With the school year coming to an end, school has reopened four days a week and is hoping to open fully in the fall. VADA along with other academies are still figuring out how next year will be for their staff and students as much is still undecided. I interviewed a couple of staff members and students on the new changes and how they feel about it.
Through the pandemic, there have been many changes made to help students still feel the sense of community and keep everyone safe. For instance, the projection shows have been a new way to show off student art to the public. During normal times, VADA would hold small art exhibits so the community can see what students have been working on. However, they could not continue this through COVID because of the close contact and indoor space. So as a solution, they hosted a projection show in which they projected student’s art onto the wall at the Lobero. Not only was it a hit in the community, but students and teachers alike seem to love the concept and really enjoyed it. They hope to continue it even after the pandemic as it also brought in more foot traffic for the academy than the art galleries did, and new visitors.
One really great thing that VADA was able to start doing during this school year was having guest speakers through Zoom. VADA normally has many field trips throughout the school year but due to COVID, they weren’t able to this school year. So, in place of that they started hosting guest speakers over Zoom so students could still hear from professionals in the field. The great thing about this is that they are able to host people from all over the world and learn from people outside of our small community in Santa Barbara. Prior to COVID, field trips normally had to be within a reasonable distance but they are now able to think outside of the box so students can experience artwork and artists in different parts of the world.
I asked some students in VADA, who would like to remain anonymous, how they have been doing through all of this. Students who join are already creative and interested in art and new forms of learning. But, for many students this is their introduction to the art forms VADA teaches and are still beginners. For those students, not having hand-on experience and having to learn through Zoom has been a major struggle and they have had a hard time picking up some of the core techniques. Other students have thankfully done art classes before, in junior high or past years in VADA, and are having an easier time learning through Zoom. However, for both students it has been difficult to feel the sense of community that VADA preaches about through COVID. Now that people are back in class, students who have already been part of the VADA community are grateful to be with their friends and create art together. But for new students, it’s been a struggle to connect with other students because of being at home for so long. Even so, now that students are back on campus, the VADA community is very lively as students work on artwork in-person, and overall students are glad to be back.
The teachers are also glad to be back and see their students face-to-face. While it’s still a struggle for them to teach the two groups of students, both in person and over Zoom, they are still happy to teach physical in-person students rather than what feels like a bunch of small boxes on a computer.
The district school board has decided that all academies across the district will no longer require applications. In past years, students joining VADA would have to fill out an application including basic information about them along with a portfolio of some past work. However, for the school year of 2021-2022, they will only require that you sign up for the “free-hand drawing class,” and you will be automatically enrolled into the English class as well. This means that anyone interested can now join VADA if they sign up soon enough, as it will now be on a first come first serve basis.
This new change is receiving mixed opinions from students as well as staff. For some students who were completely new to art when first joining VADA, they think this will allow for people who want to learn more about art but don’t have any more work opportunities to join programs like MAD. Meanwhile, other students find it unfair and are afraid that the program’s level of artistry will go down if they will now just accept anyone. Ms. Guss, Academic Director and English teacher for VADA, believes that this will help to open up VADA’s doors to even more students and allow opportunities for students of all different backgrounds. Mr Teris, Art teacher at VADA, however is slightly worried that a good number of students who will sign up are only doing it out of curiosity and students who genuinely want to be in VADA may not be able to get a spot in time. While even in normal years students come and go through VADA, a worry is that there will be even more students who will come through VADA and leave only a year or two later so students who had wanted to join since their 9th grade year will struggle to get in and end up missing some of the core classes from years past.
Even though everything is currently up in the air and little has been decided on for next year, VADA is excited to make a return hopefully fully on campus. They are currently working on making sure that next year students will have VADA classes for the entire year. We will be sticking with the block schedule next year and what that means is that some students will get all of their VADA classes in one semester and then the other semester, may not have any VADA classes. VADA is very community-based so students only having classes in the academy for half of the year isn’t ideal. They are currently working with the counselors to make sure the classes are spread out for each student and are potentially considering adding more VADA classes to the schedule.
VADA is working hard to make sure that the transition back to campus and returning to school is as smooth as possible for students, along with making sure that they are providing the best experience for students next year. Even through the pandemic, they continued to work to keep the community aspect and students’ creativity alive. Hopefully by next year the kinks will be smoothed out and they will have a great 2021- 2022 school year.
[Image Credits: Orion Norris, Grace Wyman, Pearl Henry, Mia Gomez]