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We spoke to Amie, Roseanna, Annie, and James from Lancaster University Art Society to discuss how they are coping with this Michaelmas term.
1) These past few weeks have been stressful for students across all UK universities. There is constant uncertainty regarding new restrictions; subsequently, have you been finding it difficult to run your society?
Amie (President) – I think it has been a definite challenge! As we can’t have meetings in person and there were issues with the handover, we don’t have the facilities to have all the sessions we wanted to run in person. Also, with the evolving rule restrictions, we are constantly changing and tweaking our plans to be able to give our members the best experience we can. However, because of Zoom and Teams and social media, we can have our exec meetings and do our activities online with the members which is positive. This isn’t the way we wanted this year to go but we are using the resources we have!
2) Have restrictions limited what you can provide to your members?
Roseanna (Social Media) – Yes. The Art Society used to hold weekly art events on Tuesday to provide hands-on activities for our members. It is indeed difficult as members now may not have access to art supplies such as acrylic paints, brushes, pencils, etc.
3) Freshers Fair is a major part of Welcome Week at Lancaster and with the move online, all societies had to think on their feet! How has your engagement fared, as a result?
Annie (Secretary) – We definitely had to think on our feet about the move to online; the art society is a very interactive one so we’ve faced a lot of challenges when trying to think about how to make our society accessible and enjoyable to any members. I don’t believe our engagement in terms of expressions of interest or people asking questions has suffered too much. We have had quite a few people showing their interest and wanting to know how we’ll be operating. We did have to make the decision to postpone any art sessions for this first term (we just faced too many complications in trying to make the sessions a viable option). However, this was not due to a lack of engagement at all. We will definitely be trying to keep up the interactions and any content for the members via our social media.
4) Many artists are seizing the opportunities provided by lockdown to experiment! Have you collectively been able to derive any inspiration from your experiences of Covid-19?
Amie (President) – I think the lockdown has definitely given artists more time for self-reflection and the time to practice new techniques and investigate different ways of creating art. However, we feel like Covid-19 and the stress of the current world has had such a negative impact on mental and physical health. Through the art society and the themes we will use each week, we want to try to use it as a medium of escapism and, despite everything, focus on the good things in life.
5) For people considering joining your society, are you currently working on any new projects together, or do you work on a more individualised basis?
Amie (President) – On a weekly basis, we usually have a theme that we encourage members to create their art around. This gives a community feel despite the distance between us and the different styles each person creates. We have some possible group collages/activities planned for later on in the year which will create a bigger collective piece, but at the minute this is still depending on the current restrictions.
6) With returning to degrees and student life, many (myself included) will be struggling to make time and energy to creatively utilise their emotions. What would your message be to new and returning students who are finding creativity to be a struggle?
Amie (President) – I think my message to those students is that it is ok to feel that way. Due to the current climate, there is a lot of uncertainty and panic that is hard to ignore. My suggestion would be to find a routine that works for you; routines are known to alleviate stress and anxiety and allow you to designate time for what matters to you as an individual. Especially with the online self-lead learning during term 1, the importance of having a routine to regain some semblance of normality has never been as important. This is why, as a society, we have our meetings at a designated time every week to provide a platform of relaxation and escapism for members to self-reflect and use their creativity to express themselves.
7) Artistic expression is more than painting on a canvas; it is a process that involves collaboration, space, and resources. Do you fear the long-term impact Covid-19 will have on people’s engagement with the creative world? As the access to art supplies is costly and difficult, do you feel it is important to continue to push the importance of art in discussions surrounding how university life should be structured?
Roseanna (Social Media) – I do believe that artistic expression, or the sense of art, is and can only be developed on a long-term basis. Covid-19 has brought restrictions limiting the activities we can host, which actually created a barrier for us to get involved with a lot of works involving collaboration, or works that have to be conducted in specific locations that could have been shut-down due to the virus. It is very important for us to get engaged online and have regular events related to our art interests.
8) Obviously, the lockdown rules are changing daily. Do you have any major events planned for this academic year or are you just seeing how things go on a weekly basis?
James (Events Coordinator) – We have taken the decision to host online-only events for now. We are going to keep an eye on how restrictions change, and as soon as it proves possible to host in-person sessions again we hope to be able to do so, but for now, the most important thing has to be putting the safety of our members first whilst still encouraging as much member engagement in the society as possible, and online seems like the best way to do this. Because of this, we haven’t planned any major events for this term, but we still hope to be able to host more events in terms two and three!