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Field Notes 3/18

Florian's picture

It’s been a while since the last set of field notes, and this one’s going to be a bit short because Friday’s visit to the Center was very odd. I walked in, signed in, and looked for the placement coordinator. She wasn’t at her desk, and I couldn’t find anyone in the office. The meeting room where I usually stored my jacket and bag (with my phone, wallet, etc.) was being used, by what appeared to be a staff member and a family. Not wanting to intrude/hear personal things about someone’s disability or medical history, I stuffed my jacket in my bag and took the whole thing downstairs, hoping to find “Clyde”, the sculpture instructor.


He wasn’t there. A TV and several rows of chairs had been set up in the middle of the studio space. As before, lots of people said hello to me and shook my hands- “Hope”, who had the repetitive (and according to the handbook, “non-constructive”) conversation with me last time, “Ian”, who wanted to show me how the print on his graphic t-shirt had been ruined in the wash, and “Julie”, who hoped I had remembered her from last time. I didn’t see “Usmail”, the artist I had worked with before, but I did see the now-completed horse sculpture. I tried to find someone who seemed to be in charge. When I did, I was told that the placement coordinator had taken the day off, and that Clyde had left because of a family emergency. They were short-staffed, so the artists were just going to watch movies today and there wasn’t much for me to do.

However, one of the artists, “Dorothy”, was still working on a painting project, because she didn’t want to watch the movies they were showing. She asked me if I would like to help her, and the staff member who had told me about where Clyde was encouraged me to help her mix paints and give her suggestions when asked. I spent the rest of my time there mixing paints, responding when Dorothy asked me for advice on what colors to use, and conversing with several of the artists- Dorothy and “Karen”, who wanted to talk about movies I had seen and what happened in them; “Naomi”, who told me and another BMC student about her collection of 100 bears that she had at home, and “Santos”, who shares my love of Instagram and showed me photos he’d taken of his dog, his brother, famous people he’d met, and some pictures of Dorothy, which she laughed when she saw. It was a good day, and I had fun, but I wasn’t sure if I had been helpful or contributed anything. I wish I’d been given some instructions beforehand on what to do in these kinds of situations.


glombaguzm's picture

I also had a similar experience at the center. I think I was there the same day, but in the morning. It was interesting to read your notes—seeing that I also went through a series of similar emotions. For me, personally, my outsider status seemed to be very marked and it felt a bit uncomfortable. Yet, at the same time, I kind of had to check myself and remind myself that this placement wasn't really about my comfort and that I had to be flexible. I'm glad to see that you had fun by the end of the placement and were able to find someone to work with. 

alesnick's picture

I'm happy that one of the artists asked if you'd like to work with her, and that this gave you a way to drop anchor and have a place from which to engage.  I think it's not necessary to be helpful or make a contribution every day you are there -- just showing up with energy, ready to learn, engage, and respond and so build more of a framework for interaction and witness is good!  I hear you on the wish to have been more prepared beforehand with what to do when the schedule is not typical. On the other hand, I think experiences like this one, while not instructions, are instructive -- they are a base of preparation.