The desk at my office in the Philadelphia Orchestra Administrative Building
My name is Bruce Leto and I am currently a rising senior at Haverford College. I am a Music Major with a concentration in Piano Performance. I play classical piano and have performed in many competitions and performances in my time as a musician. However, I am hoping to go to graduate school for an Arts Management Administration (AMA) or Music Business Administration (MBA) after my time at Haverford. The Philadelphia Orchestra Music Business Summer Internship is exactly what I needed this summer to learn more about the Music Industry and to get more experience in Music Development – the field that I am specializing in.
Music Development is a fancy name for fundraising – Corporate and Individual. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association (POA) is a large and incredibly reputable non-profit. They operate on a $44 million budget each year and have a plethora of fans and concert-goers. The world’s BEST conductors and performers have and continued to perform with them each year including (past and present): Lang Lang, Arthur Rubinstein, Rudolf Serkin, Maurizio Pollini, David Kim, Yefim Bronfman, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and more! Both large corporate benefactors AND individual patrons contribute to the orchestra each year. Without these private and public donations, the orchestra would not be able to flourish and provide consummate musicianship to audiences around the world each year.
My job is to help in the Development Department at the POA, and my supervisor is Linda Miller (Senior Director of Development). So far, I have done research on corporate funding trends from 2009-2012 and patron/partner relationships with the POA. In addition, I have conducted research and taken notes on different orchestras’ Corporate Funding/Philanthropy policies in comparison to that of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I have also gathered the logos of different corporations in preparation for the new PlayBill that will be published for the POA. Currently I am working on making revisions to the Board of Directors Handbook for 2013-2014.
The Board of Directors are essentially the “overseers” of the POA. Many of them contribute large gifts to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and some are even musicians in the orchestra itself. The Board of Directors Handbook is an important contact list because it not only provides contact information about the Board of Directors and helps establish trans-departmental policies, but it also is a source of Stability for the Philadelphia Orchestra. The POA recently emerged from a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and is looking to revivify their legacy with the help of new CEO Allison Vulgamore and youthful conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Hopefully, my help with the Board of Directors Handbook can implicitly aid in the Orchestra’s recovery.
Getting into Philadelphia can be a hassle each day, but overall it is nice to be in the heart of the city and I am appreciative for this opportunity to intern with this prestigious organization!
Children playing the Du Bois inspired board game, depicting life in Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward in the late 1800s.
Hi all! My name is Alexandra Wolkoff, and I am a rising senior (yikes!) here at Haverford. With the support of the Philadelphia Partners Internships program sponsored by the John B. Hurford Humanities Center, I am spending this summer working with Dr. Amy Hillier on her project, “The Ward: Race and Class in Du Bois’ Seventh Ward.” ‘The Ward’ is a research, teaching, and public history project that seeks to continue Du Bois’ work of promoting the full humanity of all people. It works to promote social justice by engaging in conversations about the continuing effects of race and racial inequality today. She runs the project through the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.
The project is based on W.E.B. Du Bois’ study and book, The Philadelphia Negro. In 1896, The University of Pennsylvania commissioned Du Bois to come and study the city’s Seventh Ward, the heart of black Philadelphia at the time. (The Seventh Ward stretches from 7th Street to the Schuylkill River and from Spruce to South Streets). Du Bois went door to door interviewing residents and collecting information about all areas of their lives. His work is now regarded as the country’s first quantitative sociological study and revealed the diversity of the then overlooked yet thriving black community.
‘The Ward’ project began with Dr. Hillier using GIS technology to bring Du Bois’ work to life again. She first created an interactive map of the then Seventh Ward, using both Du Bois’ study and census data to show how residents were distributed spatially by race, class, and national origin. Now, the project has many components, including a city walking tour of the original ward, a board game, a community-painted mural, and a documentary.
My main work for the summer is to design a curriculum that we can use in the city’s public high schools to open discussion around race and inequality today. The project already has a 5 day curriculum, and the first 4 days deal with the historical aspects – teaching about Du Bois’ life and the importance of his work; skills for interpreting primary historical documents; understanding Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. I am focusing on the last day of this curriculum, in which we want to connect this historical knowledge with modern times and peoples’ present experiences in Philadelphia. During my first week, I went to the Urban Archives at Temple University to see the work of artist, Samuel Joyner. Joyner, a Philadelphia native, is one of the few African-American cartoonists in the country to achieve popular recognition and regularly contributed his work to the country’s newspapers, mainly The Philadelphia Tribune. His work stems from his own experiences with discrimination and deals with all manners of social injustice, including poverty, racial stereotyping, and voting rights. Now, I am working to incorporate his political cartoons in to my curriculum design.
