Photo courtesy of Julian Silva
Over the past year, MCPS has done its best to provide as many normal experiences to students as possible. Many events have undergone changes to account for adequate social distancing and other precautions, but few extracurricular events have changed as much as the County-wide Annual Art Show.
“Every year, each high school in MCPS has an art show at their school where physical artworks are displayed in a space within the school and people can come to see the work over a few days,” Dana Mooney, a visual arts teacher at WCHS, said. “In addition to that, a district show was held annually with a selected few artworks from each school at a local venue such as a mall.”
Just as with many other similar events, the past year has presented numerous logistical challenges that threaten opportunities for students to celebrate their achievements. The most notable of these was the virtual graduation for seniors last spring. But sadly, many other events like school art shows were canceled as well.
“Last year, in-person school ended just before these events could take place so this year it was decided to create a digital art show where we could celebrate the art that our talented MCPS students created during virtual learning,” Money said. “Despite the challenges of learning art virtually- from supply pickups to learning through demonstrations over zoom- our students have continued to grow as artists and express themselves through their art.”
The sheer organization that went into creating the art show website is impressive and seeing feats like this come just as students are beginning to return to in-person learning provides hope to many students. Every school in MCPS has its own page on the art show website and certain outstanding pieces from schools have been highlighted.
“MCPS set up a website for the district show. The ink drawing on the main page is by Churchill student Julian Silva,” Mooney said. “Each school collected submissions from their art students in order to construct their part of the website. The Winston Churchill section of the website is accessed by clicking on a painting by Churchill AP Drawing Student Maddi Bell. Then you can look through work from students in each of our areas of study in visual arts.”
You can access the show by clicking here. While an online art show isn’t ideal, there have been some benefits to displaying a photo of the artwork instead of the physical piece itself. This allows artwork to stay safe from any accidental damage and provides flexibility on where students can submit their artworks for display.
“I love the idea of a virtual art show, as even though I don’t get to see my pieces in person, I can still submit them to be seen, and be seen by possibly even more people than the annual in-person art show that we usually have,” junior Julian Silva said. “Another plus to it being virtual is that I can send my pieces to multiple art shows, as the pieces do not physically need to be there. I may miss being able to see my classmates’ and my pieces displayed together in person, but I still really love the virtual art show.”
The art show seems to have achieved its goal of bringing students together despite long term virtual schooling and the art departments, especially at WCHS, have appreciated all the hard work it takes for students to continue to create art virtually. In a description of the art show, WCHS art teachers have acknowledged the many challenges that have faced students and faculty throughout the year.
“Our students have done an outstanding job continuing to grow as artists during virtual learning with supply pickups, unusual materials, zoom demonstrations, virtual check in conferences, conversations in emails, feedback comments on canvas, and so much more,” the description said. “We are so proud to share some of our students’ work from visual art virtual learning with you.”
For students who have been taking art classes for many years at WCHS, the transition to virtual art class has been difficult. Students have found unique ways to innovate the learning experience of virtual school to mimic how it used to be when everyone was in the school building.
“Virtual art class has been an interesting experience, as we no longer have access to the art studio at school,” Silva said. “Therefore, I have kinda set up a mini art studio in my room. I have really enjoyed the projects this year so far, and It has been a wonderful experience.”
Despite these challenges, Silva explains that he has created art that he is proud of. He submitted what he believes are the strongest of his creations to the county art show so that he can share his work with peers.
“I submitted two pieces,” Silva said. “One is an ink drawing titled ‘All Together Alone,’ and the other is a watercolor piece titled ‘Reflections.’ I chose these two pieces because they represent two completely different artistic styles that I have. I’m really happy with both of these pieces. My pen and ink piece, ‘All Together Alone,’ was made at the start of quarantine, and I think it does a great job at creating a narrative about how I felt at the time. I’m really proud of my use of watercolor in ‘Reflections.’”
The past year has no doubt been hard and many classes, especially those in the visual arts, were not created with virtual schooling in mind. No matter the difficulties, MCPS faculty have worked tirelessly to create a positive experience for students and the County-Wide Virtual Art Show is just one example of this commitment.
“The one thing I miss about art class is that I no longer can chat in person with my friends during class while I do work,” Silva said. “However, I am really thankful for all the work that Ms. Mooney has done to make the class operate smoothly, from material drop-offs, to instructional videos. I am really happy with the work that I have created in the class this year.”