That is a good summary for the second half of the #mmwYOtour! In the last post, I summarized the first week that took me from Cleveland to Amherst while speaking at high schools each day about photography and the Young Artist program at Maine Media Workshops. It was good to catch up for a little bit that weekend, but on Monday morning, I was back on the road!
My first stop was Williston Northampton High School, in Massachusetts. I didn’t know anyone at the school, but the photography teacher, Edward Hing, reached out to me about stopping by while on the trip. Turns out, Edward has been in quite a few workshops in Maine. This past summer, he was in Susan Bloom’s digital collage course. Back in 2008 during my first summer at Maine Media Workshops, I worked as a teaching assistant. Susan’s workshop was one of the courses I assisted. It’s a fun, connected world.
Alex Bilodeau, who co-teaches a course with me in Maine, dropped by to also say a few words to the first class I met with. It was awesome to get to bounce comments back and forth. The courses at Williston were a variety, ranging from filmmaking to photography to an anything goes art course. The classroom was sort of like a cave within a general student center. Outside the doors was a convenience store and lounge area. In many ways, the school felt like a small liberal arts college.
Once I concluded the talks and grabbed lunch with Edward, the drive to Falmouth, Massachusetts was only supposed to be a couple hours. That stretched into 6 or 7, because Rhode Island happened. My GPS was directing me around Rhode Island for the quickest route to southern Massachusetts, but while on the Interstate I saw a turnoff option for Providence. On a whim, I decided to take it. Until that day, my only experience in Rhode Island was a quick drive (ironically, another detour) a few years ago into the edge of the border so I could step out and check the state off the list. But with this new opportunity to venture in, I decided to go for it. My girlfriend went to the University of Rhode Island. Nearly everyone I hang out with in Burlington went to URI. Half are from Rhode Island. With so many connections, I felt like it was my duty to venture in.
But with a venture in, the possibilities for road trip meetups began to happen. I had originally just passed through the state when I had a chance to turn around and meet up with Ally Fell, who went to West Virginia Wesleyan when I taught there. I hadn’t seen her since graduation a couple years back, so we decided to meet up in Pawtucket at a rock climbing gym. It was great to reconnect and hear about the awesome things she’s been doing since graduation. Afterward, I was able to meet up with Sophie Schwartz down at Brown University where she attends. If you remember from the last writing, Sophie was responsible for creating the concept and original name for the Andy and Alex course. While at the campus, I also got to check out a super funky 3D “cave” project she’d been working on. Fantastic side adventures!
I arrived to a Falmouth hotel that night and went straight to bed. The next morning, I boarded a ferry for a short trip over to Martha’s Vineyard. This was one of the first schools confirmed for the trip. Courtney Howell, a student from my Advanced Young Digital Photographer’s course (AdYoDigi) last summer, put me in touch with Chris Baer, her photography teacher, almost instantly after I started inquiring about which schools I should stop at. Chris was super enthusiastic about the visit, perhaps partly due to the fact that he has a history going back to when the organization was called Maine Photographic Workshops. It was there, 13 years ago in a workshop, he met the woman who would go on to be his wife.
My visit to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School was a nice whirlwind. Chris picked me up from the ferry dock and we were off to the school. As soon as I arrived, I met briefly with an animation course and then spoke to a filmmaking course. Once it concluded, I jumped into the classroom next door to meet with the photography students. The school had slightly longer class periods, so after the talk I was also able to go through the portraposite demo with the students. While going from one station to the next, one of the coolest things was how everyone also had a musical keyboard. The room doubles as a composing classroom. This was quite a first for me. The last class I met with was the advanced photography course. I was able to check out everyone’s portfolios and offer some 3rd party comments about where their projects were. Even got to connect back up with Courtney during this class and have a discussion about a redhead project she is starting up. After meeting with everyone, it was time to scuttle back to make the ferry to Falmouth.
My time with classes ended at about 2 PM. After the ferry ride and bus trip back to my car, it was nearly 4 PM. My next stop was Bar Harbor, Maine. I’ll be honest here. Getting a 4 PM start on an 8 hour drive before an 8 AM class the next morning is probably not my shining moment in scheduling abilities. All fine, though. The only iffy part about all of it was that while driving around the Bangor area of Maine, I kept seeing warning signs for moose. I was driving at 10 or 11 PM with a minimum of fellow drivers. I was surrounded by dense forest on both sides of me. Keeping my alerts extra high for the possibility of a moose crossing wasn’t the most enjoyable experience.
I did survive the drive though, and arrived to Diane Bonsey’s house around midnight. She offered a spare bedroom to crash in for the night. Her daughter, Alexa, was a student of mine in 2012 and was also instrumental in connecting me to Charlie Johnson at Mount Desert Island High School. When Charlie first heard of the possibility of coming in to speak with students, the email subject was an enthusiastic “yes, yes, yes!”
His enthusiasm didn’t waver once we met in person. Even just looking at the classroom, it was obvious there was a huge energy at the school. Nearly every inch of wall space was covered in student work, posters, projects, or anything else that was suitable for display. I met with three classes to speak. A week or so prior, everyone had went into the studio to make greenscreen portraits so we actually ended up doing a portraposite demo with everyone using their own faces. During my visit, I was also able to drop into the music room and ended up doing some dual drumming with another student, while yet another student provided the groove on bass. That was a wonderfully unique experience!
