Fine Arts in Quarantine

In quarantine, Lily Newhart (12) painted a portrait of her boyfriend from when he was 10 years old.  She loves creating portraits of people who are close to her.
Photo courtesy of Lily Newhart.

In quarantine, Lily Newhart (12) painted a portrait of her boyfriend from when he was 10 years old. She loves creating portraits of people who are close to her. Photo courtesy of Lily Newhart.

Ashley Kim, Editor-in-Chief

In the absence of school and in the midst of global pandemic, life must continue.  Students learn.  Teachers teach.  And amid crisis and storm, artists create.  Despite the unique challenges posed by the onset of COVID-19, West High’s fine arts departments have continued to do the things they love: dancing, singing, performing, creating.

“It’s been an interesting change,” AP Studio Art student Lily Newhart (12) said.  “Better in the sense that I’ve had more at-home time to produce art.  Worse in the sense that I’ve been limited in how many mediums I can use and [have] decreased my motivation.”

With limited art supplies, Newhart finds art during quarantine more challenging.  But she perseveres and continues to work on her projects.

For art students at West, class has become a quick 15-minute video call and independent time to complete projects.  Students continue to submit assignments through Google Classroom.  The most advanced art class, AP Studio Art, is working on completing an independent project as well as a multitude of other assignments with different mediums and styles: portraits, colored pencils, and paint.

Fashion students find themselves in a similar situation.  Prior to the school shutdown, advanced fashion had been preparing for their annual fashion show, a chance for each designer to show off a unique clothing line.  A lot of preparation went into the show: preparing slideshows, coordinating music, and taking pictures of models.  However, due to social distancing restrictions, the fashion show has been cancelled.

Keertana Panyam (10), an advanced fashion student, expressed her regret over the cancellation, saying, “I took fashion because when I was little, my friend’s older sister took it and I wanted to go into fashion really badly…I’ve been looking forward to it for years.”

Many advanced fashion students are seniors, so losing their culminating show is disappointing.  However, the class is still putting together a virtual look book.  Designers plan on dropping off their outfits at each model’s house and collecting pictures.  They are determined to push through and end the year with grace.

Similarly, West’s dance department had to cancel their May show, “No Holding Back,” which was scheduled for April 30th through May 2nd.  The dance department hopes to reschedule the show for a later date, but the possibility remains ambiguous while COVID-19 continues to develop and spread.

For the dance department, cancelling May show was heartbreaking.  Several choreographers worked hard to create, audition, and teach new dances made specifically for this year’s show.

Intermediate dancer Jasmine Tran (11) choreographed a hip-hop piece for the intermediate dance team.  “I was disappointed that my piece couldn’t come to life on stage,” she said.  “But from the beginning of this whole shutdown, I knew that I just had to [accept] whatever happens.”

Dancers of all levels continue to work hard on technique, assignments, and preparations for auditions in late May.  Tran still dances at home: she learns routines on YouTube, choreographs her own pieces, and attends dance technique classes.  She remarked, “Not having an actual May show made me want to work harder to stay in the dance department and be able to choreograph next year.”

Along with West’s dance department, drill team hosts a large number of dancers affected by the school lockdown.  The team had planned on going to Nationals―the biggest competition of the year―as well as performing in their showcase and attending an annual banquet.  Especially for seniors, not being able to attend the culmination of their year is crushing.  The drill team is bonded closely by hours of practice, hard work, and competition; they miss dancing together.

The team is still planning on having a virtual banquet, but it’s not the same.  Drill team member Taylor Benedict (10) said, “During the banquet, we celebrate them [seniors], and it’s sad that we won’t have that in person.”

Drill team still remains active, but missing the conclusion to their year has been hard for many members.

Another fine arts department dealing with uncertainty and loss is Play Production.  “Shrek,” one of their major shows of the year, was initially scheduled for March 26-27th and April 2-4th.  Months of hour-long rehearsals and after school practices were squandered when the show was cancelled just two weeks before opening night.  Play Production is hoping to perform “Shrek” this summer or next fall, despite the fact that many of their lead roles are filled by current seniors.  Still, despite the challenge set before them, the cast is determined to pull through and perform the show.

Additionally, Play Production still intends to go through with their end-of-year showcase by creating videos.  Play Production member Abby Newhart (10) said, “We are doing our best to not let the quality of the performances go down, but it’s hard with the limitations that technology provides.”

Unfortunately, Play Production also had to cancel student-directed One Acts, even though many people had already started writing scripts and choreographing numbers.  However, the class continues to sustain their weekly schedule, participating in dance classes and practices.

“This experience has shown me how much of my life is shaped by theatre,” Newhart commented.  “It’s also shown that what we do completely relies on people gathering together in large groups.”

Aristocracy soprano Kaho Shirakami (11) expressed similar sentiment toward her participation in choir.  She misses performing publicly with a live audience.

Because of COVID-19, the choir has had to cancel several concerts, competitions, and shows, including their trip to San Francisco and their May Pops Concert.  Since many Aristocracy members are seniors, they performed “In My Life” virtually and ordered San Francisco sweatshirts with the word “Cancelled” to commemorate the year, even if they couldn’t be together physically.

“I can’t wait to meet with our choir members,” Shirakami said.  “I hope everyone is singing their favorite songs in their homes and staying happy.”

Despite the inevitable disappointment of losing several major events, Shirakami has remained hopeful for the future.  Choir continues to meet via video call for rehearsals, and they are planning on releasing more virtual performances.

The onset of coronavirus has brought loss and discouragement to all of West’s fine arts departments.  Many programs depend on performance, public gatherings, and heavy collaboration.  Without the ability to work together closely or hold physical performances, their culminating work is undermined and lost.  But despite the unique challenges posed by quarantine, from dance to choir to fashion, fine arts students remain determined to share their creativity and love for art.