Part of the requirement for the Masters program at Columbus College of Art & Design(CCAD) is an outside experience away from CCAD campus and faculty. This can take any number of routes. From something along the lines of discussions of the aestethics of your work, to something completely technical related that you feel you might be lacking. My outside experience evolved into a bit of both of these situations. The outside experience(OE) started in June and eneded right before school started in August. During this time I was helping dismantle an educational glass studio in Springfield, Ohio, at the Sprigfield Museum of Art. Talking over the aestethics of kiln worked glass, and getting some advice for teaching undergrads with local artist Aimee Sonnes. Installing a new glass furnace, and performing hot shop maintenance at Glass Axis a non-profit, public glass studio here in Columbus. During all of this I was also rehabilitating the cold shop at CCAD to make it safer and easier to use, and doing some upkeep in CCAD's hot shop as well. So my OE was very busy and very educational in several ways from seeing how non-profits survive, or don't. The upkeep those non-profits require. Looking at ways to change my existing work using new techniques that have a different aestethic to it, and the artists to look at to get a baseline to start with. Pointers on teaching undergraduate level students better than I currently am, something I can always improve when it comes to teaching.
Over the summer I have written down entries in a journal to keep everything straight, and so I also wouldn't forget what had happened and will present everything in as close to chronological order as possible. There was a lot that happened for Springfield in short amount of time, in all I only helped Aimee for a week before the studio/school was shut down. Going over the notes I have, I decided to break this down into a few smaller posts instead of one huge wall o' text.
After speaking with Aimee yesterday the focus, for now, of the OE will be teaching principles and to a lesser extent the aesthetics of my work. As it stands now the glass studio attached to the Sprigfield Museum of Art is up in the air in terms of it staying or going. Yet another facet of non-profits, indecision. If the board hasn't reached a solution yet... then the studio, and it's employees, are in limbo. This has not prevented Aimee and the other glass employees to think about an eventual shut down. Some of them are getting ready to leave already, so if it does shut down then all they have to do is pick up any personal equipment and leave. All this leads me to think that this situation has been brewing for awhile now and that some bad blood has been made between the institution and the people working for it. On the other hand the museum is a business and has to keep it's best interests in mind. Hopefully the longevity of the museum as a whole will be kept in mind while all this shakes out, and no hard feelings remain on either side as a final decision is made.
The Springfield Museum's hotly contested hot shop
As I will be meeting Aimee later today I made a list questions, a sort of mini-interview...
1. What is the situation of the glass studio now?
2. How much of the studio does the museum control? Just the space the studio resides in? Or is it a mix of the space and equipment.
3. How much of the equipmentnis being moved?
4. If the studio is lost, what will be your perceived impact on the area?
Follow up after meeting with Aimee...
I met with Aimee today, not at Sprinfield, but we had a chance to talk about several things. The conversation moved to more teaching principles. Like using Skype for lectures with "visiting" artists for undergrads. To me beginning to study kiln working and fusing.
The situation at the Springfield Museum is not good, for the Arts Interface School anyway. From what I've been told, Whittenburg University has bought the museum and the school, but didn't quite know that the museum was as bad off financially due to mis-management. As a result the foundation the supports the school has decided to stop/greatly restrict it's funds to the school. Whittenburg has also raised the rent for the museum at $2/sq. foot and the school at $10/sq. foot. The school can't keep up with the increased price and as such is going under. Now, it's a matter of cleanig up, packing up, and helping the school(and Aimee) as much as possible before next week which is the projected closing of the the Arts Interface School at the Spirngfield Museum of Art. As far as what is in jeopardy for being lost it's the Arts Interface School... which encompasses much more than the hot shop. It also includes a ceramics department, theater department, and limited exhibition space for those classes. In short Springfield is losing a location to experience different art forms at a location that can exhibit more well known versions of what they might study at the Arts Interface School.
I can't help but think this is the darker side of non-profits we don't normal see or hear about. While the altruistic nature of non-profits are a strong driving force for their survival, somethings can't be mitigated when they happen and all the good feelings in the world won't save an institution from going under.
So I met Aimee today and we carpooled to Springfield, on the way there I a few questions on teaching.
1. How flexible are you with deadlines?
2. Do you always follow up on excuses for absences?
3. What are the top priorities for your classes? Technique vs concept? Is it something that's age related? Course related? Or both?
Aimee's advice for deadlines, don't be flexible. Ever. She always follows up on excused absences and believes being proactive with Student Services is the only way to go. Now question 3 had a lot of variables in the answer. A lot of it depends on where your students are in their academic career and what you want them to know. She suggested to try and push technique and concept as much as possible, to let the students have as much time with concepts, materials, and ideas. Set the tone for the class up front from day one, and to let the students have a fair amount of class time to work. One thing she did mention was to try and get the students to engage each other as much as possible, but not too large of a group, 3-4 students are good for this. She has found that the students are more likely to interact when they only have to engage so many people as opposed to entire class.
As she was explaining all this I started thinking that teaching is like running a pack of wolves. You, the teacher, want to be the alpha, but you want to make sure the entire pack eats and gets from point A to point B at the same time. Sure, there might be some infighting but you should only step in when you need to, to remind everyone of the rules.
There seems to be an odd correlation between kids and wolves.
Aimee and I got to Springfield and to say the atmosphere was a little somber would be an understatement. Most of the day involved packing up and labeling glass color, and helping the theater department take down their curtains. With this school going under Springfield is not only losing a public glass studio, but a ceramics studio, and a small theater as well. Aimee has started looking for an alternate source of funding for the studio. This hasn't gone too well because most of her time has been in packing up the studio, factor in the travel time and it doesn't leave a lot of time left at the end of the day. One thing I might be able to do is find a buyer for the cullet (clear glass chunks), that way Aimee doesn't have to find a storage space for, or move, 1500 pounds of glass.
Today has mostly been working over at the sculpture lab at CCAD, while trying to arrange a contact for between Aimee and a potential buyer. I want this to go well, for both sides.
Throughout the day I have been able to secure a buyer for the Arts Interface glass, 1500 pounds of Spectrum 96 nuggets. Now it's a matter of arranging meeting and pickup times as the school officially shuts down next Tuesday(6/14/11). All the incoming checks have to in the account before then.
The buy and pick up went through without a hitch. One on hand I'm really glad to help make this happen, on the other hand I'm really sad to see a public education opportunity such as the one in Springfield go under. In a way it can help feed other glass programs through the acquisition of equipment and/or materials, and help them survive. I guess glass blowing is a very opportunistic industry. We won't think twice about getting a good deal from a shop going under. Survival of the fittest? Maybe. Or maybe it's just plain survival.
Especially now as the economy is slowly recovering and to make ends meet more "unnecessary" opportunities/abilities/products go under. I know that's a more generalized statement, and it doesn't exactly fit these circumstances, but one thing I did notice is that no one picked up the flag after it fell. What I mean by that is there was no wealthy entrepreneur that swooped in and made everything ok, and the studio had a happy ending like I have heard about before. The realty being, this probably happens more than we would ever realize and we should be thankful for the institutions that allow us the opportunity to practice what we love to do as artists. So is this a bad ending to Springfield? No, melancholy for sure but not bad.