‘The Ward’ also includes an oral history component, in which the project team interviews older members of the city’s historic black churches, such as Tindley Temple. Next week, I will be able to actually help conduct some of the new interviews, myself! (Joyner’s story is also part of this oral history component).
**Here is a link to the project’s website, please check it out! ** http://www.dubois-theward.org
I’m Elizabeth Peters, a linguistics major having just finished my sophomore year, and this summer I’m interning in the curatorial department at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. I first visited the museum this past January, when a friend and I were looking for things to do in Worcester on a cold, rainy day. My mother suggested the Higgins, and was surprised to realize she had never taken me. Worcester is a city still recovering from deindustrialization, and, alongside some really fantastic restaurants, the Higgins museum is its shining star. It is among the largest and best arms and armor collections in the United States, and the only one with is own museum.
John Woodman Higgins, the founder of the museum, was the owner of Worcester Pressteel. He had been fascinated by stories of knights and ancient battles since he was a child, and so when he and his wife would go traveling in Europe, he would buy suits of armor, swords, and other iron forged objects as mementos of the castles he visited. Towards the late 1920s, the collecting of arms and armor became a pursuit in and of itself. In 1929, he established the museum, and began constructing the impressive five-story steel-and-glass building that still houses the collection. The building was completed in 1931. The museum was originally conceived as an industrial museum, with one wing of historical arms and armor and the other of modern marvels of steel working. When the Pressteel factory finally closed, the museum decided to focus on the strongest parts of its collection, the arms and armor. All in all, the collection is comprised of nearly 4000 pieces, from ancient Greek and Roman pieces to modern Gothic Revival replicas.
Since starting at the Higgins two weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with this history in much greater depth. My very first day, I was handed a full two-inch binder of material covering the history of the museum, of armor, and of metalworking to read. This being a somewhat daunting task, I was told that if I needed a break I was to go explore the archives. Go explore the archives. No directives, no goals other than go find out what’s in there. Needless to say, this was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I have ever had (closely rivaled by this past Friday, but I’ll get to that). The archives is small, filling a room only about 10 feet square, but it is a treasure trove of old and fascinating books, newspapers, pictures, and ideas. One highlight: tucked into the back of a scrapbook of castles Mr. Higgins visited to procure armor, I found the magazine of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, from June 1941. The last page was a story about four St. Alban’s School boys who had graduated with particular honors. These included two boys who had received scholarships to go to – yes – Haverford College the next year! Another, more recent find were two books each marked in the finding aid, descriptively, “Massive Scrapbook.” It turned out that these had been purchased by Mr. Higgins to help his collecting, and had been compiled by someone who wrote notes in Italian, but didn’t shy from diagrams in French. I am certainly pleased to work in an environment where a request to borrow your supervisor’s Italian dictionary is met simply with “Enjoy! There’s lots of good words in there!”
Alongside the organization of the archives (Yes, I have to more than just explore) I am also working on organizing and digitizing the museum’s audio-visual archives. This has been unusually frustrating, as I have had computers work in the strangest and most unexplainable of ways. For instance, there was one day I would play one DVD and save the content, but when I tried to put in a different DVD, the computer would play the content from the previous one for the duration of the current. I tried the same thing the next day and nothing odd happened. Go figure. I have had the fun of getting to watch all the videocassettes as I transfer them onto DVD, including one entertaining Modern Marvels episode featuring my supervisor. Apparently, he is not very fond of seeing pictures of himself, and so would hurry by the television as I was watching, refusing to look.
