Kathy Chester

Kathy Chester set up virtual art classes for her students who are stuck at home. She provides online critiques and conference calls for each class while her home studio is temporarily closed. 

Like so many school-aged children, Violet Hunter, 9, is shuttered in place at her home in Mt. Juliet.

With Wilson County schools shut down for at least several more weeks because of the threat of COVID-19, parents and children are facing a new normal with terms like “social distancing” now the new vernacular.

Kathy Chester, a Mt. Juliet art teacher, is thinking outside the box to keep her 100 art students on a regular schedule with weekly virtual art classes.

Chester has lived in Mt. Juliet since 1982 and for the past 28 years has conducted art classes in her home art studio in Clearview Estates.

“I live just a few blocks from where the tornado touched down,” she said about the March 3 storm.

Because her students — who range in age from 7 to 100 — no longer come to her private studio for one of 11 weekly art classes because of virus precautions, she has decided to go to them with regular class hours, individual critiques and even a virtual art class where students get on a conference call with Chester and their fellow art students at their regular class time.

“We started doing this, this week and it is going remarkably well,” Chester said. “Most of my classes are about nine students or so. All got individual attention as I moved from easel to easel.”

She critiques each student’s work and progress via emailed or phone images. Her mediums are pen and ink, charcoal, pastels, acrylics and oils.

“People ask why I teach and I say I love sharing art with children and adults,” Chester said.

Each day she said she thinks of new ways to fine-tune this temporary teaching method. Most students normally keep their projects at home, along with their personal supplies, so the majority of students were able not to disrupt their current work. A few students started a new project this week.

Chester said her husband is working from home and was instrumental with getting the virtual art classes off the ground and running smoothing.

“He sent emails, worked on social media and set up the conference land and cell lines,” she said. “The students’ projects are uploaded onto a monitor. I discuss with each student and we talk to each other. Everyone can hear everyone.”

The adult classes are online and she said people are “wonderful” and supportive of the changes.

Chester’s teaching style includes teaching to draw from the right side of the brain which allows students to draw what they see and not what they think they see. Her students participate in shows using various mediums.

Chester, the Art Alliance in Wilson County’s Artist of the Year in 2009, said she is formulating a way to perhaps use Facetime for the classes.

“I am just trying to be safe,” she said. “We don’t want to stop the creativity.”

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