Saturday, May 16, 2020

Another Day

Took a short trip up to the Studio today for two reasons.  One was to check on something. Whoever had invaded our space opened and went through everything, I guess in an effort to find something worth stealing.  Luckily the burglars don't value all the same things we artists do.  For instance, Molly noted that they didn't take her supply of paper, and I had noticed that my fresh piece of wood was left there.  All the manual tools that they pulled out were just left behind, piled up wherever.  Wrenches, hammers, my mat cutting tool- all very useful to me and would cost a bit to have to replace, but I won't have to, because our criminals didn't want them.  My cd player and discs were untouched, very useful for me, but not generally valued by anyone.

Thinking about it last night, I realized there was one thing I hadn't noticed, but wondered about it.  Got there today and sure enough it was missing.  In my formerly locked cabinet I used to keep a roll of paper towels.  Printmaking can be a messy business.  Got up there today and found that my paper towels were gone- probably the most valuable thing in the cabinet.  Not it terms of cost, but it terms of availability.  Part of the reason they started locking the outer doors of the building was to protect the dwindling supply of paper products. I used to keep a roll of toilet paper in there as well (for nose blowing), but I had taken it home a few weeks ago as an emergency roll, when I put out my last roll from my home supply.   Luckily, the stores finally started stocking the stuff a few weeks ago, and I now have an adequate supply, so I never used it.  And because it was home, it wasn't stolen. Nichole had said she planned to be there today, but no sign of her while I was there, so I sent her an email later giving her an update on my visit, and thanking her for getting our windows closed.  (my second reason to visit) Today all the windows were fully closed.  Maybe word will get around the underworld that our space is a waste of time to break into.

One thing I remembered to ask yesterday was to Molly, about the rent check for May I had left her.  She verified that she had picked it up already, so not only did she get the money she was owed, our burglars didn't get it. So that's something.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Not My Best Day

It's grading season right now, the least fun part of the teaching process.  It's nothing I can't do, but it's certainly not fun.  In a normal semester, I try to spread out assignments and projects throughout the semester, makes it easier for the students, who have all the work from my class and probably a lot of other stuff to do, and it especially piles up at the end of the semester. We have some stuff due at the end, and it's the last day to turn in things, so there will be some extra, but most of the points come from things due from week 1 to week 13, and there are late penalties to encourage them to get things done on time.

This is not a normal semester,  and we've been given orders to forget all deadlines short of the end of the semester.  I have let the students know this, even as I have encouraged them to get things done and in early, if for no other reason than to not have to deal with them in the last week, when they likely have things due for other classes, or exams to study for.  Some do, but most don't, resulting in an overwhelming number of emails coming in on our last day of class, most with attached files of art or papers to be graded.  I'm gradually working my way through that pile, filling in numbers on my scoresheets, and updating students on anything that got an individual grade. Actual semester grades aren't due until next week, so I think I'll make it.

Back in March, about the time the distance learning thing started, a new administrator was hired to help deal with the branch of the college that has a lot of the humanities, including art.  Have exchanged a few emails with her, but haven't met her yet as we've all been banned from campus since then.  Meanwhile, the school has mentioned all kinds of cutbacks will be coming, due to the covid situation.  Some shoes dropped today, with this administrator sending out a goodbye email early today- her position has been ended. Guess I won't be meeting her.  Continued with my grading process, including more e-mails to students, updates on their situations.

That got interrupted this afternoon by a phone call from Molly,  who I don't think I've actually spoken to since before Christmas.  I imagined she had to deal with having her kids at home, and the difficulty of finding art and teaching opportunities right now. The call was about a new problem- between yesterday and this morning, someone had broken into our Studio and ransacked the place.  Police were there, and if possible I should come in and answer questions, and learn what was going on. Well, I could delay my grading process a little, so I shut down the computer and got up there.

The space is always a mess anyway, but even worse now.  Whoever did this broke in through one of the windows, which are at ground level.  Didn't smash the window, just pried it open, mangling the track it slides in.  Once in the room, they pulled apart everything, I guess looking for good stuff to steal.  Being that we're just a couple of poor artists, there wasn't much there.

There was a big pile of stuff on the floor next to my work table, which I recognized as the contents of one of the tote bags I keep on my wooden studio chair.  My guess was that they took the bag to hold stuff they were stealing.  I haven't done the full inventory yet, but that appears to be the only thing of mine that was stolen.  My cutting tools are at home, my printings tools and inks are in my car, so not much to steal.

They must have been intrigued by my locked printing table, and pried open the doors to the inside, only to find nothing of value to them- just printing and hand tools.  Drawers and boxes were emptied onto tabletops, but nothing missing, including all the shirts that Molly was working on.