As I mentioned a bit earlier, this past Friday is a strong contender for best day. Another project I will be working on over the summer is going through the museum’s library to decide which books are essential to the collection and which could easily be found elsewhere. The Higgins announced in April that it will be closing its doors at the end of this year, and transferring the core of its collections to the Worcester Art Museum. In preparation, much of the work being done at the museum currently, including my work in the library, involves finding that core. Now, to explain why I found this day so exciting, it is important to know that I love books, especially old history books, and that I love languages. It’s an inherited obsession: last summer on vacation in Maine, my family found a tiny antique book shop. An hour and a half later, my mother had to ask the owner to go find my dad and me, because the dog was getting anxious sitting with just her outside and my brother had gotten bored a while ago. The Higgins library, covering mostly topics of armor, weaponry, metalwork, and the people and battles surrounding them, is chock full of really old history books, as well as many in German, French, and other languages. In order to decide which books stayed and which went, I needed to know what was in them. I took liberally the instruction to look through each book “enough to make a call.” Initially, I felt a little bad about getting distracted, until my supervisor came in to check on me, started reading through a book, and then abruptly handed it to me saying, “I wish I had time to get distracted. You get distracted for me.” I gladly complied.
A view of one of the wings of the Great Hall, showing a jouster, two tournament fighters on foot, and one of the Hall’s Rose windows. (photo from www.higgins.org)
My work hasn’t been all books, however. I got to look on one day as the curatorial and conservation staff looked over a full suit of armor to weigh its merits as part of the “core” collection. (It passed, despite having mismatched gauntlets, because of a relatively rare type of pauldron, or shoulder piece.) I was also invited this Saturday to practice with some students of rapier and dagger fighting at the Higgins. I had hoped that my experience fencing would be helpful, as the modern sport is descended from historical rapier and smallsword techniques, but quickly discovered that it only gave me a starting idea of how to stand. First off, the rapier is much heavier than a fencing sword. This means both that it must be held differently, and that the small, quick movements I am used to relying on simply were not feasible. In addition, the dagger means that the non-dominant hand, which is only used for balance in modern fencing, now must be used for defensive blocks, and even for attacking. Still, I highly enjoyed spending the morning working at trying to work against my instincts.
In the next few weeks, I look forward to continuing work in the library (I’ve only finished one bookcase), and with the archives and audio-visual files. In addition, I will be working on the photographic documentation of the museum and its exhibits in their last incarnation as the Higgins Armory Museum.
My name is Alice Thatcher and I’m a super-senior working at Pig Iron Theatre Company in Kensington, Philadelphia. As is the life of an intern, I’ll be working on several different projects this summer, including grant writing, social media and research for Pig Iron’s fall line-up.
I’ve been hired particularly to focus on Pig Iron’s restaging of Pay Up, a Pig Iron original which premiered in 2005. Pay Up is based on the work of economist and behavioral psychologist Dr. Keith Chen, current Associate Professor at Yale School of Management. Dr. Chen’s 2006 study on the behavior of capuchin monkeys trained to conduct basic economic transactions found that capuchins exhibit many of the same behaviors we do, implying that these behaviors are innate rather than taught or learned. Pay Up takes this laboratory set-up and invites audience members to choose and pay for the scenes of their choosing, using dollar bills handed out in the beginning of the show. There isn’t enough time, money, or space for audience members to see every scene, which places the audience in a competitive market environment where there are real consequences to their actions. Pay Up is currently be reworked to take into account current events and the input of the new acting ensemble (the show was last staged in 2008), but it’s shaping up to be an exciting, creative summer here. Working with John Frisbee, Managing Director of Pig Iron and HC ’03, I’m in the midst of assembling a grant to bring Dr. Chen down for a weekend matinee of Pay Up and a discussion section afterwards. Dr. Chen is highly regarded in his field and this is a great opportunity for Pig Iron audiences to engage with the issues Pay Up raises and hear Dr. Chen’s perspective on the show, which features scenes about his imagined personal life, as well as his academic pursuits. I’m really enjoying working on Pay Up; I think its blend of science and the humanities is a great example of what makes Pig Iron such an innovative theatre company. Pay Up has been widely acclaimed in the past, which makes me think it might be a good FAB event this fall…
p.s. – for all you nerds out there, here’s a copy of Dr. Chen’s study.
This is a mural called Women of Progress by Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston. I pass it every day on my way to the Library Company (it is located on the side of a building at 1317 Locust Street). It’s my favorite site on my daily walking tours of Philly.
Returning my Tri-Pod ordered tomes on medieval medicine to Magill, clearing my computer of the multiple drafts of papers and paragraphs cluttering Word doc folders, and having taken my last trip to Haverford’s Special Collections, I felt a deep sense of relief. My spring semester’s research paper finals were finally done, and my bookshelves could once again house novels, not just dense historical studies.
