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Contemporary Art Classes Undergo Creative Changes to Adapt to 2020-2021 School Year


Chelsea Nakhleh '21

19 January 2021

To accommodate virtual classes, teachers have creatively recrafted their lessons and teaching styles. Contemporary art is no exception. Photography and Design classes, instructed by Ms. Melanie Vasa and Ms. Lori Demsey, have made a smooth and astute transition into the virtual classroom, providing students with the necessary software, whilst allowing them a creative outlet to showcase their work.

Chelsea Santrich Neo Effects; from Ms. Demsey's class
Contemporary Art Photo Gallery

Ms. Vasa, who's been at Passaic Valley for twenty-three years, teaches Digital Imaging, Film Photography, Advanced Photography Honors, and AP Studio Art 2D Design Photography Concentration. It was a relatively easy transition into virtual mode for her Digital Imaging class. Needing no supplies, only a Photoshop account, Ms. Vasa was able to set up projects for her students very early in the process. 

Gel Medium Photo Transfer; from Ms. Vasa's classes For Film Photography, the transition was much more intricate. “I had to get used to the fact that I couldn't have them develop photos and use the dark room,” said Ms. Vasa. However, with ingenious thinking, she was able to find a solution for her film classes. She provided all her students with gel-medium, which, when applied to a photograph, results in a photo that looks as if it were printed on wood. In addition, instead of using the beloved dark room in PV, the classes now use Adobe LightRoom, a Photoshop product designed for when a dark room is unavailable.    

Ms. Demsey, who has taught at PV for eighteen years, teaches Web Design and Graphic Design. Her students utilize a computer and Adobe Photoshop for their classwork. Both Design classes can be complicated at times, especially during virtual teaching. In response, Ms. Demsey designed a system to make sure her students are comfortable and confident in their work. “I like to break the projects down into parts to make the process easier,” explained Ms. Demsey. “I try to make it simple so they aren’t overwhelmed.”

Natalie Ardis quote project;  On Fridays, Ms. Demsey’s classes show off their work in a mini classroom Art Show. This not only boosts morale, but it also helps make the online learning experience more enjoyable.

In the beginning of the school year, both Ms. Vasa and Ms. Demsey set up their students with either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe LightRoom in order to ensure they were prepared for the year ahead.

Both Ms. Vasa and Ms. Demsey agree that a big struggle with the virtual classroom is forming connections with their students. “I like to get to know my students, it's difficult to do that in Google Meet,” said Ms. Demsey. “Every Friday when we have our little Art Show, I try to get them to smile and laugh. I want to make sure they're still enjoying class and it's not just work.”

Ms. Demsey and Ms. Vasa are constantly encouraging and motivating their students. “It’s amazing knowing that your teacher is here for you," explained Film Photography student Jordyn McCollum '21. "Whether it is art related or personal, it means so much to know that they're always there.”