On Friday, I took my Studio in Art students on a field trip to three locations. It was a tight schedule that we stuck to like organized folk and not the fickle dreamers people imagine we are.
The first stop was the Community Folk Art Gallery on Genesee St. in Syracuse, NY, where we toured the facility – we saw student art studios where high school portfolios are prepared for Scholastic Art awards and where kids get the benefit of learning from some of the premiere artists living locally, like ceramist David McDonald. There was also a dance studio, a black-out performance room and in the gallery space, the magnificent photo collage/assemblage pieces by Najee Dorsey, who gave a talk the night before and was supposed to be at the gallery that day but we couldn’t stay.
I didn’t want to leave, to tell you the truth. I would have LOVED to have met him. The narratives within these works told stories of pain and triumph, and were saturated with incredible pink hues that left you, really, in awe of his mastery of the media. I am always amazed by the passion a self-taught artist brings to the table. It is a fearlessness mixed with passion.
We learned that the story of the Lone Ranger was based on an African slave who escaped imprisonment, befriended American Indians and later become a Sheriff. And that another woman, who is still alive today, paralleled Rosa Parks’ infamy with another back-to-front-of-the-bus challenge as a fifteen-year-old girl, to help change the injustices of the laws in the South.
Next we moved to the James Rosenquist show and the private holdings of the Syracuse University Art Gallery at Shafffer Hall on SU campus, a space that not enough people in this city even realize is there. I mean, no one else was even visiting aside from our group and they, apparently, have a bigger art collection (majority of it: prints) than the Everson Museum of Art has.
I learned that Rosenquist is a frail eighty-one, and that is why he did not attend the opening reception last month. We discovered more about his journey, which made me love him all the more. When you see the work in this manner, you really recognize its value and contribution to Pop Art and to the art world in general.
Assistant director Andrew Saluti’s knowledge took the cake. Again, a sense of passion for his job and for the art in his charge. It was such a profound experience for me. Sharing it with my students was something I really wanted to make happen and I did that – but you know how kids are. When I asked them their favorite part of the trip, they all said McDonald’s, which was our lunch break destination (in Cazenovia, NY) before we settled at the top of the Stone Quarry Art Park hill.
Yes, we ran around the park in the cold rain – of course, it rained during the outside portion of our day, while remaining completely sunny in Chittenango, NY. That is the law of dumb luck. But I knew that they were having a blast experiencing the sculptures along the way, one in particular looking like a house from Smurf village with a tiny igloo style entrance they took turns climbing into, as though they were entering a clown car, because I don’t understand how on Earth they all fit in there – it was Tardis-like in that way. (And yes – it’s always important to throw in an obscure Dr. Who reference now and again.)
And yes, I know they got a lot out of that packed with art-filled day. Some more than others. Field trips are the stuff of legend. They really bond you in ways that are pretty profound and this fifteen student community of artists are some of the best kids I have ever worked with.
We got back in time for dismissal, so it was probably the best field trip ever in terms of both information and time management, as well as fun. Thank you so much to everyone who helped me make this happen. It was just so amazing to show up at a venue and have them ready and waiting for us – and so excited to see us! If you are an art teacher in the area, you should definitely plan a day like this if you can. The galleries were so accommodating, each with their own sensational contribution to the landscape of the arts in the Syracuse area!