"The Creative Challenge" screenshot

“The Creative Challenge” podcast offers suggestions for teaching fine arts topics online from art, music and theatre instructors at Stephen F. Austin State University.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Like all universities and public and private school systems across the globe, Stephen F. Austin State University found itself in mid-March suddenly shifting from delivering all in-person classroom instruction to online.

Some courses adapt to remote instruction easier than others. Scott Shattuck, associate dean of the SFA College of Fine Arts, was especially curious to learn how faculty members in the schools of art, music and theatre would teach performance skills and studio art technique courses through remote delivery.

“I heard a couple of especially interesting accounts from students and colleagues who had unexpectedly found themselves in this experimental mode,” Shattuck said, “and it made me think: ‘I’ll bet others would be just as fascinated as I am to learn about the creativity our faculty employed to meet these challenges.”’

Shattuck, along with media specialist Michael Tubbs, initiated a series of videos, “The Creative Challenge,” that features fine arts instructors who have developed some unique virtual teaching strategies to try and ensure that students continue to learn and pursue their work as artists. These can be viewed at finearts.sfasu.edu/creative.

In addition to making these creative teaching ideas available for other educators to incorporate in their virtual classrooms, Shattuck hopes the podcast shows students, prospective students and their families “just how brilliant our College of Fine Arts teachers really are,” he said.

“And, if members of our alumni who are now teaching art, music or theatre, or other faculty members around the country, can take advantage of some of the wonderful ideas described in the podcast interviews, that’s an additional benefit to emerging artists everywhere,” he added. “I hope these interviews make it vividly clear that there’s no stopping creativity. Teaching, learning, and creating art were practically uninterrupted when the pandemic turned our world upside down.”

On social media platforms, the College of Fine Arts has been using the hashtag #ArtsKeepUsGoing, “because everyone has been sustained over the past few months by the songs, movies, books and other creative expressions that keep us connected in such important ways even when we’re physically distanced from one another,” Shattuck said. “We’ve also asserted that #ArtsWillLeadUsBack, because it’s creativity that will fuel the research, the economic revival and the community spirit we’ll need to restore the health and vitality of our society.”

As an educator, Shattuck said he is both humbled and inspired by the resourcefulness and resilience that he’s been fortunate to witness in SFA fine arts faculty.

“The only course I was teaching in the spring was already online and, honestly, I don’t know what I’d have done to keep the teaching, learning and creating going if I’d been teaching a face-to-face technique class,” he said. “These colleagues have given me ideas but, more importantly, they’ve given me hope.”