There is a poetic quality to the fact that now finished with freshman year research
scholarship, I begin working on the other side- with those who make such research possible.
My name is Kat Poje (’16) and with the support of the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, I am interning at the Print Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP). Founded in the early eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin and other literary-minded Philadelphians and functioning as the first Library of Congress, the Company now serves as an archive and research center. Anyone can visit its exhibits and view its extensive collections of rare books, manuscripts, images and print ephemera at no cost. Each day, researchers both local and international visit LCP for access to this wealth of primary source materials.
My work involves making these primary source materials available, a facet of research I had not previously spent much time considering. LCP recently acquired about 2,000 stereographs, known as the Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection. (In case, like me, you were previously unaware that a stereo was something other than a music amplification system, I note that a stereograph is a photographic compilation. A photographer creates two images of the same object/scene, taking each one at a slightly different angle, and then mounts them next to one another on a mat. When viewed in a stereoscope, a binocular-like contraption, the photographs seem to meld together as one, three-dimensional image). The Holstein Collection contains nineteenth and early twentieth century images of Philadelphia: its cathedrals and hospitals, Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River, the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Through my work with the Collection, I am gaining new insight into the history of the City of Brotherly Love, my home-metropolis for the next three years.
On the day-to-day level, I am helping to make the Collection accessible to researchers. As it stands now, the Collection cannot be fully utilized, as it is still not completely alphabetized or named (given a call number), and still needs housing (a standardized mat, with ID information, and an acid-free sleeve to protect it from the hands that will handle it). Under the supervision of the Print Department, particularly Associate Curator Erika Piola (a Haverford alumna), I organize and house the stereographs. This occasionally involves a bit of sleuthing, especially when the image has no title, is missing a date or seems to have a twin image under another title. I also digitize some of them, so that they can be viewed online. To take a look at some of these stereographs, you can check out the Library Company’s Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/. More will be coming soon, so check back! You might just discover Philly, wandering through time and space from your desk, as did stereograph viewers more than one hundred years before.
My name is Ellen Reinhart, and I am a rising junior at Haverford College. Thanks to the Philadelphia Partners Internships program sponsored by the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities I am working in Philadelphia this summer as a communications intern for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC). The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is a small non-profit that is dedicated to promoting the humanities through grant funding and original programming. As a PHC communications intern I work closely with the development and communications department, programming staff, and our executive director.
So far I have helped re-design the newsletter format which was adopted for the June issue. I also co-authored an article for the website about four new members who were recently elected to PHC’s Board of Directors and learned how to send out the article as a press release. Additionally, I help with every-day tasks around the office, such as calling legislators, researching online, and sending many, many e-mails. I also have the opportunity to attend the various meetings that occur daily at PHC. Topics of discussion include PHC’s grant policies, legislative outreach, new communications initiatives, program development, and logistical planning for a conference at the end of June. PHC is definitely keeping me busy, but the various projects are so interesting and exciting that it doesn’t feel like work!
Earlier this week I had the privileged of attending the 2014 Conference Committee meeting hosted by PHC and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The Federation hosts an annual conference that draws hundreds of humanities advocates, including members from humanities councils all over the country. In 2014 the conference will be held right here in Philadelphia, which is very exciting for the city as well as for PHC.
This meeting is the first of many sessions that are dedicated to planning the conference. The committee includes members of PHC, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and other Humanities Councils across the country.
Members from PHC’s staff and Board of Directors with Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.
What surprised me the most is the degree to which the committee embraced change. After reviewing the evaluations of last year’s conference, many members of the committee had new, exciting ideas to propose. I assumed that a national conference would stay the same year after year. However, I was proven wrong when the committee approved many changes to the structure and schedule of the conference in response to the evaluations. For example, many evaluations noted that the closing reception was rather dull leading to low attendance. The committee felt it was important to have a sense of closure to the conference but recognized the need to make the event more exciting. The solution? The new closing reception will take place at a local brewery. No speakers or panels, just drinks and the opportunity to network with fellow humanities advocates and reflect on the past few days. This lets-give-it-a-try attitude is responsible for many exciting changes to the conference. Our Executive Director, Laurie Zierer, joked that the slogan of the conference should be “Come party in Philly!” All humor aside, it was an interesting conversation to consider how to structure a conference that provides important content while also being an enjoyable experience for those who attend.