Nichole was there today, and said we'd be compensated for anything missing. If I find anything I'll let her know. No alarms went off, and it will take some time to check all the cameras. None are in the individual studios, but at one point they went down the hall and found a leaf blower to steal. The biggest problem for today was dealing with the open windows.  They used the one on the end, the only one we ever even try to open.  Usually we don't- they are hard to open, hard to close, and hard to lock and unlock.  Ground level from outside, but high up when you are inside. With a lot of effort, and Nichole outside and me and Bobby inside we managed to close up the wide open one.  Don't know if is locked, but it may not open again.  As a precaution, Bobby made a wooden brace that will keep it from being opened. One of our middle windows was just open a few inches, but no one was able to open it more or close it.  No doubt that Herb got the worst, cheapest windows available when these were put in- it was his way.   Well now the people who run the building know it, having had the experience of trying to use them. I cleared the floor of any of my stuff that was on it, and went home for the day.

Got back on my school email and saw another shoe had dropped.  As threatened, the school had cut a bunch of programs, though promising that any students currently enrolled would be allowed to complete their majors.  The surprise was that art wasn't one of them.  Not yet anyway, but the way they have dismantled the school of art in recent years (now not even a department, but a program), they may yet do so.  But for today we still have some classes.  So not my best day, but not my worst either.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Big Premier

I had a few people come up to me, one at a supermarket, and tell me how they had seen me (or photos of me) at a big film premier in Belmar, including having my footprints immortalized as cement prints, as in the Hollywood tradition.  I was curious as to how this information was being seen.  Then I woke up and realized that it hadn't happened, but was just a dream. Actually some of it happened- I made a digital video film and it premiered in Belmar, but that was back in 2010, and no imprints were made in wet cement. We learned how to mix and cast cement there in Belmar for a big project done a few years earlier, mix and match sea creatures for a beach installation, but that had nothing to do with any films. I think this was brought on by something I had seen recently on television- the cable system has a lot of stations that specialize in showing old reruns, and thanks to he current pandemic, we are all spending a lot of time indoors watching cable tv. In the episode, which dated from about the time I was born, had a local movie theater saved from closing when a planned movie premier for an old silent film finally happened, decades after the movie was released everywhere, complete with wet cement ceremonies and some of the original (now quite old) actors.

I have made a few digital films, and at times have thought about posting them online, but never got around to it.  Recently I have been in touch with a former student who had a lot of videos online- she may know something about the process, but that's not why we've been communicating.  Probably I'd talk to my usual computer consultant first, but obviously this has never been a priority for me.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


Got a call from my mother last night where she expressed some concern.  The concern wasn't about anyone's health, but that I hadn't done much blogging lately. That's true, but with a reason- haven't had time to work on much art of late.  That's because of teaching. Yesterday was my last scheduled class meeting of the semester, and the deadline for receiving any work for the semester.  The college switched us to an online distance learning system back in March, which turned out to be more tiring than actually getting up before the sun, commuting to North Jersey in rush hour traffic, and teaching in a classroom for 6 hours. But it's a job and they are paying me, so I do what is needed.  There or at home, the last day is always going to be hectic. Since we can't be in the same place, everything arrives by email. I hear from students that way every day, but on this last deadline day, it was out of control. Started at 9:00 am, and I was still answering emails after 11:00 pm.  Some were just questions, but most came with attached images, or papers, or other things that needed attention.

Didn't get an accurate count, but it seemed like at least 75 or 80 of them. At one point in the afternoon I had to stop, because things weren't working.  I think it was overwhelmed.  I don't know if it was the email program or my computer, or both, but things weren't loading or opening, so I just shut it down for a few hours. When I came back later, everything was back to normal. I haven't actually seen any of my students in person since this all went down in March, but I've been posting things for them to see a few times per week, sending out mass email weekly with updates, and answering questions and grading artwork for any of them that contacted me.  Some I had never heard from, and had to include their names on the list requested by our dean.  Had nothing to do with their grades, for which I am sticking to what was listed on the syllabus.

But on the last day, of course all would show up. Maybe they were keeping up all along, or maybe they just made it up at the last minute, but a lot of work came in yesterday. Graded artwork was taken care of on the spot (as soon as I could get to it), papers will be done over a period of a few days- they take a little longer. But if I received it, it's on time.

Unfortunately, it's not over yet. Now I've got to figure out all the grades.  It's not an arbitrary system where I just look at a student's name and make up something, but there is a specified formula, established numbers, etc.  It's the only way to be fair.  Plus if they complain later, I can show them the numbers and that usually ends the argument.

For each student there are 6 different categories, worth different percentages, and that can be doubled,  as I figure things out both on a 100 point scale and a college 4.0 scale.  Ideally, both should end up in the same place, but if not, I give them which ever one is higher.  This time around I don't have to worry about late or absence penalties, which were were told to ignore this semester. That will save a few minutes.

And when that's done, I get to do the assessments.  This has nothing to do with grades, but it's still required. All students are evaluated in about 10 different categories, or at least that's what it was.  New forms this year but I haven't had time to look at them yet. In the past this was all about writing skills, which might make more sense if I was a writing teacher, but I was hired to teach art. Seems to be the university's solution to the problem that most of the students are functionally illiterate, and this may be easier than hiring people to teach them how to read and write. 

So classes are done, but I'll be busy for the next few weeks.  After that, maybe I get to be an artist again.  If anything happens, you'll get to see it here.