I have been back in Clarksville, Tennessee this week, where I attended college and received my BFA. (For those of you I didn’t get in touch with, please don’t hold it against me; I had a small window of time to get a piece of art started and finished and to meet my best friend’s new baby!)
Austin Peay is a small liberal arts school, the smallest state school in TN, actually. And Clarksville is a split personality college/military town with a river and farms and not too much happening in my day. My freshman year, a tornado had ripped through campus the year before, so its 70s concrete landscape now added orange fencing and yellow construction machines to its aesthetic appeal. I remember turning to my roommate one day and saying, “I don’t know why anyone goes here. It’s pretty much the ugliest.”
But I knew why I went there. I went to a college art day my senior year of high school where they let us take mock college classes and meet actual professors from the department. I knew after a few hours with those amazing teachers that I wanted to entrust them with my college art education. I wanted to know what they knew. So I did… and now I’m back here visiting 11 years after graduation and feeling incredibly nostalgic. I’ve been back many times since leaving, but this time is different. This time, it’s the last time I’ll see the Trahern Building (our art building) as I knew it. By my next visit, it will be torn down and they’ll have a new state-of-the-art place to be molding the young artistic minds of the future. I’m happy for those teachers and they deserve it, but the very sentimental part of me (which, let’s be honest is about 95%) is getting pretty melancholy over the whole thing.
I was commissioned by a church in Pennsylvania to make a piece involving word art, so I came back this week to use the old letterpress one more time. I thought it would be fun to return to my roots as I continue moving forward in my life and art. I was right :) Getting my hands dirty with ink and sawdust and small woodblock letters this week felt just as good to me as taking a nice hot bubble bath after skiing. It was. So. Great. So meaningful and invigorating. And after putting all my type and spacers away this morning, I spent time going around the building photographing some of my favorite spots. I just want to remember. As I walked around, I kept thinking about how there’s nothing inherently special about those rooms or hallways. They’re clearly just very 70’s, very utilitarian, very full of ceiling tiles and asbestos and such. But what happened in those hallways and rooms has shaped me forever. The thoughts I thought there. The artwork I dreamed up there. The conversations I had. I met one of my best friends in the world in that drawing room, and we planned our post-graduation Europe trip in that computer lab… where we also discussed dating and boys and which art boys we would want to kiss the most.
I guess things don’t have to be inherently special or beautiful or perfect to allow perfectly special and beautiful things to transpire in them. That building and those people inside of it made me who I am, made me a better, more conscientious artist and human being. And it’s possibly one of the ugliest buildings on campus :) At any rate, I went around and captured some of it for memory’s sake, and I wanted to share it here. Hope you enjoy.
While I slaved away on the press upstairs, a whole show of letterpress work was being hung in the downstairs gallery.