Group Hug

Kitty at the Parade, Q. Cassetti, 2010Wow. What a last few days. I do not think I will not run down the blow by blow as it seems irrelevant other than we got to Amherst, stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (thankfully with comfy beds and air-conditioning), and were embraced by the spirit and community of Hampshire College, its friends, families, faculty, staff and the blooms of this wild rose, the lovely, bushy tailed students. 

It was hot going—with the temperatures in the mid to high nineties. But, as we approached Kitty’s dorm, a swarm of black shirted orientation guides, surrounded the car and deftly made light work of getting her stuff to the second floor of her dorm in short order. Then it was the fam doing the furniture re-arrangement, making of the beds, identifying the things to buy, and buying them, and finally leaving Kitty to empty her totes and really settle. She was worried and fretful, anticipating failure (my daughter, entirely). However, after the speechifying, the clapping and nice dinner under the big white tents in the central quadrangle (lets not forget the biodegradable corn starch cups filled with frosty water), and before her first floor meeting, we said goodbye and watched her introduce herself to a pair of women sitting outside who were formerly being chatted up by Mr. Younger Brother. After that, the texts got better and since then, silence. So, silence is good. I know she is happy and having a ton of fun.She might even have a few friends (do you think>?) and maybe not have to move out of her dorm (that was in the last hour of our visit). My guess is no change will be necessary.

 There were apple trees all over campus. Many dropping big red orbs (so early) that were rotting which scented the air from a sweet apple-y smell to the pungent reminder of vinegar…not all together unpleasant, but memorable. Many of the buildings and grounds had facelifts since the spring, so the property seemed really nice and tidy…a little less ramshackle and far more presentable if physical plant was key in the decision-making of future students and their parents. However, the spirit of the place was the same.

 There is something about the Hampshire Community, which I now feel fully entitled to talk about as I am now part of it. There is this ephemeral essence of smart, questioning, embracing and empowering. There is a push pull of ideas which can be (I am sure) strident (as with new ideas) to skills…and the approach that why not “try it”. Try philosophy, try rock climbing, try dance, try joke writing, try astrophysics, try it all, taste it all, question it all…and its all okay. There is no right way, its all right. There are no grades, but evaluations which can give you better feedback because it’s not about competition. The race is all between you and you (something I wish I had known sooner) and that the person you should concern yourself with is you. What makes you happy? What makes you think? What makes you expansive? What kind of person are you? How are you going to engage in your community and make a difference? This is what the Hampshire students learn along with the nuts and bolts of how to learn things, try things, grow and grow and learn until you are no longer. And these simple things are for me, a hallmark of an educated person. Empowered, confident, engaged in one’s community, growing personally, spiritually, physically and contributing with a happy heart—would be real lessons (the one’s without grades) that I would hope my children could learn and exemplify in their lives.

Kitty and Robbie at Hampshire, Q. Cassetti, 2010There is this embrace, as we experienced this weekend of students with students, faculty with students, staff with students, staff with faculty, parents with students with faculty and so on… which outwardly was expressed by the speeches and generous and thoughtful gestures on move in day. They had watercoolers in the quads and piles for paper recycling mid hallway for pick up. There were the onslaught of troops of happy helping new friends. We had visits from bouncy students just coming in to say hello and remark on something nice in Kitty’s room. We  met the new hallmates (kindred spirits to Kitty) and more upperclassmen who confirmed that this was her tribe. We were delighted by the details from the regular, vegetarian and vegan options for the nice lunches and dinners offered to the completed ID badge, kit and key that was easily handed over to Kitty hour one. The new president was enthusiastic as a new president and parent of a Hampshire student as well. Her remarks were thoughtful and meaningful. And no one felt the need to be a JK Rowling character from the Harry Potter books (thank goodness).

The next day was the beginning of orientation for the students and a full day orientation for families. I had signed us up “to be responsible parents”—and it turned out to be a pleasure without the least bit of pain And Mr. Younger Brother sat through the whole thing and was thrilled. So, much so, that he could easily see this sort of program for himself…so he can study music composition, film, and run cross country for the school. I think it def could be in the future mix too. He was on fire…and wanted to enroll for January term. I wish it could be that simple.

The family program had open panels on topics such as the program of study, of life beyond the classroom, ofNew Crew, Q. Cassetti, 2010 the dorm/dorm issues which were lead beautifully by members of the faculty with lots of question and answers with the parents. The families weren’t slouches with good questions (there were a few nervous nellies getting into the details of the bus routes etc as a for instance). We had a nice time during the lunch time meeting other parents and learning about their students (that’s what we call our kids)—their interests, backgrounds and where we all sit on the alternative scale. We are pretty mainstream/mild compared with the range. We will see these folks again in October and so on until graduation, so I know there might be some new friends in the bunch. If Hampshire pushes community, then we are there to embrace the whole thing.

