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Field Notes - 4/6/2016

smalina's picture

This past Wednesday we returned to the center to continue work on our boxes. When the artists came back from their snack break, we split off into our pairs, and made a kind of assembly line to get things done--although Carl* and I had to work on our project alone, since we were a little bit behind after I missed a week. We used one of the tools to carve our legs into fun, curvy shapes, and I rode the stationary bike for a *long* time. While we did that, another pair worked on cutting the pegs for all of the boxes, so that we could attach the legs with wood glue. When we finished our leg cutting, we took a brief musical interlude (I made some beats on the table with the wooden legs and Carl and I danced). We then moved to the painting station and added some colors to the legs--Carl and I silently agreed on a much more muted pallette than the other pairs, with greys, golds, and dark reds. We continued to paint until we ran out of time, and the artists had to leave for lunch.

After our last class discussion, I've been watching very carefully in terms of how the teaching artists may or may not enforce expectations of productivity at the center. Although the woodshop teaching artist encouraged us to work "assembly line style," which does seem to elicit feelings of the factory idea we were talking about, the way it was implemented did feel very personal and open. Sharon* is always incredibly intent upon understanding what the artists are trying to communicate, regardless of whether or not it seems "relevant" to the task at hand. She is also very creative about incorporating people's interests into the art itself--if someone is "off topic" by talking about the circus or the Special Olympics, Sharon encourages the artist to draw circus people or athletes in the Special Olympics. Additionally, it seems like one of the benefits of working in pairs is that if an artist feels the need to leave the room for a while, or just wants to be working on something else, their Haverford/Bryn Mawr partner can take the reins on the project for a while (and vice versa when the HC/BMC partner is out for the week). I've been thinking about why it is that we value getting things done in this space, and I don't think productivity is an inherently bad or ultimately exploitative thing--in fact, although we are on a tight deadline for getting things ready for the Haverford gallery opening, there is great importance to showing our completed projects to the greater community. In this case, we're not looking for money or for productivity for productivity's sake--rather, we're seeking to show people who have never heard of the center the humanity that we experience every time we go to work there. It seems like there is a lot of responsibility, then, on the teaching artists' parts, to come up with projects that can fit comfortably into the time we have allotted. Though this project was pretty involved, Carl and I still have time to stop and dance, and the work itself is not exhausting.

Next week, we'll be putting our finishing touches on the boxes, attaching all of the parts with pegs and woodglue, and completing the painting part of the process. I'm looking forward to finding more of these musical interludes--gaps where we can just have fun and connect through our love of making music and dancing. 


Florian's picture

Your experience with Sharon's enthusiasm for letting the artists talk about "off topic" things is interesting in light of what the handbook said about "constructive conversations". It seems that Sharon's tactic for dealing with this is to bring the conversation into the construction, rather than try to direct the conversation in a more superficially "constructive" direction. I like this way of looking at things.

glombaguzm's picture

I love reading about the fun you had at the center this day. Playing music, dancing around, acting silly, etc. I think at times, especially while in our placements, we forget that it's okay to have fun. Fun is not the opposite of serious. You can be working hard on something and still have some fun. I really appreciated reading this. It's a good reminder for me that not everything has to be so serious in order to have merit. Fun is important too.