An experience in post-pandemic arts education

By CONNIE NOLEN | Community Columnist

Creating the 2020 literary magazine was more challenging than ever. The incredible talent of Pelham High School’s student contributors inspired the staff to complete this labor of love.

Pelham High School’s Literary Magazine, “More that Words,” was on incredibly shaky ground when a pandemic landed the staff suddenly at home. While Adobe generously offered free “at-home” Creative Cloud applications for licensed schools’ students, the weighty graphics of the programs required a great deal of computing power.

Additionally, the hands-on nature and complexity of graphic design programs, combined with the different experience levels of staffers, calls for classroom collaboration. The ability to ask for help and input makes learning design fun for new staffers.

Respecting the wishes of students who felt too overwhelmed or inexperienced to continue the design process at home—with only online tutorial assistance—left a small number of experienced designers to complete the magazine.

In the midst of a deadly pandemic, was publishing a literary arts magazine even a worthwhile priority? When the diplomatic call went out with this question, enough staffers, writers, artists and photographers responded with “I’m in!” to keep literary magazine production moving.

PHS artist Emily Dodson, who is attending The University of Alabama this fall, even participated in a socially distanced art portfolio submission in May. Majoring in studio art and psychology. Dodson studied art extensively in high school.

“Every high school art class widened my creative horizons about what art could be,” Dodson said. “This year, my portfolio pieces illustrate a story of pain, exhaustion and betrayal in a romantic relationship. Feelings expressed with images, colors and textures allow artists to share their emotions.”

Although much of Dodson’s portfolio was complete when school abruptly transformed into remote learning in March, she still had projects left to complete her portfolio.

“I had to finish a few pieces of my portfolio at home,” Dodson said. “With fewer resources to complete the pieces, these reduced supplies pushed my creativity, forcing me to use materials I hadn’t thought of using before.”

The 2020 PHS Literary Magazine will be available in July.