The Art of Interacting Online
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Words by Louise Casini Hollis. Images courtesy of Camille Donne.
Peninsula Fine Arts Center/ Art Teacher 2 Go
It may appear that the world has shut down, but the teaching artists of Hampton Roads have taken this opportunity to flourish online with a multitude of opportunities for students to stay connected during the pandemic. In an ongoing series, Spotlight HR is talking to artists and arts organizations around Hampton Roads about their experiences in engaging with students online.
Camille Donne, Education Director at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center and the teacher in Art Teacher 2 Go has been learning a whole new set of skills during quarantine. Working from her home in Newport News, she continues to reach out to Hampton Roads students virtually. “I’ve learned how to use Facebook Live, learned how to use editing software and how to make movies, and have learned how to use video and computer equipment,” Camille shares. Besides becoming tech savvy, Camille has also learned to troubleshoot technical issues. “I couldn’t [set up] in front of my windows because that made me a silhouette, so I had to set up a home theatre….I made my own greenscreen in my son’s bedroom and I’ve learned green screen. I just covered my son’s wall with green construction paper and purchased a greenscreen app!”
Her resourceful problem solving skills come as no surprise to anyone who knows this teacher. “I try to troubleshoot everything,” Camille explains. “So somebody might not have watercolors. So I [figured out] how to make watercolors with food coloring and water. You can use markers and get those wet and then those are like water colors,” she adds. As for teaching a drawing lesson, Camille says, “it’s almost like I’m doing it blindly. I’m talking to an audience I can’t interact with. So I have to think, ‘What problem could somebody have with this?’ So I try to think through all of it, so that I can say, ‘I know you’re probably thinking this is how you do it. Let me show you again from another view’.”
Camille has been teaching now for over 20 years. Her passion for teaching comes from her resilience. “My confidence was squashed by a few negative teachers in elementary and middle school,” explains Camille. “By the time I entered high school (and for the first years of college) I was afraid to sign up for studio art classes and took art history classes instead. I became a teacher so that I could encourage students to embrace their creativity and let it shine.”
After graduating from CNU, Camille wanted to work as an art therapist, but there weren’t many art therapy jobs available, so her interest in history led her to working at Colonial Williamsburg. “I’ve always loved museums,” explained Camille, “and so I worked in costume at Colonial Williamsburg and I taught at the governor’s palace and I worked with children and I just loved it.” Her love of children led her to become a classroom teacher for Newport News Public Schools where she taught 3rd grade and 4th grade at South Morrison Elementary for 5 years. She also co-taught special education, before leaving to be a stay-at-home Mom.
Five years later, when Camille decided to go back to work she, “just happened to be looking online and I saw that PFAC was hiring and they needed somebody with a museum background and education background and an art background. I was like, ‘that is me!’” And I’ve been there almost 6 years and I just love it. It’s been the perfect job for me,” beams Camille. Currently, Camille “puts together art activities and lessons for families to do with what they have at home,” and posts them on PFAC’s blog, PFAC’s Facebook page, and her ArtTeacher2Go website.
“I’m making sure they wouldn’t have to go out and buy anything. And I’m doing a weekly story time with an art activity, and I’m doing art activities that reinforce the SOLs.” These lessons, called ArtStart, can be seen live on Wednesdays at 10:30 will continue through June 30th. The videos may be found on all the platforms above to view at a later time if you cannot tune in for her weekly lessons.
One of the challenges Camille has adjusted to is that she can’t see her students. To remedy this she asks them, “Can you please post something so that I know that you can see me?” Another thing she has learned through filming her lessons is that, “it’s harder to maintain the person’s attention. [Also] you can see a face or you can see what they’re doing, but it’s really hard to see both at the same time. And what you’re seeing is often – if you’re looking at the face and then transfer to what they’re doing – it’s upside down, so that’s hard, too” she adds. Filming lessons has been a learning curve for Camille, too. For example, when she taught her lesson Owl Babies ArtStart , she realized the image on film was upside down. To remedy this, she drew the owl upside down on her end so the image would be right-side up to the viewer.
Online summer camps will begin June 16th at Peninsula Fine Arts Center, and hopefully later in the summer students will be welcomed for camps in person if the Governor’s orders allow. Camille has set up all the themes for the summer camps which will be run by the Contemporary Arts Network gallery this summer. Unfortunately for PFAC, Camille will be leaving her position as Education Director June 30th so that she may spend more time with her son who is on the Autism spectrum, but she will continue to teach as the Art Teacher 2 Go.
Camille has a great deal of experience working with people who are autistic and with people who have dementia, and finds giving them the opportunity to make art quite fulfilling. She is looking forward to having the opportunity to work with differently-abled people though Art Teacher 2 Go. Numerous studies, such as a 2016 study done by Drexel University show that drawing and painting reduce the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in adults. Creating art also benefits children with autism and helps them, “improve eye contact, the relationship between cause and effect with signals, emotional expressions, and contextual instructions” as noted by Zulkifi in her article “The Wonders and Benefits of Art for Children With Autism.”
Camille’s next chapter begins this Fall as she expands her business Art Teacher 2 Go. Being an entrepreneur will allow her more flexibility in her schedule and the opportunity to reach more students by going to their meeting spaces. Camille will be teaching three different homeschool co-ops and has partnered with Girl Scouts of America to teach all of their art badges. Also, she will be available to teach art-themed birthday parties, and to facilitate lessons at retirement homes and specialty camps. Additionally, she hopes to add ceramics into her teaching later in the year. Want an art lesson? Camille will also be available for private lessons- she will provide the supplies and can even come to you.
In the future, Camille says she will seek opportunities to teach online more often. “I would have never thought of doing an online class – ever- but now I’ve learned how to do it, and it’s not scary anymore. I want to add more videos into my work, since I’ve learned how to do it and it’s not as tough as I thought it was, so I’d like to incorporate that more.”
No matter where Camille teaches, her mission is, “to be the teacher that I never had. I get so much joy seeing a student beam with pride after creating something. My goal is to make art attainable to everyone— both the pure joy of creativity and appreciation of other people’s talents.” Thankfully, Camille will continue to inspire artists both young and old for many years to come.