Artful problem solving: VMA ensures students sidelined by COVID-19 receive needed art supplies

Department of Visual and Media Arts faculty and staff members have found a way to ensure students under isolation or quarantine still have the critical supplies they need for their classes.

They have assembled kits of materials and arranged for them to be dropped off or mailed. The effort keeps students current with their classes while also upholding the experiential learning that is essential to students taking VMA classes, whether they are art majors or learning through their general education studies, said Merritt DeLano-Taylor, department chair.

"Kudos goes to the faculty. It was really great to see how they solved these problems," DeLano-Taylor said. "Like artists do, they created using the resources and situation that they are in."

A kit containing art supplies
This is an example of a kit that is delivered to VMA students.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

The outreach also maintains a connection to students during fragmented times, DeLano-Taylor said. Jenna Stehouwer, department secretary, experienced the significance of that effort with the very first delivered package.

It was early in the semester and a sequestered student communicated with Virginia Jenkins, professor of drawing and foundations, about wanting to continue with her foundations coursework. The student's kit included a palette, cups for mixing paints and brushes.

Stehouwer, who has arranged for delivery of many of the kits, worked with Housing and Residence Life to drop off the kit. The easy response would have been for the student to catch up upon returning, but those in the department wanted to do more, Stehouwer said.

The student recognized that intention. "She was over the moon. She was deeply moved that we would coordinate it let alone carry it out," Stehouwer said, adding, "Art is a hands-on discipline. It doesn't matter what course, we knew we would need to be catering to our students, whether they were working online or in isolation or quarantine."

Calder Fine Arts Center
The deliveries help students remain connected not only to their classes but also to VMA.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Renee Zettle-Sterling, professor of sculpture, jewelry and metalsmithing and foundations, has also worked to provide students with needed supplies. One student needed materials to get going on a studio art project involving paper compositions.

Zettle-Sterling also dropped off a piece that a student needed to finish, communicating by phone and waving to the student through the door, which Zettle-Sterling noted was actually an unexpected bonding experience.

DeLano-Taylor said these types of experiences are inspiring.

"There is such volunteerism behind the effort, a sense of really wanting to help students who are in a really hard spot," DeLano-Taylor said.