When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the swift move to virtual learning at Otis College, the Extension program not only shifted most of its classes online, but also launched new programming to help people adjust to the new realities brought on by stay-at-home orders, local and beyond. Terry Nauheim, the Director of Curriculum at Otis Extension, worked with instructors on the virtual pivot, and also helped conceive, with Mark Manrose, Dean of Extension, the Otis Art @ Home program, a series of free, hour-long workshops that created fun, interactive opportunities for students of all ages to complete sewing, cooking, painting, and paper craft projects, among many others. “We were amazed at the turnout, and discovered what people wanted to focus on during that time, including social interaction and the chance to be creative and perhaps focus on something other than reality,” Nauheim says.
“From there, we tapped into what we discovered students wanted out of online art and design classes: community, social interaction, focused time and space to make things, ongoing feedback from Otis expertise, and quality instruction,” Nauheim continues. “Interestingly enough, these were already things that we did well in a traditional classroom, we just needed to reimagine how we delivered them online.”
Enrollment for the fall term outpaced expectations—including students now accessing classes from as far as Denver, Chicago, and New York—buoyed by the new classes, workshops, and even a new certificate program in Game Level Design, which was launched in the fall to capitalize on the stable and even growing job market of an industry not so harmed by the pandemic-induced economic downturn.
And now this spring, Otis Extension is continuing to launch new workshops suited for at-home creativity, continue its ever-growing certificate programs that help students get a leg-up in thriving careers, and even offer some classes that are perfectly suited for the times. “Fundamentals such as color theory, drawing, design, digital imaging, and digital design remain popular,” Nauheim says, “but classes on healing, meditation, and creative study also have emerged as popular during the pandemic. As an Extension department, we have the luxury of being responsive to the times, and offering people opportunities to harness creative energy around whatever they are concerned with and/or what is happening in the world.”
To this end, here are five timely classes at Otis Extension to take right now.
There are two versions of this course, one suited primarily for print design, and the other focused on web-based media and motion design. Taught by Moshe Godwin, Introduction to Digital Design: Media introduces students to various industry standard digital art applications—Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Animate—that are used in the creative arts industry. The two versions of the course are prerequisites for a number of Otis Extension certificate programs, including Animation, Motion Graphics, and Product Design. “The things that the course has to offer fall right in line with the current needs of society,” says Godwin. “It will help students develop the artistic skills necessary for supporting the type of creative expression that raises social awareness around various issues that people across the world are facing right now. What’s more, students will acquire new skills that will give them a competitive edge in the creative arts field. If you’re a creative individual who is looking for a fun, yet challenging career that can potentially remain viable even during the pandemic and can allow you to work from home, then this course might be for you.”
Taught by fashion designer Amy Bond (a contestant on season 16 of Project Runway), this 4-day workshop starts the design process with an examination of colors and fabrics that inspire personal happiness. Working towards building a collection of clothing pieces, Bond has students embark on emotional and inspirational research, learning about the psychology behind color, concepts that drive color applications in consumer goods, historical and modern designer case studies, and how color influences mood.
Combining techniques for watercolor, mixed-media drawing, and painting with exercises in guided imagery, automatic drawing, meditation, music and art, shamanic practices, and ancient gentle tai chi movement energy exercises, this course is for anyone interested in the creative process as a source of healing and expression. Linda Jacobson has taught Art and Healing classes for over 25 years and adapted it for virtual learning last March. “It has given many a sense of community, inspiration, new ideas, motivation, and focus for their expression and a place to get supportive feedback,” Jacobson says. “We all need self-care right now, and creative expression keeps the life force moving through us to help us stay positive and balanced. My goal is that each participant finds many ways of expressing themselves visually and is able to use this expression to find inner peace and joy during this difficult time.”
At a time when “fake news” and “alternative facts” have run rampant during a heightened political climate and a devastating pandemic, the Media Literacy class couldn’t be more prescient. In this class, taught by Majia Beeton, students deconstruct, analyze, and evaluate media in all its forms, developing an understanding of visual language and the ability to decode the symbols disseminated by media. It’s also a prerequisite for a number of Otis Extension certificate programs, including Web Design, Motion Graphics, and Video Editing.
Taught by Karl Petion and Julianna Ostrovsky, this course explores how protest art has been used in history and modern times to inspire social action, support political movements, and mobilize networks using creative and cost-effective tactics. Students develop their own visual communications to express social issues through various techniques of relief printmaking, such as linocuts, collage, collagraphs, and other experimental techniques.
In line with the Art of Protest class at Otis Extension, the College’s Lab Press is offering a series of short workshops, dubbed Otis Lab Press at Home, that strive to “bring the excitement of hands-on printing with letterforms into people’s homes,” says instructor Janet Kupchick. “Since we cannot use the equipment due to social distancing, we have come up with other ways to ignite students’ curiosity by using type, collage, and dimensional rubbing and printing at home,” she continues. “In this time of intense social engagement, Lab Press classes are distinctly right for the moment. Posters of protest, politics, and unity come directly from 19th- and 20th- century art and civics.” In her two-day Type As Image workshop, Kupchick encourages students to “put together posters using letterforms to express something with imagery created only from type, and the individual’s point of view. As in all good design, scale, rhythm, and composition all have much to do with how our communication is received.”
In addition to these timely topics, Otis Extension also offers reimagined art and design classes for youth, opening up creative paths for them in online formats that work around any “Zoom School” gloom they might be experiencing. There are a number of fun, one-day workshops for creating puppets and Valentine’s and/or Mother’s Day kirigami, manga and comic book drawing classes that appeal to their extracurricular interests, pre-college classes for budding artists, and much more.
Raul Vega teaches the Photography Studio: Precollege course for high schoolers, making it as interactive as possible, with students having discussions on photography in general, and showing their work to discuss their personal interests. Students explore various genres within photography, focusing on the conceptual, aesthetics, technical, research, refinement, and execution of each. No special camera is required—Vega says smartphone cameras have been more than adequate—and the hands-on practice students undertake is meant to lead to portfolio-level artwork. “Unlike Math or English, this class exercises a different part of the brain,” he says. “This class is not about right or wrong, it’s about developing an aesthetic. I know students get tired online after about a half hour, so I’d like to circle back to each student to help review and counsel them during the week, that way it’s not about these large chunks of time that they have to commit to.”
To discover more new and exciting Extension classes at Otis College, please visit the spring 2021 course listing here, or visit otis.edu/extension. You can receive a 10% Early Bird discount by registering for classes by February 5, 2021.
Main image by Fawad Assadullah.