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Vive L’Art! St. Albans Art Department Thriving in Online Learning

By Duncan Smith ’22
While many things changed in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Albans was able to transition to online learning rather seamlessly. However, a few things just couldn’t be replicated over a Zoom call: Lunch tables, BEEF Club, Prom, and more. The main thing that was different for me was my art class. Fully remote, there was no art studio, no place to get materials, no way to continue to do art classes anywhere near the same level as the pre-COVID era. The 4th quarter proved to be very unproductive for me in the arts; large paintings were reduced to small drawings in a sketchbook, the STA art studio was downgraded to my bedroom desk, and my peers were relegated to rectangles on a screen.

Art class during hybrid learning

After a summer of what I can only assume involved a lot of planning and budgeting, the arts program emerged new and improved. Even though we weren’t able to start the year in the current hybrid model, we did have remote plus, which meant that students could go on campus and pick up art materials. Mr. Sturtevant stated that the goal of the art department was to recreate the “studio feel” as best as possible while each student was fully remote. The challenge with this task is deciding what projects have to stay at school (messy and/or complicated art projects) and which can go home with students. Most classes had pre-made bundles with materials specifically for their course, some of which even got shipped to students who couldn’t come to remote plus days. Now that everyone had the things they needed, classes were able to happen somewhat normally.

My advanced painting and drawing class was able to function almost as normal (barring the lack of a real art studio), while most other classes became much more task-oriented due to the fact that each student only had basic materials. The silver lining to working fully remotely was that students ended up having more of their own individual thoughts because they weren’t being influenced by the interpretations of their classmates. Another great aspect of remote art is how easy it now is to bring in external artists: the complication that came from a full trip to the St. Albans campus is now as simple as hopping on a zoom call.

Art class during hybrid learning

The move to hybrid moved the arts program one step closer to its pre-COVID caliber of classes. Having access to the studio again is a huge deal for everyone who doesn’t have a space at home where they can paint and get messy. Being in-person has brought me back to a lot of the things that I missed most about STA: sports, lunch and actually seeing real people during the day, but being able to paint in the STA art studio has really been one of the best parts. I think that the administration and the art teachers, Mr. Sturtevant and Ms. Stratton, deserve a lot of credit for their work to get us as close to normal as possible.
Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.