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Fine arts students face unique challenges, new perspectives with distance learning


Methods of learning and practice have changed radically for University of New Mexico fine arts students because of distancing procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic in the fall 2020 semester. As a plethora of courses are now being held primarily or solely online, students in hands-on art studies have voiced a number of concerns with the quality and value of their current education.

Photography major Elizabeth Wilkinson said distanced learning affects not only the production of her art, but the nature of her creativity.

"When I'm around other people, I get most of my inspiration and most of my motivation, so not having those people around has been a huge burden on my work," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson noted the importance of certain art studies being held in person.

"With digital photography, it's easy to do hybrid (instruction), but a lot of lab time is still required with prints and everything. With (analog) film classes, it's absolutely necessary to have in-person class," Wilkinson said.

Caudilina Roer, a studio art minor, stressed the difficulty of learning art practices from one’s home as well.

“I feel like something like art is better to be observed in the process to understand exactly what you’re doing and if you’re doing it right,” Roer said.

Some courses, such as printmaking and jewelry-making, are excessively difficult and sometimes even impossible to do without a space to use equipment, according to Roer.

“I can’t use a blow torch at home; I can’t use a printing press in my own house. It’s very dependent upon things on campus,” Roer said.

Brittany Francisco, a film and digital arts major, echoed all of these concerns, noting the detrimental impacts of distance learning even more as she works on her senior film capstone, a culmination of her prior three years of education in film and digital arts.

"(Capstone) — that's the biggest thing for film students their final year,” Francisco said. “I haven't been able to form groups, and it's hard to communicate with everybody's schedules and get a hold of everybody.”

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Francisco further noted nervousness surrounding her future job prospects as opportunities for students to work on local film productions have decreased — a result of recent initiatives to limit New Mexican film production sizes and activity.

Jess Liesveld, a theater major with a concentration in acting, believes the pandemic has certainly brought difficulties for theater as well.

“I would prefer it would be face-to-face interaction, because I think theater and acting is dependent on not just seeing but also feeding off of the energy of the other person,” Liesveld said. “It’s kind of difficult to attempt to do that without being physically there.”

However, Liesveld said there may be valuable new perspectives to learn from the challenge.

“The instructor is trusting that we do (practice) on our own time, and I think that’s 75% of acting — trust. So it’s interesting to build that skill in terms of a performer,” Liesveld said. “We’re actually learning our content based on if we really truly want to learn it, rather than just having to do it because we’re taking a class.”

Hoping for a better future, Liesveld is looking forward to new opportunities even during a pandemic.

“I like to be positive — the idea is that it will get better,” Liesveld said. “Maybe there’s something we can take out of this to better theater, to better acting.”

Liberty Stalnaker is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @DailyLobo

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