 I just wish I could do it all over again on this campus, sitting between grain fields and the beautiful bowl of mountains that surround the school. The gold and pink, green, purple and blue were quite breathtaking now at the height of the season. I know October will be wonderful as will the cool winter. The opportunities and friends abound.

Hartford Art School: Vin DiFate Crit

In NYC last week, we had a really great crit with Vin DiFate who had meaningful and valuable things to say about each piece so that not only did the artist take something away, but those of us in the room who need to listen and learn did too. Vin and Murray were gentle and yet directive--and I know I got a lot from the review. Additionally, Vin took a bit of time to talk about composition showing images and how they were composed, talking about the relationships of the objects, and how the composition made the image. I loved his chat about the Arnolfini Wedding...and how it worked as a design. Imagine, it made me think! Some of the fuzzy pictures above are details of fellow student's work (forgive me, this is all hand held, point and shoot photography)>>Top: Jackie Decker, Second from Top: Anthony Accardo, Third from Top Ron Spears and Final: Chuck Primeau.

Present Memories

Cool/cold here. Low 70s with the wind blowing. Heavy,"Big River" clouds always threatening rain. It has rained everyday so the tomatoes are not ready. The grapes will be juicy but not filled with flavor so wine will be plentiful but not wildly noteworthy. We have a bread pudding in for a late breakfast. Haircuts at 11:30. A. is on the phone arranging time and golf games with his buddies. R is cutting the hedges as its a bit shaggy. He is quite a sculptor with the electric cutter. We have birthday presents to create, guests to feed, and straightening to happen. Maybe it will warm up enough swim. I really want August to be August.

Papers are done. Lots of interesting discoveries as I wrote them. I am intrigued by the passage illustrators go through to become decorative illustrators. Many of them come directly to it, but others through more commercial means such as fashion illustration, graphic design, photography, and advertising. They get the illustration bug, and tack it on to what they are doing...evolving to becoming real live illustrators. The aspect of style is key--perhaps that being the link--where style and stylishness factors heavily into the message. Fashion does that. Logos and type do that. Painting like NC Wyeth, Howard Pyle or Norman Rockwell are essentially classic expressions of an idea. However, paintings by Austin Briggs, Joe DeMar or the ever unbelievable Al Parker do communicate a style, a period, an emotion that swings in the context it was created. And, they swing today too. So, maybe that isn't just with decorative illustration alone. But the immediacy of decorative illustration in somehow takes it further. Hmm.

One more thing. I think it is important to say a little something In Memorium for the Syracuse ISDP Illlustration Program. If it hasn't finished this week, it will finish next....and it was something that meant something to me and many more. I cannot let this slip away.

The Syracuse ISDP program was singular in it's twenty eight years of developing and training many of the leaders in the illustration education world along with many practicing illustrators whose careers were enriched and deepened by the experience. It is thanks to the amazing personal effort, talent, muscle and reach that Murray and Carol Tinkelman brought to this program inspiring students, teachers and alumni to achieve and think beyond what they thought was possible. It was the magic that the Tinkelmans brought, building collegiality, professionalism and hope that changed lives, built careers, created lifelong friendships and memories amongst the hundreds that went through this program.

The ISDP MA in Illustration was a low impact program for Syracuse University. It was a cash cow that had a low burden on the University who did not promote it, respect it nor understand the impression this program had on the world of illustration and design or the impact and reputation it brought to it's undergraduate program. The University was unaware of how this ISDP program and it's graduates burnished the image of the school, it's graduates and the excellence provided by it's program. So, while the muscle, belief and will of Murray and Carol drove this rich program, the program flourished and grew.

However, as the world changed and a MA did not suffice for teaching--only a MFA would do. And this is where it got sticky. Syracuse would not go there as it would conflict with their existing MFA program in illustration. MA was fine. The F was not possible. This along with much much more (which Murray will need to detail for us)caused the program to falter. The classes did not fill up, the excellent teaching teams dwindled to teams of one. The Tinkelmans left to create a newer, fresher and more relevant program with the University of Hartford, providing a MFA in the same timeframe, just a bit more work and the same project driven thesis. The Tinkelmans have bridged over to establish this new amazing program at Hartford while we mourn the last class of four students closing out this former powerhouse of a program.

