I’ve maybe said yes to a few too many invitations this spring, but in each case, I’ve done so because of the opportunity of spending quality time with friends and artists.
A grad school friend and I had agreed to co-chair a roundtable discussion on Experimental Writing and Arts-based Memoirs at the Transcultural Exchange conference in February in Quebec. Although he had to back out at the last minute because of a family emergency, I still attended and presented in the hopes of good discussions, time with friends, learning with and from artists, and engaging with possible new opportunities in artist residencies. And, what a lovely chance to experience the Francophone culture and a fortified old city, all amidst piles of snow.
I said yes to an invitation from the National Art Education Foundation to present about my Activism, Art, and Design class on a featured grantee panel at the National Art Education Association conference in March in Seattle. Because NAEF had supported my curriculum development with a grant that contributed significantly to the success of the class through a series of visiting artist-activists, I felt obliged to attend and to help publicize their grant program. (Good thing, too, because I read that they didn’t award some of their grants in this most recent cycle, due to lack of applications! That’s leaving money on the table and art educators should be applying.) A major draw for attending, though, was the chance to spend time with a college friend – sharing memories, discussing art and literature, cooking and eating together, etc.
And just this month I said yes to attending an accreditation and assessment conference in Chicago on behalf of my school – partly because I felt an obligation, given that we have an accreditation visit next year, and partly because it allowed me to spend time with artist friends in Chicago. Christa Donner, one of my regular correspondents, and I were invited to give a presentation and performative reading of our letters at Compound Yellow, an artist space in Oak Park. It was a lovely time of exchange and discussion, and such a different experience reading the words aloud, to each other, in front of an audience, than reading the words on a page in the privacy of home. The whole experience confirms that the thesis-in-letters I’m currently writing will exist both in writing and as a performative reading – details of that currently in progress.
Many thanks to Mary Sherman at Transcultural Exchange, Kathi Levin at NAEF, and Laura Shaeffer at Compound Yellow for the invitations that yielded such rich conversations and time together!