To say the least, this term has been an interesting one. It is the first full term since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the most part, it has gone quite smoothly. With that in mind, I wanted to check in on how the term has progressed for students and staff working in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program (BFA).
The BFA program focuses on different facets of Fine Arts, and as Dr. Down, a Fine Art professor here at Mt. A explained, “the program is usually very hands-on.”
The program usually consists of “material and technical demonstrations, reading discussions, creation of artworks in response to project assignments, as well as group critiques of these projects. There is typically a fairly close-knit community within the department and a lot of exchange and discussion amongst students, staff, and professors.”
Due to the nature of the BFA program, it is more difficult to shift to online teaching. So, the program continues to mostly be in person.
Dr. Down said that “my courses haven’t changed too much, although some of the delivery methods for certain content have shifted to online. I am teaching all of my classes in-person, but much of my course preparation has been making videos to replace in-class demonstrations which are too awkward to do in-class with social distancing protocols.”
“I was expecting more of my classes to be online so having mostly in-person was a pleasant surprise,” said first-year BFA student Ella Graham.
For other students, the change in protocol has been another hurdle in an already challenging year. “My biggest challenge is having limited access to the studio,” said fourth year BFA student Ruth Curry. Unlike most years, BFA students no longer have unlimited access to the Purdy Crawford Centre.
“You cannot just show up and walk in expecting there to be space in the photo lab or hang out with friends while working. You must sign up ahead of time to use our photo lab, printmaking etc. It forces you to be structured and follow a schedule which is nice but at the same time it’s get in and get out in some cases and you lose the bonding you would have otherwise with other students.”
First-year BFA student Sierra Dyer has never experienced the program without the pandemic, but is content with what the program has offered her. “I have heard stories from friends and teachers alike that the Purdy centre used to remain open 24 hours, as well the room capacities did not exist. Class sizes were larger, events were more frequent, there were trips and visits that were not virtual. I suppose many students miss these aspects as I find there to be a lack of connectedness within the Purdy. This semester there is something special about outdoor class excursions, brief meetings of sparsely placed humans in a larger group and experiencing the artwork on the walls as it stands alone, the isolation of everybody’s pieces is evident this year.”
Overall, the pandemic has not changed the development that Fine Arts students gain throughout their time here. First-year student Ranz Bontogon said that, “I find that I’ve grown a lot since I got here, the project challenge I’ve faced really showed me that art is hard work and it takes commitment and dedication, also a passion.”
“My art focuses on myself, I make art for myself, I express myself through art. It’s a sort of therapy for me. COVID didn’t really inspire me to make something related to pandemic. Although, I’d say that I’ve done more art during the quarantine than when I got here, which I find odd,” he added.
Dyer however, has found inspiration from the pandemic: “COVID-19 is what created my art style in essence. I had applied for the BFA program on March 15th, and soon after I finished my grad year early. With an abundance of time on my hands and all of my thoughts screaming in my face every morning, my lack of routine was highlighted as was my distorted sense of perception and direction. I had to make life changes. I began waking up early, I adventured more, I walked and collected various sidewalk gold, I used what I found to make collages, I bought art supplies with CERB money, I made a piece a day; thought I’d buy a Cricut and make stickers.”
Overall, students feel a sense of achievement after their time in the program. “I am now proud to represent an Asian Canadian in art. I now have professional development education and I can talk about the art world and the different areas within it. I also now have lifelong friends within the community,” said Curry.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a person. I’ve learned a lot and I’m very excited to keep learning more,” said Graham.
The Fall 2020 term has gone better than most expected, with a few exceptions. All that is left to do now is finish our work, pack our bags and hope for more improvement in 2021.