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Upper School ceramics students

CA Curious

Essential Arts

October 8, 2020

Curious about how the Arts at CA are adjusting to this most unusual time?  Read on…

Back in the summer, when it became clear that the new school year would be anything but usual, we were asked to rethink our core curricula and focus on the “essential.”  We had already made a great pivot back in the spring as we went entirely virtual. So, when it became clear we needed to prepare for the possibility of more virtual, and eventual Blue and Gold and even Purple cohorts, the arts faculty began planning. There were so many unknowns, how could we adequately adjust? 

Fortunately, over the past few years, we’ve been actively engaged in curriculum renewal, consistently examining our offerings and practices to ensure our courses are relevant, engaging, and inspiring.  This longstanding work has left us well-prepared for the challenges that face us now.

First, we re-examined our Arts philosophy and reaffirmed these guiding principles that have sustained us in the past:

The Arts at CA foster a diverse community of creative, empathetic students who embrace their unique passions and talents to make purposeful impact.

We believe that:

  • Studios are safe spaces for students to discover techniques and skills to create original, exciting, inspiring, and relevant works
  • Students will thrive in an atmosphere that is collaborative and inclusive and supportive of their journey in discovering their artistic voices
  • The artistic process encourages play, curiosity, experimentation, and risk-taking
  • Art making is essential to our humanity

Then, using design thinking, each faculty member worked diligently to understand how these guiding ideas would translate into concrete initiatives in the new year. We knew we must continue to develop creative confidence, rebuild and foster community by supporting ensembles and collaborative teams, and flex to support all our students as they pursued their journeys. 

First and foremost, we wanted to ensure that our studios are safe. To that end, visual arts and other teachers assembled packets of materials that students could take home so that they each had the tools necessary for success. Music students were supplied with digital tools for easy access to sheet music and the learning of music theory. We rearranged classrooms to ensure social distancing. Teachers were provided webcams, ring lights, audio interfaces, and other devices so that virtual classes would be professional and effective.

We encouraged students to design their own at-home studios and rehearsal spaces. Teachers developed units that allowed students to explore and experiment with materials and processes. We still want students to play and collaborate, although the notion of risk-taking has taken on an entirely new set of precautions. 

Art-making remains essential in these new and challenging times and CA has provided a wide array of materials and resources, and our students are resilient and engaged, as always.  Many exciting things are happening. After just a few days in the new age of cohorts, what does this look and sound and feel like?

We hear music once again—singing and playing and dancing and laughter.  Pictures are being drawn; paintings are coming to life; ceramics are being fired and glazed.  Virtual objects are being designed for 3-D printers. There’s been a workshop in sword play; video scripts are being imagined and written for future filming.  We’ve turned the stage in Berger Hall into a digital video studio, and we are recording students improvising and playing classical music.

Slowly, but certainly, the joys of creating and performing are coming back to the campus. Is it sometimes weird and challenging?  Yes.  Is it the same as a year ago at this time?  Not at all.  But from what I can tell as a non-casual observer, it’s beginning to look and sound familiar. Students seem relieved and excited to be together.

Is it hard?  Yes. But, teachers are working diligently to get to know each of their students. They are finding their once-familiar rhythms again—as the creative processes that we once took for granted, but were forced to retool or suspend for these many months, finally re-emerge. 

In this disruptive and sometimes upside-down world we find ourselves in, here in the fall, it feels like spring again!

I welcome your questions and comments and suggestions about how the arts are helping to rebuild our community.  You can contact me at michael_hayes@caryacademy.org

My best to all our families and students, with confidence in our collective creative energies,

Michael Hayes
Arts Director

Written by Michael Hayes, Arts Director


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