While some of the conversation focused on logistics, a large portion of the meeting centered on “big picture” ideas. For example, deciding the theme of the conference proved to be a very interesting conversation. Members were asking questions such as “What information will be most valuable to the humanities community?” “What is the value of the humanities?” and “How can we inspire humanities advocates?”There I was, sitting among extremely intelligent, accomplished humanities advocates considering how to best communicate the value of the humanities. Needless to say, it was definitely a wonderful, inspiring experience!
Each year the Haverford College Department of Fine Arts presents the work of its graduating seniors in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. For the occasion, I interviewed Vanessa Hernandez, a senior Fine Arts and Spanish double major, who wrote a comic using zinc-etching plates. If you are curious to see what this looks like, check out all of the senior Fine Arts theses this weekend (Friday to Sunday) at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. If you want to attend the opening reception, stop by the Cantor Fitz this Friday May 10th from 5:50-7:30.
In progress storyboard
Filled out storyboard
Emma: So to start off, how did you first get into graphic novels?
Vanessa: My interest in graphic novels started when a friend recommended me Alan Moore’s Watchmen. But I truly fell in love with graphic novels after I began reading Neil Gaiman`s Sandman series; after being immersed in that world of fantasy and beautiful artwork, I realized at that point that I wanted to be an illustrator.
E: When did you first start thinking about making a graphic novel for your senior thesis? And what were some of the factors that finalized the decision? Can you tell me about the process?
V: I didn’t exactly plan on doing a graphic novel per se; the format just lent itself to what I wanted to do. When I was figuring out the size I wanted my pages to be, I had to figure that out according to the plate size I had available. The zinc etching plates are 22×30 so I decided I could either have 6 very small plates (meaning one image per page) or 3 very long pages. I decided to go for the longer-page format because of the interesting shape. Since I wanted to have a story composed solely of illustrations, I had to decide how I could format multiple images on one page. That was when I knew that the graphic novels I was so in love with would help give me inspiration and ideas for formatting my illustrations on my page to better tell my story.
E: Can you tell me a little bit about what your graphic novel is about?
V: I do want to clarify that I don’t consider my story entirely a graphic novel; I am hesitant to call it that because my story doesn’t have any words nor is it nearly long enough to be a novel. (Although, there seems to be no other noun that can describe what my story is.) The story is about a tree-like creature that is born from the roots of a tree and comes out to discover the world above. She (I call her Nova, like “new” in Latin) walks along and encounters four other characters, each with which she interacts. First there’s a bird, which helps her build a nest for the berries she collects from a bush. Then she meets a small gnome whose home Nova steps on but they work together to fix it up again. Once Nova says goodbye to the gnome it starts to rain and a fox offers Nova to stay in his foxhole. She stays there until dawn and when she goes out to see, she meets a small girl and they watch the sun rise together. It’s a rather simple story and there’s no climax nor any big reveal at the end, but I still hope to attract the readers with the images and evoke the beauty of encounters with other living beings.
E: Why do you think this medium is particularly effective for your project?
V: Etching has always been my favorite of the printmaking techniques because it allows for the most detail. Also, I really like the fact that I can reproduce a page many times; that characteristic was especially useful for storytelling I believe because that gives me the opportunity to share my story with others.
E: Can you tell me about the physical construction?
V: With the help of Bruce Bumbarger, I was able to make a clamshell box; we measured and glued fabric to board and then put everything together. It is a much more complex process than it sounds and took maybe more than 10 hours to complete. I decided to make this box instead of a bound book because I thought it better displayed the etching prints; since each has intricate detail, looking at each print one by one allows you to look more closely and pay more attention to each image.
E: What were some of the difficulties you encountered?
V: Yes, many more than I had anticipated. First, coming up with a storyline was difficult (as simple as mine seems, it took a lot of planning). I made a storyboard so I could visualize the story more easily. This storyboard actually also helped me out figuring out how to frame each smaller individual image on each page. I had to make sure I wasn’t becoming too repetitive with the page design. Also, the actual etching process is one that takes a very long time. I was experimenting with new techniques for printing this semester, so that has been something I feel I haven’t quite mastered yet. Another thing that I have come to notice as I near the end of this process is that it was difficult to find a balance between the commercial and fine arts; by this I mean, I needed to make sure that I wasn’t making a story that could be read and then put aside, but I also had to make the actual images interesting so they could stand on their own as a piece of artwork. I’m not quite sure if I achieved that balance but I have definitely learned a lot from this project.
