08:15 AM

South Texas College art departments go virtual

Creative, safe solutions for Fine and Performing Arts


Cello instructor Patrick Hopkins (above) participates recently in a virtual instruction session at South Texas College. Three departments within fine arts at STC say they are doing the extra work to make sure the show and learning goes on.

A long period of pandemic, isolation and protective measures was not in the plans for academia a few months ago. Art educators face a unique challenge. At South Texas College three departments are doing the extra work to make sure the show and learning goes on.

How have these programs adapted and kept students engaged virtually? STC Theatre Department Chair Jason Rodriguez explains the complexity of teaching and learning the arts.

Theatre students are transitioning to performances they can practice remotely, in the safety of their homes.

“We have begun producing virtual content focused on sketches and DIYs,” Rodriguez said. “ We are currently using the Summer to experiment and innovate with the new equipment we purchased to continue on with our work this coming academic year. 

Theatre is looking at unique ways to teach and present their work in this digital moment.

“We are looking at various projects which revolve around cabarets, short series (dramatic and comedic), DIYs, student work, and theater productions (late spring/summer - either virtual or livestreamed). We are also working in developing a website devoted to South Texas College Theatre which will house these projects and serve as the hub for this and future work.”

Music department chair William Buhidar explained that this pandemic is a challenging moment that will be overcome. His department is adapted to make sure musical education continues. 

“This pandemic is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you simply can’t prepare for,” Buhidar said. ”That said, your first instinct is finding a way to survive because that little voice inside of you says ‘This, too, shall pass.’ So, you go to work with one objective in mind – keeping students focused on their educational goal of completion and helping them ‘stay the course,’ if you will.”

Buhidar explained that as soon as sheltering was announced the department shifted its focus to digital.

"We immediately started putting out videos of past music performances and sheltered-in performances through social media,” He said. “All done to lift spirits and letting our students and community know we are alive and kicking and ready for business."

Students and faculty are all in on this progress.

"Faculty adjusted their teaching to a virtual approach, from music lessons to ensemble performances to piano class instruction,” Buhidar said “We made it work because students' futures were at risk and we weren't about to sit on our hands and wait for the sun to shine."

The Art department has a big task ahead of them because of the challenge of virtualizing art studios. Courses like Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking will be offered online for the first time this Fall. 

Art department chair Luis Corpus explained the adjustments being made by the Art faculty. 

“Considering health trends across the county, we feel it is in the best interest of our students and community to prioritize safety by moving towards a primarily online method of instruction,” Art Department Chair Luis Corpus said.
Art Department Chair Luis Corpus

“Considering health trends across the county, we feel it is in the best interest of our students and community to prioritize safety by moving towards a primarily online method of instruction,” Corpus said.

Art instructors have their work cut out for them as they temporarily pause decade’s proven strategies for creative solutions.

“The decision to move online has created obstacles that we wouldn't have imagined we would be facing a year ago,” Corpus said. “We have faculty that have taught with STC for over 20 years now finding themselves students of the digital environment. It is truly inspirational to see our faculty make such a dramatic shift. There is no other explanation than it being dedication to craft and to students.”

Art, like the other departments, are using a range of apps, websites and mediums to harness technology for remote learning.

“Some will be using technology such as Zoom or BB (Blackboard) Collaborate to host synchronous classroom meetings,” Corpus said. “Others will use technology such as Padlet as a form of digital critique platform. Our faculty are being highly resourceful in this shift to the online environment. The one thing that technology cannot replace is the knowledge and dedication of our faculty who are putting in the hours to make this happen, and will continue to be available for students as the semester begins.”