Art Theory and Practice Professor Pamela Bannos

Teaching art — remotely

The teaching of art is usually a hands-on experience. But Weinberg College faculty are exploring new ways to teach art to students from a distance of many miles away — and the classes and teaching methods they are employing are often as creative as the artistic products themselves.

Artist, author, photographer and Department of Art Theory and Practice Professor of Instruction Pamela Bannos is teaching three photography classes this quarter from her mother’s home in the western suburbs of Chicago. Her “classroom” is her brother’s childhood bedroom.

And her students — who are working out of their own rooms at home as well — are learning to work with the tools at hand, such as the natural light from a nearby window. Bannos has even encouraged students to turn their room into a “camera obscura” by covering their windows with paper and creating a single hole for the light to enter the room. That turns the room itself into a camera, an age-old technique that creates an upside-down image of whatever is outside beyond the pinhole of light.

Since students don’t have access to the campus darkroom, Bannos has shared a recipe for developer and fixer that includes coffee grounds, vitamin C powder and lemon juice so that students can make their own prints at home. They can then share their prints with the class by making a slideshow on their smartphones.

“I’ve been talking about how their photographs are documents of what occurs, specifically, during the quarter and will become a time capsule of those weeks,” Bannos said. “They have an opportunity to create a lasting record of this uncertain time.”

Learn more about how Northwestern professors are teaching art from a distance.