March 02, 2021

NYSUT virtual arts showcase highlights student work with pandemic themes

Source:  NYSUT Subject Area Arts Committee
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Caption: PANDEMIC-THEMED STUDENT ART like "Social Injustice & Homelessness" by Goddard High School junior Alissa Castandea (Erica Fairfull, Art Teacher) will be on display as part of the "INSIDE/OUTSIDE" virtual art showcase.

UPDATE: Virtual arts showcase premieres

The live, virtual art show Inside/Outside: Students of the Arts Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic premiered June 5 on Zoom, featuring 102 works by students that were submitted by their teachers.

You can enter the virtual gallery here.

Video of the premiere will be available online soon here at

Thanks to the many students and educators who participated!

NYSUT virtual arts showcase will highlight student work with pandemic themes

This article was originally posted March 2, 2021.

Students will have an opportunity to create artwork born of pandemic angst and reflection and watch it bloom online in a first-ever NYSUT Visual and Performing Arts Showcase to be presented online this spring.

The theme is "Inside/Outside: Students of the Arts Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic." Each K-12 teacher can send up to five entries, and the deadline is May 17. The virtual showcase will premiere on June 5.

Whether they are using color palettes to create paintings, dancing, performing spoken word poetry, writing or acting, students are welcome to submit virtual exhibits through their teachers. Entries will be accepted at; the submission form includes an option to upload images and share links to student videos.

The virtual art showcase is a means to bring the spotlight to student talent and exploration, and to provide them with an opportunity to release pent-up feelings about the pandemic and how it has altered their lives.

“The arts are a mirror of what we hold inside. The process of making art reveals feelings we’re not aware of,” said Joan Davidson, a retired United Federation of Teachers educator who chairs NYSUT’s subject area committee on the arts, which is spearheading the project. “Kids are talking about COVID, feeling trapped, grieving over deaths. They don’t have set schedules, and regular routine is part of personal stability.”

Davidson brings to the project a model for the showcase. For the past four years, she has helped coordinate an arts exhibit for New York City students with the theme Inside/Outside: Young Artists Unite Against Bullying. Davidson thought expanding the exhibit to a statewide virtual showcase would provide students with a unique opportunity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee agreed.

“This gives kids an opportunity to share all their concerns and feelings,” she said. “The work gives you ideas.”

To help support teachers of art, Davidson presented a January workshop with tips to help engage students in the time of COVID. She is president emeritus of the UFT’s New York City Art Teachers Association, which she led for 38 years.

One method Davidson teaches is to give students word prompts to lead the way into their art, such as peace, fear, heroes, isolation, relationships, or loneliness. Picasso’s “Guernica” is about war; Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is about anxiety, and much of Frida Kahlo’s work is about identity, Davidson said by way of example. Teachers can share these prompts to prime students to create art for the showcase.

The NYSUT Visual and Performing Arts Showcase is not a competition, Davidson stressed. The idea is to have the work seen.

“Kids are validated by seeing the work of other students,” she said. “Teachers of art help students find a pathway.”

The basics:

  • For visual arts, teachers can submit up to five images, jpeg’s only, cropped to image, straight, no mattes.
  • For performing and media arts: up to two-minute videos, 10 minutes max per teacher. Due to copyright laws, video clips in the virtual exhibit may be limited to 30 seconds.
  • Share your entries via the submission form.
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