Killing COVID with Creativity in the Ceramics Studio

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Full Appreciation for Chance to Learn

By following the health and safety protocols established to allow in-person learning, students in the Ceramics Studio at the Selkirk College Victoria Street Campus are flourishing and appreciating the opportunity to deliver beauty under the shadow of uncertainty.

The wheels of creativity continue to spin at Selkirk College’s downtown Nelson campus where students in School of the Arts craft studio programs have been engaged in hands-on learning since September.

Selkirk College Ceramics Studio Program students Caroline Payne (left) and Candace Ferguson (right) are thankful for the opportunity to attend in-person classes at Nelson’s Victoria Street Campus where they are part of an eight-person cohort making their way through the 10-month program.

Adhering to the Provincial Health Officer’s COVID-19 pandemic guidelines for safe learning within the post-secondary education system, the Victoria Street Campus is currently offering in-person training for learners in the Blacksmithing Studio, Sculptural Metal Studio, Textiles Studio and Ceramics Studio. With small class sizes and adjusted studio spaces, ten ceramics students are currently putting the final touches on projects as they prepare for the holiday break.

“Creativity at this time is super important,” says student Candace Ferguson, who moved from the Lower Mainland this past summer to attend Selkirk College. “Nobody wants to be in this situation, but allowing creative people to do creative things… it actually gives life to others who enjoy the final outcome and it brings hope. It’s beauty in a place of brokenness.”

Ceramics Studio classmate Caroline Payne also made the decision to pursue further post-secondary education in the West Kootenay after she discovered that in-person learning was possible in 10-month studio programs. After graduating from the University of Victoria in the spring as an English major with a minor in Writing, Payne decided to shift her creativity to the tangible pursuit of ceramics.

“It means so much to me at this particular time,” says Payne. “I have to remind myself to be present and in the moment, so that I can fully appreciate what I’m going through. Every day I wake up and realize how lucky I am. It’s really nice to be able to create during these times, we all feel very fortunate to be here.”

Selkirk College Ceramics Studio Instructor Robin DuPont is able to conduct in-person classes while adhering to health and safety protocols. When students are in their work spaces, they are able to remove their masks and create in a comfortable environment.

Teaching under an adapted structure, Ceramics Studio instructor Robin DuPont is impressed with how the college has pivoted and facilitated in-person learning for School of the Arts craft programs. Through diligent attention to hand washing, social distancing and not sharing tools, students are able to deepen their skills and knowledge in the studio environment.

“I am very proud of how hard the students are working and how they are juggling all of the traditional expectations we have in our program, but also dealing with a pandemic on top of it,” DuPont says. “In challenging times like we are experiencing, creativity can make a big difference for both those who are sitting at the wheel and those who get to appreciate the beauty of the finished product.”

One of the few studio programs across Canada that has managed to present a setting for in-person learning, Selkirk College’s small class size advantage is even more beneficial during a time when it is vital to reduce social interaction. Students at the Victoria Street Campus are mindful of the opportunity and doing everything possible to keep it that way.

“Everyone is on the same page to make sure we are safe,” says Ferguson. “There are official protocols in place and there is an expectation that we all follow. We are accountable and doing what we can so that we stay here and get to learn. It’s amazing that I get to be here and work at bettering my craft.”

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