs. Cooney makes sure to hold individual breakout rooms with every student to give us advice and help us with any struggles,” Kim said. “Although we do hold monthly art critique, it’s definitely different with everything virtual and can be slightly awkward at times.”

For junior Kaylee Corbi, her experience has been similar to Kim’s with the exception of being in Portfolio Prep, a class where students learn how to build and make a portfolio of art pieces to show off their best work.

“I have a smaller workspace at home to work on my projects which have broadened my abilities to work in differing circumstances,” Corbi explained. “We have to use materials we can find at home to make our own still life models.”

Both students miss the opportunities to talk and interact with their fellow artists and being in a relaxed environment an art class provides. 

“It’s challenging from an instruction and a student standpoint having this distance,” Werner admitted. “It’s something we’ve been trying to overcome since March last year.”

Distance is one of the major hurdles the art department has had to jump over, and they’re still not fully sure about the usefulness of their compromises. Especially with art classes like ceramics where students need to fire their pieces in a kiln, or computer animation where they had never tried animating on Chromebooks before this year. 

Art student Hannah Redding-Gurczynski takes ceramics, a class that has been significantly impacted by distance learning.

“I was super excited for my sculpture class and now it is such a struggle to get through and turn in the assignments,” Gurczynski said. “It’s like they don’t exist because I can’t even see them.”

We’re overcoming this adversity with creativity.

— Michael Werner - Head of NP Art Department

While the coronavirus may have stilled activity inside North Penn, the creativity that brews within art students’ imagination is bigger and better than ever before. With the help of breakout rooms, tutorial videos, and tireless work from the teachers and students, there will never be a shortage of authentic, original art.

“We’re overcoming this adversity with creativity,” Werner said.