How Remote Learning Is Strengthening The Community At The School Of Visual Arts
The year 2020 has brought about many challenges to higher education. Students, faculty, and staff are all in it together as they shift to online learning and community building.
At the School of Visual Arts (SVA), three departments continue to organize virtually to keep everyone engaged, near and far: BFA Animation; BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation & Visual Effects; and MFA Computer Arts. Here are some examples highlighting how each program has overcome the hurdles of this difficult year and discovered new ways to remain connected…
Every October around the Halloween season, the BFA Animation community gathers for the annual Undies Screening in celebration of the work created by underclassmen students during the previous year. Awards are juried by ballots from the incoming freshman class, and the theater event is followed by a pizza-filled reception and awards ceremony. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff alike gather to support each other and look ahead to the work to be created in the coming year.
This year, in observance of pandemic-related restrictions, the third annual Undies Screening took place virtually on SVA BFA Animation’s Twitch channel, followed by a live award ceremony over Zoom. Even with the change in venue, the students’ spirits remained high and the energy during the event was electric and energetic.
Third-year student representative Lillie Delecuona had this to say after helping to host the event:
I thought it was really fun and nice to see people turn out for the event. It’s really hard to get connected to your classmates during a pandemic and the Undies Screening was probably the first time this semester that I didn’t feel like I was just going to class with a bunch of strangers or attending school by myself.
Watching the Twitch chat and multiple Discord servers just blow up with kind words of encouragement for students they didn’t even know that well was just really great. I know I had a fun time and it seemed like everyone else did too … I hope that we get to do something like this again soon, even after the pandemic is over.
During the virtual Undies Screening, the department also premiered the long-awaited Scooby-Doo ReAnimated project produced by student representatives Julisse Tinoco, Lillie Delecuona, and Kaylee Park. The video project was organized over the summer and consisted of animation by 56 students and recent alumni alike. View the completed Scooby-Doo ReAnimated project on Vimeo!
Despite working from home and apart from each other, the SVA community keeps discovering new ways to keep in touch and have fun with outside the classroom. The school will continue to support its students in the upcoming Spring 2021 semester as they stay creative in these challenging times.
BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation, and Visual Effects
BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation, and Visual Effects seniors often look forward to spending their time in the “Senior Lab,” working together and troubleshooting problems as they encourage each other to finish their thesis films. Congregating in these labs is not currently possible, so seniors Christopher Lee, Kayce Lacson, and Nicholas Flores have attempted to recreate this feeling of community through Discord.
When students and faculty were notified to attend classes remotely, I thought about the camaraderie I had with close friends at SVA. As a result, I created a server called Room 312 on Discord. I specifically called it Room 312 because it was essentially the “hangout spot”: pre-pandemic, every Thursday my friends and I would decide where to eat after class, and afterward we would all head up to 312 to work on our assignments. I truly felt that part of the college experience was missing.
So we started reaching out to our peers. A group of three soon multiplied. The channel is very informal. Not only is it a channel to work on thesis and homework, we also watch movies and play video games. The channel is going strong, and anyone who wants to come in and chat is welcome.
We are always there sharing our screens to help other classmates. If we are in need of help, we can show what issues we are having. It really seems like I am learning as much from my fellow classmates as I am in classes. Once Covid and social distancing are over, I could see us still hanging out in the Discord. I’m not sure if I can express how much closer we have become because of it.
We wanted to recreate a place where we still feel like we’re hanging out in the labs, despite being quarantined at home. Although we couldn’t meet in person, it felt reminiscent of the times before Covid-19. If I could say there was one good thing that came out of this pandemic, it would be that it pushed me to connect with others. I have actually made some fond memories on the Discord and even met other peers that I can say are good friends of mine now.
Whether troubleshooting technical issues or just chatting, we need to provide moral support to each other during these uncertain times. Despite the pandemic, we want to get the most out of our experience here at SVA, and it won’t stop us from making some good memories, even if it is virtually.
As the SVA community devises new ways to communicate and collaborate in school, some BFA Computer Art students are looking to use their skills and gain experience at studios offering remote internships. Winnie Mai (BFA Computer Art 2022) had her first internships this summer at Blue Sky Studios and Nathan Love, as these companies had already transitioned to working remotely.
We used emails, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, and Facebook to communicate with each other.
The biggest thing I learned from my internship experiences is not being afraid to ask for help. Before the internships I tried to solve a lot of problems I had with my work on my own and was afraid to share my early works-in-progress with others. I think that’s an issue that a lot of students have, because we tend to self-doubt while trying to prove our worth.
But after my internships I learned that asking for feedback and asking questions saves so much time in your journey and is the key to improving. During my internships, we used Zoom’s remote-control and annotation tools to give feedback and work over files. We also used Google Drive to share files and notes with each other. I’ve been using the same tools with my professors and peers.
Although it was remote, I still felt very connected with the studios, because we were in constant communication with each other and I was able to get feedback daily. I think what really made my internship experiences great was having great mentors. I learned so much through the internships and got to meet many amazing and generous artists. I also learned a lot about the production pipeline for the studios and got to see some behind-the-scenes work. Blue Sky and Nathan Love did a great job trying to structure the remote internships similarly to the in-person internships.
MFA Computer Arts
Pulling Down the Heavens is a recent online exhibition of animations, videos, and digital paintings by MFA Computer Arts students and alumni. Curated by the program’s assistant to the chair, India Lombardi-Bello, and director of operations, Angelica Vergel, the exhibition is still available for viewing on the SVA Galleries’ website.
The artists included in Pulling Down the Heavens are searching for quiet moments of reflection in an increasingly chaotic world. Through meditation and rumination, they create a space for the audience to rediscover clarity and tranquility in the face of adversity. Artists in this exhibition include current MFA Computer Arts students Daiqi Cui, Juan David Figueroa, Diego Guanzon, Yunxi Guo, Linda Loh, and Claudia Tay; and alumni Kelsie Hoffman (2020), Matthew Rinehart (2020), Yalan Wen (2020), and Linyazhi Xiang (2020).
Lombardi-Bello says of the show:
Putting together an online exhibition, in some respects, was much simpler than if we were hosting this same work in a gallery space. Space is virtually limitless on a website platform. If this exhibition were in person, we would have had to be much more discerning about what to include and how to include it, since we would have had to take square footage, architecture, and light pollution into consideration. On an online platform, all the works can be displayed prominently and in their respective ideal conditions.
I think the content of this show came at a perfect time in our country, since everyone has been so distressed by developments regarding the virus and our current political state. The work in the show is quiet, soothing, and meditative. The show feels like a place people can enter to breathe a sigh of relief.
I look forward to seeing how this online approach to art changes the landscape of opportunities for our students and alumni. I’m also eager to see how digital artists will co-opt video conferencing platforms like Zoom not only to mimic in-person performances, talks, and other creative exchanges, but also to explore a new way of creating, perhaps resulting in a new movement in the arts. Great progress is often birthed during times of great strife, so we could be in for some exciting developments in the arts in the coming months and years.
School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers, and creative professionals for more than six decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, a dynamic curriculum, and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility.
Comprising more than 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus and 35,000 alumni in 100 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world. For information about the college’s 31 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, visit its official website.
Learn more about studying at SVA’s BFA Animation; BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation, and Visual Effects; and MFA Computer Arts programs.