E: What limits and liberties do you find characteristic of making a graphic novel?
V: One limit I can think of is that towards the end I felt a bit constrained by the frames. I also, I started to want to do crazier creatures but wasn’t sure how to incorporate them into the story. I guess that will have to wait for my next project. Even though I did feel constrained by the neat format, I did enjoy experimenting with the different sort of feelings one can create from the way one frames an image. For example, on my tenth page, there is a raining scene, and instead of just including rain in each frame, I made an large encompassing frame on the edge of the page that establishes that it is raining.
E: How do you think your Spanish major contributed to your project?
V: Yes. I think just the Spanish language has contributed to my project in general. I’m actually fluent because I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household so I feel that both languages are a huge part of me. Other than the fact that I don’t feel that I am really a writer, I wanted to create a story that could be read by anyone, no matter what language they speak. This way, I can show it to my family and they can enjoy it as much as any English-speaking person might. Also, my Spanish major allowed me to research more in depth the artwork of an artist I really admire, Xul Solar, and it has inspired me to continue studying art that isn’t really included in the center of discourse in art history.
E: Do you think you’ll ever make a graphic novel again?
V: Maybe in the future, but I think for now I want to experiment with larger images that I have had brewing in my mind.
E: And finally, what do you think of Haverford’s collection on the 1st tier of Magill?
V: I actually never really explored it very much other than looking at some titles. I definitely regret not taking advantage of that resource.
To talk to other students about their artwork come to the opening reception May 10th from 5:30-7:30!
Over the past few weeks since returning from England, I have been working around the clock to finish my documentary. I went through many stages of rough cuts—the first was 14-minutes and I was finally able to cut it down to 10-minutes with the help of suggestions from my classmates, Professor Vicky Funari, Corey Chao, friends and family.
I finally finished my film this past Monday and then on Thursday—May 2—I screened my film, along with the other films made in the Advanced Documentary Video Production course. The running time for the film is 10-minutes and 23-seconds. Below is a link to the final version (for now) of Chipinga.
Watch the film here:
Here is a brief description of the film:
“Chipinga” is a documentary film, which details a filmmaker’s journey to wade through the multiple layers of her mother’s childhood memories and recollect memories she never had. This film illustrates what stories and images from a past life mean to three generations—a granddaughter, a mother and a grandmother—and how the past is constantly re-imagined in the present.
My mother was born the 1960s in Chipinga—a small town in southern Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe. She grew up on a dairy farm during wartime and knew how to shoot, take apart, clean and reassemble an automatic weapon by the age of nine. As a child I idealized her memories and chose to only see the beauty and excitement in these stories.
As I grew older, I heard the stories in new ways and learned about the complexity, tragedy and inequality that underlay each moment of life in Rhodesia. I had always thought of my family’s life on a farm in Rhodesia as beautiful, simple and ideal. But, my family’s past cannot be separated from the context in which they lived.
This film was started out of a desire to learn more about the grandfather I never knew and the place I never lived in, and ended up being about how these memories run through me but what they mean to me has changed and taken on new meaning overtime.
This has been an incredible experience and my next dream is to travel back to Zimbabwe to make a longer version of this film. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me through this process and would love to hear all kinds of feedback!
Almost exactly one year ago, Haverford College’s Exhibitions Program entered all 1,920 Haverford students, faculty, and staff into a single-elimination skee-ball tournament called And the Winner Is… After over a month of competitive games, Nick Kahn ’14 won the tournament and a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, in addition to a whole slew of other prizes ranging from a meeting with a chemistry professor to blow things up to a solo violin concert courtesy of another student. Studying abroad right now in Paris, France, Nick was kind enough to share a few anniversary words with me.
Emma: So first off, if I didn’t know what skee-ball was, how would you describe it to me?
Nick: I would describe skee-ball as a carnival game. There’s really not much to it; it’s a simple game. You roll a very dense wooden ball (or plastic, but I preferred the wood ones–in the tournament I always made sure mine were wood) up a ramp, aiming for the smallest of the scoring holes that you dare. The scores possible per roll range from 10 (or technically 0 of you miss the table) to 100; my strategy was to shoot for sustainable 50s and 40s. The 100s, for me, were only for use in emergency, if I really NEEDED 100 I would have gone for it, but that never happened.
