Spend a night at the (virtual) museum.
Mid Valley Secondary Center, Throop, is hosting its annual Student Art Exhibit virtually through Google Slides. The show went live on Friday on the school’s Facebook and Twitter pages and highlights the artistic endeavors the students have worked on all year long, art teacher Rebecca Rabel said.
When COVID-19 prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to close all schools in Pennsylvania, it dashed plans of Mid Valley’s spring art show, which decorates the lobby, library and walls with artwork the students created throughout the year.
Through Facebook groups, Rabel got word of other art teachers around the country hosting virtual art shows and creating templates and tutorials to help other educators do the same. That’s when Rabel did some research and, along with fellow art teacher Jenelle Phillips, worked to create the slides.
“The students work hard all year long, and we did a lot of different projects and experiences this year that they deserve recognition for,” Rabel said. “I looked at what some of the other teachers were doing and adapted it to what would work for us.”
The presentation is set up like a virtual art museum, beginning with a lobby that features links to each “gallery” or rooms for each grade or elective course. There are more than 700 slides from nearly 600 students in grades seven through 12, displaying drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design and school news broadcasting videos the students had been working on with Phillips.
The show also contains galleries dedicated to special projects Mid Valley students experienced this year. One gallery showcases a mural around the fish tank inside the middle school that students created with the district’s artist-in-residence, Gina Rice. Named “Under the Sea,” the mosaic features a mermaid, fish and all sorts of aquatic life made from ceramics. Pieces by students recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are displayed, as are items from a 3-D printing project. Students created pieces at the labs at Keystone College thanks to a grant from Build a Spartan, a nonprofit group that funds innovative programs and scholarships in the district.
“Some of the kids, it was the first field trip they had ever been on with it being 100% free. They got to see a college campus, tour the college’s computer labs,” Rabel said. “There were so many cool opportunities we got to do this year, and this is a way to showcase that.”
The slideshow is user-friendly and interactive so that it was as close to roaming a museum as possible, Rabel said. The slides are designed to look like rooms, and the students’ work sits inside frames that “hang” or are perched on pedestals. Some students also submitted their Bitmojis to be included in the slideshow in the “gallery” with their artwork.
“If I wasn’t an art teacher, I would probably go into graphic design because it was enjoyable for me to create these slides,” Rabel said. “I had fun with it, and I hope the community enjoys seeing the work from the comfort of their couch.”
Like most teachers, Rabel said the school’s abrupt closure and subsequent virtual lessons have been a big change from typical spring semesters. The students couldn’t take any of their projects home with them when schools closed on March 13, and any assignments given at home were drawing-based. Rabel, who was finally allowed into the school to clear out her room a few weeks ago, came back to moldy ceramics and dozens of unfinished projects.
Rabel was allowed to fire her kiln one last time before quarantine, letting her salvage some work to give back to the students when they cleaned out their lockers and for them to use in the show. Plus, she had projects in storage she could bring out for the show, too.
Since Rabel began teaching at Mid Valley 17 years ago, the school has had an art show each spring, she said. With other artistic events, such as the spring play and band and chorus concerts, not happening, she didn’t want COVID-19 to stop yet another showcase of students’ talent and effort.
“They work so hard on it, and it’s such a nice time of year to have the community come into the building. It makes the lobby look so colorful,” she said. “It will be sorely missed, and while (a virtual art show) pales in comparison, we’re still able to give back to the community in a different way.”
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT