Day Two (but actually five)…

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.

0 Comments +

  1. Sounds like the kind of environment that is challenging but, could be very rewarding for both student and teacher. With a small faculty the chances of me getting the opportunity to be there sounds slim.

  2. Wow. That all kinda reminds me of when I was instructing at the makeup school I graduated from. Not the thousand acre part…

    Too much personal attention required!!! And me, while outwardly happy-to-help, being all annoyed and seething on the inside, thinking, “these poor schmucks don’t have a snowball’s chance in the real world…”

    But that was just me – not born to teach…

  3. That crit clapping thing always bugs me. It becomes obligatory, so you have to do it even when some one’s work is really…well, terrible. Yes clippity-clap-clap thanks for wasting our time…

    Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not teaching for a while.

  4. Wow! I’d love to be in an environment like that. I’m still not sure whether I’d be a teacher or a student, though.

    The crits we had in architecture school were nothing like that. They were viscious, hateful encounters. Some professors would scrawl all over the presentations and I remember one professor putting his foot through one of the models.

    Damn, I just re-read what I wrote. What a horrible thing to post in someone else’s journal.

    Anyhow, I suppose my point is to enjoy the clapping. It could be worse. 🙂

  5. It is small, 45 or so, but does have a great deal of flux in it from year to year. The thing is that people tend to come via word of mouth, since it’s rare that they do a formal search, given the fleeting nature of the posts.

  6. Teaching is a weird thing indeed, and it’s not for everybody. I generally feel that if a student is truly clueless, I shrug my shoulders, figure “it’s their dime”, do my best and then walk away. Sometimes I can help them, sometimes I can’t.

  7. Not horrible at all – I’ve heard of plaenty of bad crits -and believe me we aren’t all swetness and light here.

    The foot thing is pretty wild. I’m assuming that this is pre-xanax.

  8. 🙂 Well, no applause usually… that’s one difference. Perhaps I should say, it sounds like a good deal of what you are doing is healing, as much as it is teaching, especially the one-on-one stuff.

  9. It is small, 45 or so, but does have a great deal of flux in it from year to year. The thing is that people tend to come via word of mouth, since it’s rare that they do a formal search, given the fleeting nature of the posts.

  10. Teaching is a weird thing indeed, and it’s not for everybody. I generally feel that if a student is truly clueless, I shrug my shoulders, figure “it’s their dime”, do my best and then walk away. Sometimes I can help them, sometimes I can’t.

  11. Not horrible at all – I’ve heard of plaenty of bad crits -and believe me we aren’t all swetness and light here.

    The foot thing is pretty wild. I’m assuming that this is pre-xanax.

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