Its the last day of the first week back at Cornish and theres a lot of mixed emotions.
It's the last day of the first week back at Cornish and there are a lot of mixed emotions. Courtesy of Mitch
This week, we've been following students at Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts as they figure out how to go to an arts school in the middle of a pandemic. Today I've asked the students to reflect on these past five days.

There were a lot of emotions—from frustration to compassion:

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HANNAH
Junior, Musical Theater Major
A selection of Hannahs readings for the year.
A selection of Hannah's readings for the year. Courtesy of Hannah
While they are definitely excited for the upcoming year and don't regret their decision to come back, Hannah realizes that going to Cornish during a pandemic didn't have to be this frustrating. They and several other students spent the whole summer trying to talk to administration about their concerns, which they said were largely left unheard.

"I personally don't think we should have come back in-person," they said. Especially since students have to pay full tuition. Hannah said that was a deciding factor for a lot of their peers who were already on the fence about coming back to school during the pandemic. Sure, they could remain totally remote, but paying full tuition for that experience? For some, it didn't feel like a choice—they had to leave.

"I'm under the impression that we’ll end up fully online," Hannah said. "I think it's unlikely that we'll be able to continue in the way that we are." Cornish being small means that students don't have huge interaction pools, but if someone does get sick they're all more at risk. And with no onsite testing, Hannah wonders what Cornish is really doing with all those tuition fees.

"We gave admin a lot of [ideas] that would make us safe and instead they gave us plexiglass sneeze guards," they said. But Hannah came back to learn with their teachers and is looking forward to that experience. "It’s hard to tell with the first week, but I can tell that the teachers have really great lesson plans for us and give the best they can."

CHAYIL
Senior, Dance Major
A studio in Kerry Hall where Chayil practices.
A studio in Kerry Hall where Chayil practices. Courtesy of Chayil
Chayil ended this week being a bit nervous for her BFA. Though her humanities and sciences courses and technique classes are set, the rehearsals for her BFA and everything else dealing with dance are not. She is managing 12 dancers for her piece and can only work with four at a time, tripling the amount of work she has to do to make her vision come to life.

On top of that, she's in three other performances and has to figure out when she has to meet with those people. In a pre-pandemic time, those matters would be more set, with a reservation system made available to coordinate times and rooms for rehearsals. But with the limited amount of space and people allowed in each room, it throws that whole system up in the air.

"I already know I'm going to get drained soon," said Chayil.

On top of that, she's unsure how her BFA performance will look or when it will take place. Normally, the performance would happen in February, but it might be pushed later depending on what stage the county's in. And even if she can do it in the Cornish Playhouse, only four dancers are allowed on stage at a time. There's even a chance that she might just have to do a dance film. She doesn't have any definite answers.

Chayil said that's she excited to work with new faculty members and is trying to keep her head up. She's been taking this week to relax as much as possible before things really kick into gear. Kerry Hall is still pretty silent though. "It's a weird feeling," she said. "I don't know if I like it or don't like it."

REBECCA
Senior, Performance Production Major

After a department kick-off (aka, a giant Zoom call) and a meeting with her practicum teacher, Rebecca says she's in a bit of brain fog. "Maybe because I haven't had to leave the house for school." It's making it hard for her to get the gears in her creative brain turning.

That being said, she's looking forward to her Saturday painting class which will be in-person. Each student will get their own 11ft x 11ft squares taped out on the ground that will be called their "work stations." And everyone must wear masks and gloves, which Rebecca says is "easy enough." She's just excited to get her hands on some paints.

CHRISTIANA
Senior, Dance Major
Christiana in a dance studio in Kerry Hall.
Christiana in a dance studio in Kerry Hall. Courtesy of Christiana

It was 80 degrees in Christiana's studio class today. The class was only 50 minutes, but everyone ended up super sweaty—it was hard to breathe because of the mask and heat. "It's better to have the windows open to get the circulation going," she said.

In regards to her BFA, Christiana said she was already planning to do a dance film which makes the planning process a little more controlled. She's keeping her cast small—just five or six people—doing a lot of solo work so she can have a lot more one-on-one time with her dancers. Like with Chayil, the main thing would be finding rehearsal space. It's been a bit murky trying to find out the availability and capacity of each space. It's her main focus coming out of this week.

She has been frustrated not being able to have physical contact with other dancers—partner work is out of the question under new Cornish guidelines. Christiana is working through how to make group choreography interesting if the dancers can't touch and must remain six feet apart.

Overall, she notes that everyone's just trying to find their rhythm. A lot of community was lost because of the pandemic, but a new type of community has been popping up because "we're all going through the same things and same experiences." It's reassuring.

MITCH
Senior, Interior Architecture Major
A place where Mitch has found some solace.
A place where Mitch has found some solace. Courtesy of Mitch
The machine shop has been an expected place of refuge for Mitch this semester. Located in the Playhouse in Seattle Center, the space is large enough for people to be inside while working on their own projects. Mitch is relieved to finally get their hands dirty, building concepts outside of just doing digital renderings—"which is what I enjoy about art school"—and not under the watchful eye of Zoom.

The week has given Mitch time to process what they want out of an art school education—they are a bit more at peace with the situation. "I have a feeling that the entire year will be reflective of the emotional rollercoaster that I've been feeling this week," they said. From being stressed and confused to feeling supported and sure, it's been a wild ride. And they've only been at school for five days.

"I'm prepared for this ongoing up and down of just being unsure always, but also coming together as a community," they reflected. Mitch also stressed the importance of cutting the instructors some slack—everyone has got to be patient with the system and themselves.

FAITH
Freshman, Dance Major
The dorm room where Faith is supposed to practice while Zooming at home.
The dorm room where Faith is supposed to practice while Zooming at home. Courtesy of Faith
On the last day of her first week back at school, Faith had two back-to-back dance classes. She's still adjusting to having to wear a mask while dancing with a minimal amount of people. It's definitely not the experience she imagined during her first week at school. "I feel like I know most freshman dance majors at this point, but I just don't see them dance at all," she said noting how few people are in her course.

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Back in her hometown of Las Vegas, people are taking things a lot less seriously. Her dance classes there had 10-15 people, a stark contrast to the five-person limit at Cornish. Faith thinks that maybe the school is "doing too much" to the point where it's hindering her education, but she's still grateful for what she can do during this time.

Looking ahead to the next couple of months is a bit unnerving—Faith is not quite sure what to expect. "What I’m hoping to gain from this [situation] is an understanding that dance is more than just a lot of people in a classroom, that you can dance everywhere," she said. But she says that she's not hopeful about that outcome.

Check out Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

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