Visual arts teacher starts video series

Scott Nussbaum

Visual arts teacher Kevin O’Malley has started a YouTube lecture series called Classroom 2.0 as part of what he calls the free information movement. The series consists of a group of lectures given by O’Malley on a variety of topics. Currently there are three lectures on the channel, one on Flemish painting and its effects on the renaissance and photography, a four part series on Vincent Van Gogh and an adaption of the high school portfolio lecture given at Harvard-Westlake’s “College Night.”

“For my career, both as a student and a teacher has depended on the generosity of others,” O’Malley said. “My teachers and the institutes that I have taught for are both generous with their time and effort, so it’s my way of paying them back. And information should be free.”

O’Malley shoots the lectures in the photo studio on the upper school campus during his free time. For his most recent one he used a small student crew but generally prefers to shoot them alone. O’Malley researches all the lectures months in advance. The four-part Van Gogh lecture took nine months to accumulate all the information for. The exhibit of renaissance paintings that inspired the most recent video, “Faces, Flanders, Florence 1400’s…and finally photography,” was exhibited at the Huntington Library in August of last year.

“I went to the show seven or eight times and I went, ‘Whoa, there’s a connection here that I think I want to make an original statement on,’” O’Malley said.

O’Malley has found it tricky to recreate face-to face intimacy from a computer screen, he said.

“I’m working from a script that I’ve written, but I try to present it in a way that’s a little bit more intimate so that somebody who watches it is going to get some sort of human interaction,” O’Malley said. “And I know that’s difficult with YouTube because you’re watching a computer. And that’s one of the big questions out there for online courses. You go to college and you take a class and there are 300 people sitting in the hall and another 300 people sitting in another hall and all their doing is watching a TV screen. And the question is, is that a good use of your time? Maybe if the teacher’s really dynamic. That’s what I’m working on trying to convey some sincerity in what I am trying to talk about.”

O’Malley thinks that other Harvard-Westlake teachers will eventually join in.

“I’m hoping it would spread to the Harvard-Westlake faculty,” O’Malley said. “I think it’s coming sooner than we think. If you’re teaching the Great Gatsby, [Jeremy] Michaelson could do a wonderful presentation on it. It would hopefully capture a lot of things he’s discovered himself.”