Sponsored link
Friday, June 21, 2024

Sponsored link

Arts + CultureArtSirron Norris' cartooning classes take to internet for COVID...

Sirron Norris’ cartooning classes take to internet for COVID summer

No reason for kids to lay down their pencils in the pandemic, says the iconic Bay Area artist.

Back in March, when San Francisco first shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and illustrator Sirron Norris wasn’t sure what he would do about the animation summer classes he teaches. 

His wife, a vice president at Foothill College, encouraged him to figure out how he could teach the classes online. He did some cartooning lessons on Instagram Live and started to work on a curriculum for Zoom. Some people believed things would open up fairly soon, but Norris was convinced the shutdown would last a while—and it turns out he was right. 

“Early on, I was experimenting with how we can still teach and engage while staying inside,” he said. “I’m very on the news nonstop, so I was thinking we weren’t going to be doing in person classes, and I just dug my heels in early, like in April.”

Norris says the five people he works with, who make most of their money with him in the summer classes, thought it was crazy not to prepare for in-person classes. But because he started early planning how to do online classes, it worked. 

“I built my curriculum, and by time the summer camps came, we had enough sign-ups that I needed all five people on my staff,” he said. “Everybody got paid.”

The classes went well, he says. The secret? Having more than one teacher. So while he was teaching, one assistant, Brendon Metcalf, was checking in to see how the kids were doing and communicating with him. 

“I built a curriculum around constant attention,” Norris said. “So I was animating, and if some kid is lost, Brendon takes them into a room, and I keep going. We have a lot of 10 minute breaks—we’re dealing with artists and they can burn out. We do a lot of dance breaks.”

Now Norris and his coworkers are preparing for an after-school program starting September 14, teaching kids third grade and above cartooning, comics, animation, and creative writing. The class meets for an hour a day, from four to five p.m., and unlike the summer program, they don’t create a final product. Norris, who has been teaching about 20 years, expects it to be just as much fun. 

Norris says he gets kids who take the classes more than once, and he can work with them more on animation or what they’re interested in. His assistants Metcalf and Bria Goeller, who go by Mr. B and Ms. B in class, will send students in to him who want to go into something deeper, he says. 

“We have the Blue Bear Room, the Orange Cat Room and the Pink Bunny Room,” Norris said. “I’ll be working in the Blue Bear Room, and a kid will show up. Mr. B and Ms. B wouldn’t send them with a frivolous question—it’ll be something about storytelling, for example.”

One thing that’s nice about having the classes online, Norris says is that the students work more with others of different ages. 

“I feel like every kid has a forum and the kids are speaking up,” he said. “So sometimes a seven or eight year old and a 12 year old really talk, and that would never happen in a class. It’s not intimidating to speak up.”

Siron Norris’ After School Programs start September 14. For five weeks, they will be online via Zoom, from four to five p.m. The curriculum is designed for students in third grade and above. For more information and to sign up, go here

Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson lives in San Francisco. She has written for different outlets, including Smithsonian.com, The Daily Beast, Hyperallergic, Women’s Media Center, The Observer, Alta Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, California Magazine, UC Santa Cruz Magazine, and SF Weekly. For many years, she taught adults getting their high school diplomas at City College of San Francisco. She hosts the short biweekly podcast Art Is Awesome.

More by this author

Striking probe of colorism leads to artist’s first solo show—at MoAD, no less

CCA grad Mary Graham's 'Value Test: Brown Paper' locates universal story through Black past.

Life burbles with inside jokes in Rebecca Ness’s jumbo paintings

Bookstores, bedrooms, U-Hauls, lesbian bars are loci of human comedy (and tragedy) in 'Portraits of Place.'

The Algorithm speaks! BD Wong on the power of ‘Big Data’

'I love manipulating the molecules in the air and changing the tone of the moment,' actor says of A.C.T. role
Sponsored link

You might also likeRELATED