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Johnston Charter Academy Puts Virtual Spin on Annual Art Show

A global pandemic and uncertainty could not stop Valerie Niemann, art teacher at Johnston Charter Academy (JCA), from celebrating the creativity and artwork of her students.

JCA's 2021 Art Show is unique as it showcases student work virtually from last year who were unable to participate in the show due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since we've been teaching remotely and in-person this year, it has given students a chance to view work from home, even if they were unable to participate in person,” said Niemann. “Artwork is displayed on a website where parents can purchase framed and matted artwork to showcase in their homes!”

While teaching remotely, Niemann has given students the freedom to use materials around their homes whether that be paper, fabric, found objects, etc., to create works of art. She has also utilized digital drawing programs and allowed students to submit work through Google Classroom.

“It’s important for our students to create and explore the world of art around them,” said Niemann. “Giving them a space to be innovative and collaborative has helped stimulate the right side of their brains and teaches them principles of design that will help them become positive contributors to society. Showcasing my student's artwork is just one of the many ways I hope to encourage and inspire my students to persevere, think ‘outside of the box’, and be proud of something they created!”

As an art teacher, the past year has been challenging in many ways for Niemann but rewarding as it has taught her how to be creative with her approach to teaching art virtually, as well as in the classroom. “I've learned how to use different programs like digital drawing, how to screencast, record video tutorials, share material through Google Classroom, and much more. Last year taught me perseverance in the midst of uncertain circumstances. All we can do is our best, and our best is good enough!”

Niemann has learned a lot over the past year, and she can’t help but be proud of her students who have shown tenacity and a willingness to learn. Last year, students participated in a drawing challenge initiated by Artsonia to draw their experiences throughout the pandemic. “Our students had the opportunity to share their own interpretations of quarantine through their artwork, which further reminds us how important art is in preserving our history for future generations,” she said. “I'm excited to see what next year has in store and honored by the opportunity to teach our young creatives more about the visual arts and how it can impact the world around them.”

Within the first week, they’ve already made 10 sales and hope to make more. A portion of these funds will go back into the art department's budget that will help with future art projects and events at JCA.