But the seedling at the University of Hartford grows strong in the brilliant sun of new students, excited faculty, beautiful facilities, and an administration that values and supports this new program. The flowering is in the two years of alumni...artists who have grown personally, professionally and passionately thanks to the efforts of their fellow students, faculty and mentors, Carol and Murray Tinkelman. And with the amazing support and care of the University of Hartford, this program, essentially a new phoenix, will rise and inspire more generations of illustrators, designers and teachers for years to come.

teaching and learning

I am musing over the education--my education to be specific. I don't understand why this seems to be important, but this random thinking floats in, settles, irritates me and moves on, occasionally but in an unresolved way. Maybe its just that I have been so pleased and refocused with this new world of illustration, this mid-careeer foible. Or is it? The first four years of design training got me into the game--despite the really rough and ineffectual curriculum and the approach to students being more destructive and dictatorial versus what I have experienced with Mentor Murray and to a much lesser degree, at Syracuse. Versus telling students what they cannot do, the approach is more encouraging but pushing the student back to his/her own devices, pushing the good stuff and leaving the bad stuff sit and steam. It is more about learning, self learning and giving the student an empowerment to take hold of what they have, (their talent, their salesmanship, their ability to put art with opportunity) and shine it up to get the best thing to happen to reflect well on the student, moments to build a career, moments to build job upon job to gain recognition.

Maybe this is because what motivates my Mentor is different than the rest. Murray loves to teach. He loves illustration and art. He loves the camaraderie of students and teachers. He loves to put people together who will bounce off each other to teach or inspire each other. He loves making connections through his actual teaching, or his life and living...He is a great matchmaker that creates new things. He is extrordinary at this.Murray loves to motivate and promote change--sometimes its uncomfortable with the learning or the self revelation but because he knows and wants to share that...comes, at least for me, a phenomenal amount of trust that when all is said and done, I would have moved ahead at least one. At Carnegie, what drove the teachers was their personal reputations they were building or had built--teaching was a way to extend their personal reach or validating the writing or involvement in professional institutions. This is the same at Syracuse. The professors instead of focusing on the growth and development of their charges--thinking, promoting and focusing on how best to move the development of the student's thinking and skill--they communicated their impatience with teaching, time in the studio the WORK around their jobs as professors keeping them AWAY from their own personal work, personal careers. It is/was teaching which was paying the bills that was keeping them from their chosen work, illustration. I think they may have gotten it backwards. Or at least I know they have gotten it backwards. The professor who told me NEVER, ever, to consider illustration probably spat that little gem out without thinking, without intuiting the impact it could have and did have on me. Good teachers push, are sympathetic but even more so, empathetic in their chosen job and love of teaching--of extending boundries for students--empowering them to be the best and to constantly challenge themselves to grow and change. To pursue this love with joy and hope--not stopping education with a No or Never. But a hey, why it...see what happens inspiration. Isn't that a better philosophy for learning? for Living? for your life?

more later

a tisket a tasket

This and that>>
Everson Museum in Syracuse has a call for entries for their Biennial Show "The Object and Beyond" due April 4, 2008. Check the Everson site for the prospectus and application.

Schweinfurth Museum in Auburn has a call for entries for thie annual "Made in New York Show". Check the web for details.

Discovered this very cool blog called "Artist News" which is focused on local (central NY to Albany) shows. They cite the Biennal, the Schweinfurth, a show at Limestone Art Gallery, and one coming us that is a visual showcase for Central NY called Elements.

So in the spirit of get the work out... I will get the work out locally.

In the spirit of education and learning, I cracked open the new issue of "art on paper" a great magazine I subscribed to at Art Basel Miami (cheap!). It is focused on prints, drawings, photographs, books and ephemera --showing a wide range of terrific work but showcasing galleries and classes. I love this magazine, creasing it,reading it, xroxing it. Here are some cool opportunities:

Wells Book Arts Summer Institute>>
in beautiful Aurora, NY for three, one week sessions--hands on classes in letterpress printing, lettering arts and bookbinding.

Another: NYU Steinhardt (Steinhardt Shool of Culture, Education and Human Development)
offers an MA (in Studio art) in Venice for artists and art teachers. From June 29- August 23, 2008--it is more of a time committment...but Venice! More>>

One more jumped out, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture and Extended Media at Virgina Commonwealth for 2 mos. They say they "foster the development of professional attitudes and skills with an emphasis on indiviudal investigation. Non credit.Post baccalaureate style residency studio program." "VCU's School of the Arts graduate program is ranked 6th in the nation by US News and World Report. Sculpture is ranked first and Painting is tenth."

Interesting how they talk about themselves.