At the conclusion of class, I said my goodbyes to everyone I had met and then started my drive down to Rockport, Maine, which is also where the Maine Media Workshops is located. Ashley Craig, MMW’s Photography Program Director, let me crash at her place for a few days since my next few visits would be relatively close to the region. I visited the campus and said hi to everyone. The drop-in was completely unannounced so there were a lot of quick double takes and catching up with folks about how the trip was going thus far. There is a lot of construction going on at the campus, so I’m stoked to see how it turns out once I go back in July for classes. It was also a unique experience to arrive to The Workshops and not instantly start preparing for the next month’s worth of class prepping. In fact, I had never driven to Maine before without starting a workshop within a day or two. Granted, I was doing school visits, so education brought me back to Maine, but it was still a new experience.
On Thursday, I drove up to Mt. Blue High School, in Farmington, Maine, to give a talk in their auditorium. Noah LePage, who was in the inaugural Making (___), with Andy and Alex course, was the student who connected me to his old school. At this point, he’s studying at NYU and doing a fantastic job! He connected me to Dan Ryder, who teaches a variety of art courses in the school, and really pushes to expand beyond the typical approaches one would expect.
For my visit, it was one big talk. I interacted with students beforehand and received a tour of their facilities, which reminded me of a way nicer television studio than what I worked at years ago. The talk consisted of a variety of content, with a particularly big focus on condensed versions of slideshows and teasers from the Andy and Alex student work. At one point during the personal work presentation, while speaking about my kitchen scene photo made in Iowa, one student commented on how the women in the photo should be wearing oven mittens rather than surgical gloves. She was completely right. And now, this fact will creep into my mind every time I see or discuss this photo.
After the talk, I drove back to Rockport and ordered a Camden House of Pizza. For those who know me, this is simply the best pizza in the world and I eat it religiously while in town. The owner actually greeted me and we chatted for awhile about how long I was in town, and when the “usuals” would be back. Meaning the folks I typically can be found dropping in to have pizza with (Alex and Kelsey, typically). I would go on to have a pizza there every day while in town during this trip.
On Friday, I was able to stay fairly local by visiting with students at the Camden Hills Regional High School, just a few miles away from The Workshops’ campus. Quite a handful of students from there have been students of mine. Steven Turner took an adult class with me years ago, right after he graduated. He’s now living in New York City and rocking it in the photo world. Ben Resek was in my AdYoDigi course last year (with Courtney, actually), and I was able to meet up with him briefly to chat about things. I also found out he won a scholarship to attend a workshop this summer, so that is awesome!
At Camden Hills, I met up with Carolyn Brown. This visit was arranged by me directly emailing her and she was excited to create an even better connection between the two schools. While visiting, I also found out that she will be the 2016 Art Teacher of the Year for the state of Maine. I could see why. She has such a personal commitment to the plight of the students. It was great to see that connection.
I met with three classes to give talks. We decided, since these classes were a bit longer, I could also set up a couple lights and make portraits in the back of the classroom. We didn’t do any post work demos, it was quite literally a photobooth where students could just be as silly as they could imagine. I even passed my personal camera off to students and let them take full charge of photographing each other.
Once school ended, I had a few days to either relax or get busy on something in Rockport/Camden. I decided to do both. I mentioned how Kelsey Floyd was a regular with me at Camden House of Pizza. We were finally able to meet up and hang out for most of the weekend. As of that week, we are now part of MMW’s Exquisite Corpse fundraiser exhibition, so we needed to come up with a project. We spent part of the time throwing ideas out on what we could collaborate on. By doing so, this meant me writing out lots of words and bad sketches on paper, and she put packing tape across her face. Not kidding, also not making light of our respective creative processes. After a number of hours, I think we eventually decided on a project that would unite both of our strategies to creating work! Somewhere in there, we even took a trip to the Goodwill and managed to spend half an hour playing with one of those beanbag tic-tac-toe games. I eventually bought the game, by the way. I plan to set it up in the back of my classrooms this summer.
By Sunday, it was time to hit the road again. I drove from Maine over to Syracuse, New York. About a 7 or 8 hour drive. This was the second time I saw the turnoff sign for Syracuse on this trip. The first time was on my first day of driving from Vermont to Cleveland.
On Monday, I met with students at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. There is a pretty big connection for me with this school. Three former students in the past two years attend/attended there. Emily Jureller and Erin Burnett were in my AdYoDigi course in 2013. Emily has now exploded as a photographer at Pratt. Erin is finishing up her senior year. I also was able to reconnect with Micah Pasinski who was in my Studio Photography course last summer. He’s also finishing up his senior year. Both Erin and Micah were able to attend multiple talks, so it was a reunion that extended across the whole day.
Brittney Culican teaches photography there. Erin connected us for the visit. The space Brittney uses is almost like a massive all-in-one photography space, with a computer lab that contains a finishing station in one side of the room, with a connected darkroom in another area of the room. Outside in the lab is a massive square light table. I had honestly never seen something like it before.
We decided to broadcast one of the talks through Periscope for anyone in the world who wanted to check out what all was going on, but wasn’t able to be part of the tour this time. That was a fun experience that I ran through my Twitter page and hope to do again sometime soon! Maybe for a photo set next time or something similar.
As my talk to the third class concluded, so did the tour. I thanked the students there for hanging out, but really I was also thanking everyone from all ten schools who let me visit their classrooms, chat about photography and workshops, and just have a ton of fun! All total, it was somewhere around 3,200 miles covered, a lot of emails and scheduling logistics, and truly some great personalities involved at every step along the way. I was super excited to be part of this adventure, and hope to see lots of new familiar faces either this summer or at some point, somewhere in the future!