On June 10th, 2021, the College’s Board of Trustees voted to grant me emerita status. I took the opportunity to advocate for more support of the arts in the Evergreen curriculum.
Good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to say a few words.
Evergreen is a vibrant, creative community, and it’s been a privilege to teach and learn here with students and faculty and staff colleagues. Its interdisciplinary pedagogy and structures motivated me, as an animator, to apply for a position in 1997. Animation is a highly interdisciplinary art. It incorporates the visual, literary, performing and other media arts. It requires an understanding of space and time; in other words, it involves quantitative reasoning and an intuitive knowledge of physics. As a media art, it’s always about something, so it has inherent interdisciplinary potential. Evergreen is an ideal place to teach it. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to explore integrating the teaching of animation into other disciplines, and for the chance to see students thrive and grow through those programs.
One thing I’ve observed in teaching animation over the last couple of decades, is that students increasingly need to cultivate a basic, embodied, sensory intelligence of how to interact with the physical world. This includes knowing how to use physical tools, to measure, cut, mold, construct, weld, draw, and make things. It includes knowledge of materials, their weight, composition and how they behave. The resistance a particular kind of pencil meets on the surface of a particular kind of paper affects the line being drawn. It means understanding time and space the way a dancer or animator does; how the human body moves in response to gravity and inertia, and how we sense where we are in space and how to navigate through it. This embodied, intuitive knowledge is the basis of design in the arts and elsewhere. It is an intelligence cultivated through direct hands-on experiences with analog tools that many students, raised on digital media, computer games and screens, have not had the chance to learn.
This is an intelligence that students take joy in cultivating. The hands-on work takes them from practice into theory. Frequently it helps them work out questions of identity, orientation and past traumatic experiences.
Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the arts curriculum and facilities to diminish over the last decade or so, limiting what kind of experiences students can have. The numbers of faculty in the arts have been reduced from about 25 to around 10 in the past two decades.
We’re now trying to revive it through New Academic Directions, focusing on new initiatives that integrate art and design with digital tools and the computer sciences. These ideas have potential, but only if they go forward with parallel re-investment in the analog, plastic, arts. The analog forms provide the foundation and logic for the digital tools. This has been true from the beginning of the digital, in fiber arts and weaving. It’s true in the media arts. In the media area we’ve been pressured to abandon teaching 16mm film, a cornerstone of the media curriculum. But working with actual photochemical film has been transformative for our students. My message to you today, is to reinvest in the capacity to continue teaching the analog arts skills in addition to expanding the digital.