With Keene State College making the decision to move fully online for the rest of the semester, it begs the question: how are more hands-on classes going to continue their curriculum? While many classes and areas of study at KSC can be considered hands-on, art classes, music, theatre and dance are some areas that will require some creativity to teach and learn remotely.
Skills application teacher and technical director in the theatre and dance department Craig Lindsay is teaching TAD 121 scene shop lab and TAD 397 production process this semester. For the scene shop lab, students typically build the scenery and props for productions and work on lighting and sound.
“My syllabus essentially went out the window. I went, ‘Okay, well, what can I do?’ because teaching technical theater in a hands-on format online isn’t really going to work,” Lindsay said. “I realized that everybody has a phone and on their phone is a voice recorder. I love sound design and I’ve taught sound in the past for the department. We’re using their phones and recording to uncover sound and covering, in chunks, various segments of sound, sound design and what sound is. We started to do listening exercises. I had them run around their houses and listen to different sounds and really start to teach them how to learn to hear. We’re doing that and I’m also looking at various projects and exercises that we can do.”
As for the production process class, students are being permitted to drop the class without consequence. TAD 397 requires students to apply for that class due to the limited number of spots available. Students then have to put in a specific number of hours and do everything from installing lights to being responsible for a lightboard operator, sound operator, playback operator, backstage crews, prompts crew and wardrobe crew. For seniors and other students who need the class this semester to graduate, Lindsay will be working with them to do a virtual independent study on the coursework.
“In many ways, it’s not the same, but it cannot be the same. We’re all hurting,” Lindsay said. “They would much rather be in the physical lab space. I’m trying to keep it light and creative and provide them a place to come to; it’s a space for them to connect.”
Lindsay is not the only professor needing to get creative with the operation of his classes. Art and design professor Lynn Richardson is working to provide her students with the necessary materials to continue their studies from home.
“The most difficult course will be the IAART 399 mold making and figure casting. It relies heavily on materials and in-class instruction that will just not translate into video,” Richardson said.
Richardson has pieced together powerpoints that walk students through some of the clay modeling processes, but once students have a clay model, the original idea was to then create silicon molds and cast these in a bronze plastic. The plastic used can simulate a bronze statue. However, students do not have access to these materials unless they order online and, in small individual quantities, these materials are incredibly expensive.
“The only thing that slightly worked in our favor was that on Thursday, the day they announced we would not resume in-person classes, I had put together kits of materials for my students,” Richardson said. “So they each took home wire, non-hardening clay, pliers and some modeling tools. For those who were absent, I have put packets together and will mail them out if they are unable to secure their own materials.”
Professor of art Yuan Pan said that many faculty members are taking similar online techniques to continue the semester smoothly.
“Some of our studio art classes that require hands-on experiences can be the most complicated to teach online,” Pan said. “Nothing can substitute the in-person experience of showing you how to do figure drawing, create a pot on the wheel or build a sculpture. But our faculty are doing everything they can to give their students the best possible learning experience and outcome.”
According to professor of music Sandra Howard, the music department will be relying mostly on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms for this semester.
“The music faculty will use synchronous video conference class rehearsals, applied lessons and class discussions,” Howard said. “Asynchronous instruction will be delivered through Canvas, for example, for listening and analysis assignments, submitted audio and video performance recordings, online discussion forums and recorded presentations. We will use the KSC Music Department Facebook page to livestream a number of Music Education Guest Lecture Series presentations and some junior and senior student recitals.”
Howard also said some students in need were lent instruments from the college, from students and from faculty members. Music technology students were also provided with the appropriate software needed. The department is still working to get some students who are in piano classes keyboards.
“One of our greatest successes comes from this week, when music students and faculty had a music department family meeting,” Howard said. “We met by Zoom video conference and communicated updates, asked questions, but most heart-warming was our discussion about the silver linings of this entire experience. Through it all, we are all stressed and working to adapt and it’s important to reflect on the interesting benefits that have presented themselves while we are apart, like being with family, getting outside more, having time to prioritize health and engage in academic and personal projects that fulfill us.”
KSC senior and double major in elementary education and studio art Jocelynn Grabowski said that while she is saddened by the circumstances, she understands this transition is difficult for everyone involved.
“As a senior art student, we were supposed to be put into the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery to showcase our hard work learned from the past four years,” Grabowski said. “The senior art majors were devastated when we heard that it was going to be canceled, but our professors are working endlessly to find solutions on how we can still have this show. It warms my heart to see how much they care about us and really helping us grow.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at