It Isn’t Over Yet

Having just gotten over COVID (you never feel like it’s going to happen to you until it does), I had just a little too much time to sit and think about how much the learning environment has changed since my first Art History class freshman year of college. The way that learning art has completely changed. While yes, there were always PowerPoints and digital renditions of art, the actual learning process, and discussion around art has inevitably and permanently changed. Not for better or worse per se, but it’s definitely different. Like with many other things, the pandemic has forced us to change perspective and has added another layer to which we perceive art. 

As much as I can curse on the pandemic for ruining so much, I’ve also been trying really hard to find the time to be grateful for the changes it brought about.

Masks for protection against influenza. Nurses in Boston hospitals equipped to fight influenza in the spring of 1919. (National Archives)

There are literal connections between then and now, like when we look at photographs and paintings related to plague and illness, but there are also deeper connections when we look into portraits and landscapes. At least personally, the pandemic has really forced me to confront how quickly the world can change, and how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time from when art first started popping up with humanity. What may feel like so long ago is really just a blink of an eye, similar to life before the pandemic. Our perception of time as a population has definitely been all screwed up—like I’m pretty sure we all swear 2019 just ended, yet here we are going into 2022. We blinked and it all changed, but at the same time it all feels so far away now! The forced change in perspective has brought an entirely new lens to mine and my classmates’ discussions of art in the classroom. I’m sure part of it is related to us learning and growing as students in general, but you’d be completely out of your mind to say that a global pandemic hasn’t added a few notches to us all, especially as students in the middle of our degrees.

Members of the Student Army Training Corps wear influenza masks in Portland, Oregon, on October 27, 1918. (National Archives)
14th Century Plague Doctor

As much as I can curse on the pandemic for ruining so much, I’ve also been trying really hard to find the time to be grateful for the changes it brought about. I’ve really gotten to know quite a few of my fellow Art History teachers, students, and even hobbyists through it–and I’ve even been able to rope some of my family into the interest as well. By looking at and learning from the art of the past, I’ve tried to learn as much as it could teach about our future. I can’t wait to be able to look back in a few years on all the art made in this period of our history, ad how it relates to art that we as a society may feel disconnected to from times come and gone. If you’re anything like me or my classmates (and if you’re reading this, I’m sure you are), I know you already probably often turn to art as a place of learning and comfort, but ya know–it sure doesn’t hurt. And seriously, what else are you going to do in quarantine? Rewatch the same show for the fourth time now?… I’ll accept it, as long as its The Golden Girls (Thinking of you, Betty!)

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