By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – One might not think that a Zoom call could be classified as personal but some art students at Shrewsbury High School (SHS) thought otherwise when they were treated to an up-close look into the world of four visiting artists in a series of virtual visits. There were unexpected benefits.
The visits were arranged by visual arts teacher Shari Fox who was faced with a dilemma when schools shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fox explained that prior to the pandemic she had received a grant from the Shrewsbury Alumni Association to bring two visiting artists, each for a full-day, to SHS.
Fox said in a separate Zoom call: “When school was canceled and we started remote learning, I reached out to the Alumni Association, to see if I could utilize the grant in a new way.”
Also, on the call were fellow art teachers Kris Cobb, Sara Williams and Meri Buono; visiting artist Patricia Busso (also a SHS math teacher) and SHS students Briana Castello, Gayatri Kondabathini, Ethan Nguyen and Kya Daniels.
Permission was given for the interactive one-hour Zoom sessions in lieu of an in-school experience.
Fox said that the format enabled her to have more artists participate. Instead of two she had four who work with a variety of styles and media. They were Eloa Jane from Arkansas who works with disposed paper; Misa Galazzi from Pawtucket, R.I. who is known for abstract paintings; Dave Kaphammer from Westborough, who paints with pastels and Busso from her Boston studio where encaustic painting is a focus.
Buono, from Beal School, was thrilled to participate.
“It was really neat to see how nice this is for a community of artists,” she said. “I know as an artist and an art educator that I am learning how important it is to develop for myself a community but even more so for the students.”
“If we have to do things remotely this coming school year, now Shari has so many more options,” Williams said.
“Even when we are back at school maybe we can sometimes still do a virtual artist and even have them projected at school,” Cobb said.
When asked for their reactions, the students were overwhelmingly positive.
Briana said that it was inspiring and that she really liked seeing the artwork and where it was made. She also appreciated the artists sharing their own struggles.
Kya noted that they could see up close the process the artists used while Ethan was amazed by all the equipment that the artists employed.
He referenced the heating element that Busso used to melt the wax for her encaustic paintings.
Busso shared that people often don’t really understand when she verbally describes what encaustic painting is. In her session she gave a demonstration to better explain.
She said she would gladly welcome a field trip of students to her studio when it is safe to do so.
Gayatri was so inspired by Busso and has begun to paint with oil.
“I would just like to thank Shari for writing these grants…It’s a lot of work,” Cobb commented.
“I hope that I somehow one day get to that point,” Kya said, in reference to Eola Jane’s success.
And Ethan noted, “It’s a great experience to learn about other artists and it can also help people those aspiring to be artists in the future.”
Photos/courtesy of Shari Fox