The weather is shocking up here this summer: seventies during the day, fifties at night. A far cry from the high, humid nineties of two years ago that left us miserable in our stuffy dormrooms, sweating and laying as still as possible.
So what happens here? The idea is that students meet one on one with faculty during the day, while working in their studios. Then everyone gathers in the early evening for program wide critiques, where a person presents work and everyone else comments on it for 20 minutes. One of the things I always forget about, and am never prepared for, no matter how often I’ve been here is the clapping. We applaud everything in this program: the end of each video,poetry reading or music performance, the end of each critique, every visiting speaker. For a first timer it can be quite jarring, looking suspiciously cult-like.
The one-on-one meetings take an hour and the idea is for faculty members to book three or for of them a day and to meet with as many people as possible. What this means is that upon arrival I have been swamped by students looking to book appointments; an abrupt blizzard of need. The PDA gets a workout. Inevitably there is some event that occurs during the day that you didn’t know about and meetings must be rescheduled. The faculty are like roving shrinks, moving from building to building during the daylight hours, and then comparing notes at night. We fret over students who can’t seem to get it together, exchange analyses, surmise and despair.
Because it’s a small, provisional community there is flirtation, betrayal, gossip. “Issues” flare up and die off. there was the year when someone was kicked out and then seemed to be stalking someone else on campus and until the cops had to be called. There was the year where a student seemed to be goading another into a racial confrontation. There are squabbles over who is using too much space, over the visiting artists who turned the other visiting artist’s presentation in to a shouting match, over the person who is getting a degree even though they barely did any work, over the person who really didn’t do enough and who isn’t going to graduate.
All of it takes place on a campus that mixes early 20th century mansions with prefab houses, that spreads over a thousand acres and is brimming with finches, bats, skunks, groundhogs, wild turkeys, chipmonks, fireflies and the occasional deer.