Free, virtual Arts Enrichment for Students

Writer Neha Suresh reviews some free classes currently offered at the NC State Craft Center while exploring how the center has overcome adversity due to COVID-19. 

by. Neha Suresh

Arts NC State is the umbrella department that supports and oversees all of the arts departments at NC State. These departments include the Crafts Center, the Dance Program, the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, the Department of Music, NC State LIVE and University Theater. 

The Crafts Center, in particular, describes its mission as ‘providing hands-on, immersive, life-long learning skills to NC State students, faculty and staff, affiliates, alumni and the general public to support research, enhance critical thinking through creativity, and strengthen personal and professional development.’ Their ultimate aim is to enhance the student experience through self-expression and academic collaboration. 

As a writer, the best part of an interview is hearing a well-articulated thought or quotable line. My favorite thing about this series of interviews is the passion and enthusiasm every representative of the Crafts Center had when sharing what they made, or explaining what they teach. This department has been subject to budget cuts since before the pandemic and the situation has just made it worse, but they are continuing to overcome despite unfavorable circumstances. 

Jennifer Siegel is the Clay Studio manager at the Crafts Center at NC State University. She reflects on how the pandemic has affected the Crafts Center.

“COVID did prompt us to start digital options. We also did a trial run for opening an in-person class this semester. Online classes were definitely a savior for the existence of the Crafts Center especially in Summer 2020,” Siegel said. “Being in a position to open with limited capacity is what kept some of the studios afloat.” 

The Crafts Center is student-funded and not revenue-based, whatever funding they bring in usually determines what the center is in a position to do that fiscal year. The online classes have helped keep the crafts center afloat while receiving positive engagement and feedback from students and staff alike. 

Katy Walls is a studio technician at the Crafts Center and one of the founding members of the Arts Village.

“We have a digital- online evaluation form for each of our online classes. But by far, the response has been emphatically positive,” Walls said. “There are a total of about 37 online crafts classes this semester, some of which have already started.”

The classes the center offered usually included woodwork, pottery, photography, fiber art, jewelry making and more. In lieu of the new restrictions, they have designed virtual stressbuster courses that people can take from home as beginners. 

Introduction to Music Theory 

This two-hour course is designed and taught by Rahul Bhat, a recent NC State alum with a B.A. in Psychology. He has taught in-person guitar classes for most of his tenure here and prepared this course to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. 

“It is really hard to teach absolute beginners guitar online, the COVID pandemic actually gave me the opportunity to begin this Introduction to music theory course since it required no previous skills and just a pen and paper,” Bhat said.

Music theory is a guide to communicating music. The building blocks of musical composition are harmony, melody and rhythm. Rudiments are the musical gestures used every day, for all musical instruments. This course touches on each of these topics with the scale and chord theory. It also delves a little deeper into the concept of rhythm. 

Another key takeaway attendees can take from this course is the ability to read musical notation. Like alphabets, every element of musical notation was developed to help make sense of the written language of music. 

As someone with no background in music whatsoever, the instructor did a great job in creating a starter pack for beginners with no musical background. All through the course, he demonstrated different chord progressions, scales on his guitar to enhance understanding and included various interactive segments. The explanations were clear, logical and concise. Overall, it gives you a good foundation and a workable understanding of the subject.


Introduction to Zentangle 

Watch a Zentangle Class here to get an idea of what it’s like. 

Zentangle is an American method of drawing that promotes concentration, creativity and personal well-being. This drawing method was invented by a monk Rick Roberts and an artist, Maria Thomas. With Zentangle, they created a combination of meditation and art. 

The instructor for this course is Cathy Boytos, she also teaches at the Triangle Tangle. She is a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) and works part-time at the Crafts Center. Zentangle is an easy way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.

 This class is structured as a series of workshops, each being three hours long. Despite the long hours, the instructor paced the class well and made it lively. This commitment also enables attendees to build community.

 She covered a variety of tangles, tiles and techniques which enables students to work on the artform independently. The digital setting actually proved to be a boon for this class, it is easier to see the instructor’s work and closely follow along. It also allows attendees to make instant art. At the end, she has excellent tips to continue learning about Zentangle.

“The happiest experience for me as a teacher is when a student who feels like they can’t do anything artistic comes to one of my classes and after just a few moments feel like they can be artists and to me that is the magic of Zentangle,” Boytos said. 

Wolfpack Chain Maille Bracelets 

This class allows students to create handcrafted bracelets, in a Wolfpack color scheme, featuring rubber jump rings that make it extra easy to wear. 

“For this class, you are making NC State Wolfpack themed bracelets with little rings, you pick up your kit at the Crafts Center and we finally make bracelets virtually,” Siegel said. 

For new students who are looking to leave their dorms and foster a sense of community, Arts NC State is the best place to do it. The Crafts Center will have offerings in mixed media and art-on-paper options for Spring 2021. 

“The pandemic has affected the arts the most, the good thing is that it did not completely clean out the ARTS NC State program. We are still advocating for them and they have done an admirable job in transitioning online,” Bhat said. 

But some of these classes are being canceled due to a lack of public and student registration this semester, so there are Crafternoon classes that are created exclusively for NC State students and can be registered for via Reporter

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