Arts bring new perspectives back to City College campus

In-person classes begin amid a still-precarious global pandemic

Model Yoni Baker in Life Drawing class

Model Yoni Baker bares all but his nose and mouth for students, including Benedicte Bonaventure (right), in the Life Drawing class at San Diego City College on Aug. 31. Photo by Philip Salata/City Times Media

Philip Salata and Kathy Archibald

Pencils poised, easels adjusted.

Model Yoni Baker disrobed and stepped onto the pedestal wearing nothing but a mask.

The music of Leonard Cohen and the scratch of charcoal filled the otherwise quiet classroom for the 20-minute sketch session in the Life Drawing class at San Diego City College on Aug. 31.

For the first time in more than 18 months, select fine arts classes are finally being held in person at City College for the fall 2021 semester.

In addition to a district-wide mask mandate, all students, faculty and staff are required to either submit proof of vaccination or an exemption. Those exempt must test weekly to remain part of the trickling return to campus life.

Amid warranted skepticism, the return is a quickly evolving experiment in face-to-face instruction.

As of now, the district is operating at 25 percent capacity, according to the district website. 

Though students, faculty and staff are returning with caution, fine arts classes are offering learning experiences that bring much needed change of perspective after extended isolation.

Student Ashlyn Crowe drawing
Student Ashlyn Crowe (right) looks up to model Yoni Baker while refining her drawing in the Life Drawing class. Photo by Philip Salata/City Times Media

While many turned to the arts during the lockdown as an antidote to solitude, students such as Huy Nguyen are now developing drawing skills by sketching the form of a live nude model in Wayne Hulgin’s class.

Nguyen said, with drawing a live figure, “you can move around the subject and look from different sides, and this is more emotional and exciting.”

Changing point of view is as needed as bridging virtual life with physical presence, much of which is still impossible for many.

Nguyen is also developing paintings of his granddaughter in Saigon. He has not been able to see her for over a year and a half.

He will be painting her eight times from eight perspectives.

“We are lucky to be vaccinated and to be able to move around,” Nguyen said.

The Beginning Costuming class in the Drama Program drew accounting student Wendy Anaya back to campus after over a year of working from home in the South Bay.

“It’s actually an elective,” she said.

Anaya added the mask mandate made her more comfortable coming back and it is one of the reasons she felt the push to return to campus.

“That little trip (to City College), … I missed it a lot,” she said.

Jen Foxley in the ceramics studio
Jen Foxley, instructional technician and student at City College, organizes supplies in the ceramics studio. Photo by Kathy Archibald/City Times Media

Jen Foxley, an art student and instructional technician for the ceramics studio, organized clay and supplies in the semester’s first week and planned to attend an afternoon painting class.

For a ceramics class of 30 students, she said, a patio and an additional classroom were opened up to allow for social distancing.

Foxley began coming to campus in mid-summer to clean out old work and prepare the studio for students when it was more like a ghost town.

“People really do make it come to life,” she said.