Those of us who are lucky enough to attend in person classes on campus this semester are facing more challenges than ever. Between new COVID-19 protocols required to enter the building, and different methods of teaching and learning, it’s no surprise that attending class is difficult. As an art education student, most of my studio classes are in person this semester as we don’t have another option. I am grateful to get back into the amazing studios we have in Alex and Ani Hall. However, I wouldn’t say I feel as though enough is being done for me to feel safe taking in person classes in the middle of a global pandemic.
The main issue I have experienced is the inconsistent protocols from studio to studio. This semester, I have three studio classes that I attend on campus which are normally capped at fifteen students. The cap was lowered to eight students, which didn’t make a difference as the most students in one of my studio classes is seven. There are also signs on every door that identify the number of students that can safely be in each space at a time, providing that masks are worn at all times. The studios are closed Friday through Sunday for deep cleaning which means students are not allowed to work during those days. So far, those are the only protocols that I can find that are consistent throughout the building.
If I look at what I am doing in my individual studio classes, it seems like some of them function as if COVID-19 doesn’t exist, while others are taking extra protocols for us to be safe. There are a total of four students in my sculpture class and we all share the same tools, welding helmets, and gloves. We don’t sanitize in between every use but we do at the end of each class. We wear masks during the entire class, but we are still sharing a small space. I can’t imagine what this class would look like with more students in it. In my photography class, we aren’t allowed to use the darkroom for the printing of images at all. The space isn’t much larger than the sculpture workshop, and we have a schedule of two students coming in at the same time to prevent all seven of us being in the studio at once.
I personally do everything I can to protect myself, but I worry that other students may not be doing the same. After conversations with some of the faculty in the building, they share similar concerns. It seems as though no one is on the same page which can get very dangerous as most students take multiple studio classes. I truly believe if we wish to continue having the privilege of working in our studios on campus we need to think seriously about the protocols we are following in the building. We all know how terrible it would be if we were no longer able to work in our studios if an outbreak were to occur. After transitioning to online learning last semester, it’s clear that format can’t work for most studio classes.
There just needs to be some way of communicating the safety expectations and protocols in each studio to every faculty member. That way, we can be as safe as possible while using our studio spaces this semester. I would be devastated if we were to be sent home again, and I hope that it doesn’t have to happen. All we can do in the meantime is try our best to protect ourselves and speak up if something makes us too uncomfortable. Protecting each other is key to keeping our studios open and safe.