Art Education in an Age of Social Distancing

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Art critic Andrew Russeth (@AndrewRusseth) has been making astute connections between contemporary artworks and the current sociocultural situation on Twitter. The image is from a performative activation of Franz Erhard Walther’s Werksatz (Workset) 2008.

By its very nature, engaging in art, whether making, teaching, viewing or discussing, is a social and embodied action. Therefore, in the wake of numerous art museums and schools temporarily shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many professionals are largely left in uncharted territory as to how they can maintain their work in light of significant disruptions to their everyday practices.

Thankfully, the World Wide Web is replete with resources and peer support groups full of experiential learners who are all going through this together. Below are some resources that should be helpful for a wide range of art educators who are faced with the daunting task of transforming a highly interpersonal and hands-on pedagogy into an online curriculum.  Since online teaching is not often taught in traditional art educational programs, it is necessary to learn from the experiences of others who have a prior history and acumen for online pedagogy.

The first resource I would like to share with you is a publication by two academic technology specialists called “Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption.” This guidebook from Jenae Cohn and Beth Seltzer, is intended to provide educators with tools and methodologies for harnessing virtual resources so that they can transform and scaffold their traditional classroom experience within a thriving online environment. The next resource is a great example of an online instructional platform called Art Prof, which makes the transfer of art education an equal and equitable experience.

Art Prof  has specifically been developed for artists and educators to interact remotely on a global scale. Founded by seasoned artists and educators, Art Prof features video tutorials for students to learn technique and skill building, as well as live critique sessions, where students are mentored by a team of experienced art teachers. In fulfilling their mission of “removing barriers that exist due to the cost of higher ed & private classes,” the site is completely free. Below is a link to a YouTube video by Art Prof’s co-founder, Clara Lieu, providing five examples of effective methods for teaching studio art online:

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Social media platforms are being utilized by educators as a technology driven way of facilitating the creation and sharing of ideas, career interests and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks (see: Obar and Wildman, 2015). The premise of the Facebook group “How the hell do we do this? Teaching Visual Art Online” is simple. It consists of “a bunch of Art Educators trying to make their way through teaching their disciplines online through a pandemic!” Upon joining the group, you will be able to write and read posts from colleagues in the field of art education who are seeking and finding ways to successfully teach their primary, secondary and higher education students remotely.

Individual artists like Allie Olson have also taken to social media in order to provide accessible and engaging content for learners who are stuck at home. Olson, a visual artist who lost her restaurant job due to the pandemic, started Allieville, a series of daily web-based participatory learning videos for young kids. Allie makes learning fun and developmentally appropriate, through a unique blend of somatic and social and emotional learning.

As any of my readers know, I am a firm believer that the arts have a significant and transformative impact on living, learning and loving. However, artistic engagement shouldn’t come at the price of putting the community at risk. I strongly agree with the decisions that numerous museums, galleries and schools have made to close temporarily, in order to deal with the growing health crisis (as a consolation, you can still visit some of these art institutions virtually). As you have hopefully seen via the aforementioned resources, there are many ways to engage in being artful while practicing social distancing. Ultimately these methods should be learned and developed experientially, and alongside individuals who have prior knowledge and experience being artfully remote and coaching others to do so as well.

Above all else, please practice self-care and be empathetic and aware of the needs of those in your community who are struggling and are more vulnerable than you. Be well and be kind. Help out in any way that you can. Even in practicing social distancing, we can draw ourselves close to each other and meaningfully persevere as local and global communities (as seen in various heartwarming videos of quarantined Italian citizens engaging in collaborative creative activities).

Note: I have setup a page that will continually be updated with a list of resources for making, viewing, presenting and responding to art remotely. Included, is a Google Document I created with lesson plans, materials and ideas for educators and home-school teachers to utilize with their students in remote settings. 

References, Notes, Suggested Reading:

Cohn, Jenea and Seltzer, Beth. “Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption.” Accessed 12 March 2020

Obar, Jonathan A.; Wildman, Steve. “Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue”. Telecommunications Policy. 39 (9), 2015. pp. 745–750.



  1. I have to admit when I received an email from MOMA about its “closure for COVID” I immediately clicked on the link to their Coursera free online courses. The future of the world appears to be everyone working, schooling and socializing in front of a big screen at home with Jeff Bezos delivering our lives to our doorstep. 1984 finally arrives with Prime next day delivery in 2024!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love MoMA’s education programming! We’re fortunate to have so many great museums and libraries in this city. I am trying my best to resist the shift to online coursework, but it seems unavoidable now…That said, I heard Zoom will be giving free subscriptions to teachers.


  2. As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Like you, I see creativity as blossoming from a shared sense of creative endeavor, but perhaps the mass movement to focused online engagement (for a while) will uncover new paths yet to be explored.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Lucy, I’m so glad to hear your feedback and for continuing to read Artfully Learning! I’m also glad to have found your blog and have been inspired through learning more about your great work in art and education. I’ll also have to look into the life and work of Arno Stern. I’ve heard of him, but haven’t delved deep enough into his pedagogical practice yet. Thanks for connecting, hope to stay in touch!


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