When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, it forced us to close down or figure out how to do things differently. This is uncharted territory. We were using borrowed space at a local high school, and when schools closed, we worried we were stuck. So we pivoted to online after school ceramics classes. That’s right, online ceramics.

Arivva’s ceramicist, Delaney Hills, had heard MCG Youth Arts, www.mcgyouthandarts.org, was doing take-home clay kits. She asked, “why not us?” After quickly inquiring, brainstorming, and preparing, our COVID-era digital ceramics classes took flight!

There is truly no real substitute for the energy of in-person classes and the pleasure of directly interacting with students but, thanks to MCG, we’ve created incredible experiences with take-home clay kits and Zoom, and we are thriving! Summer classes for youth and adults have been robust, and fall classes are filling up.

Through the inspiration students experience, seeing and using materials they may not have heard of before, and the physical act of sinking their fingers into fresh clay knowing their online classmates are doing the same, these shared virtual experiences are helping us all stay connected.

In the June class, Troy, one of our students, said that he “can’t wait until we can do this in real life.” His comment warmed and broke Delaney’s heart! By “in real life,” of course, he meant in-person, but the hope, happiness, and optimism he shared inspired his classmates and put smiles on their faces.

While students are busy touching and pinching and cutting their clay, they share stories about their lives. From conversations as simple as hikes they’d like to take while social distancing to others about the complexities of  Subway sandwiches they dream of, these classes are a bridge the experiences our students are missing out on these days.

So even though online classes are not the same as being together in a classroom or a studio, for Arivva students, the chance to share and be together online helps. Gaining new skills and having fun means so much, especially during these stagnant times. Online classes are the safest way to do that right now. This is a way we can safely stay connected.

Centers for Arts & Technology across the U.S. and parts of the world, like Arivva, motivated to support our students, are creatively responding to the disruptions of COVID-19. For however long this pandemic will last, we’ll stay connected. Learn more and register for Arivva’s online fall classes at https://arivva.org or contact Teaching Artist, Delaney Hills, at delaney@arivva.org.