E: Had you ever played skee-ball before?
N: Only at Chuckee Cheese. And I can’t remember being particularly good.
E. Can you talk a little bit about tournament/gallery space? Had you been to the gallery prior to Winner– what did you think about its transformation into a sort of arcade?
N: I had actually seen the previous exhibit, which I didn’t really understand very well. When the “And the Winner is…” exhibition moved in I wasn’t sure really either. I think I was kind of just excited that the Campus Center had 2 game rooms now. The stated goals of the tournament gallery were very abstract and fluid, but they made more and more sense as names and numbers filled the walls; as I kept on coming back, as people–very serious adult people in most cases–were getting more and more excited about what was truly a child’s game. The way the gallery brought to the eyes and the ears a blend of the aesthetics of our really special community in one concentrated space, and then supercharged it with a “high-stakes” competition: it truly was art.
E: Can you talk a little bit about how you advanced from round 11-1? How did you know to come back? How did you know who you were playing? What if your schedules didn’t match up in terms of free time?
N: I was lucky in that I work in the bookstore which is one floor below the Cantor-Fitzgerald Gallery; I would usually try to make match up times right before or right after work, and it also made it easy to get the odd practice in, although I wouldn’t really call it practice, it wasn’t that serious. I was never really aiming to win. I just liked to go play a couple rounds because it was there, and because it’s quite honestly a lot of fun.
E: The tournament seemed to last a long time — did you ever just want to check out? Or were you into the game the whole time?
N: The tournament did last a long time, but I never really got tired of it. It was drawn out over what, around three months so I only ever needed to think about it once a week at most, so it wasn’t overly intrusive. Up until the tournament’s aftermath, I was just another competitor, with average to pretty good scores, certainly not the best. If it had been the concentrated attention of the post-tournament all those three months then maybe it would have become a bit tiresome, but I enjoyed it the whole way through.
E: From my understanding the whole campus was involved– who was your most noteworthy competitor and why?
N: All my competitors were noteworthy; it’s remarkable to see how uniformly great Haverford students and staff are at sports. I guess if I have to pick one, I’d do so grudgingly and say it was the Assistant Vice President for College Communications, Chris Mills. I can’t remember if he said it so that others could hear or not, but when we were talking to the exhibit Co-Curator, John Muse, in front of the crowd that was gathered on the bleachers (still sounds weird to say! Bleachers at a skee-ball game…), Chris insisted that no matter the outcome of the match, that I was the one going to North Carolina, which while I thought was unbelievably cool of him, I didn’t want to take that trip to spend a day being Nick Kahn the almost-winner. If it came down to it, I was going to insist that he go. Luckily it didn’t.
E: Who did you wish you could have played?
N: This is an easy answer actually, Matt Wetherell. He was by far the most enthusiastic competitor I had seen. We had been exchanging messages about the tournament all through the process for example when and who we were playing, how they play, etc. We exchanged strategies, but mostly due to his initiation. We ended up being the last two soccer players in the bracket and when he was eliminated, he sent me a text message that expressed what was truly, heartfelt sadness. And then at the final when he was sitting in the front row, he cheered and jeered the loudest, and then after I rolled that last 40, I had barely turned around before he lifted me off the floor.
E: What did you do in Greensboro? Tell me about one of the things that you did?
N: I did a ton in Greensboro. No way I can say it all here, but one episode that sort of captures the spirit of the day was this: Lee Walton and Chad, one of his UNC art students drove me to a mall and parked right outside a massage salon (is that what they’re called?). One said “Ok Nick time for your massage!” Then the other said “Well actually we just have all this money for a massage, so we could also go on a mall shopping spree. But we were hoping you’d get a massage.” So I got my first professional massage in Greensboro, despite the fact that I badly needed new shoes.
One other quick thing that happened: they had me ambushed by a bagpipe concert when I thought we were just going to a nice game of Frisbee. I love the bagpipe.
E: Which 12 pledges did you choose? Did you submit one yourself?
N: There was never any time to take all of them, but the ones that I did take were awesome. Chemistry Professor Alex Norquist blew stuff up with me, Micah Walter gave me a 1-on-1 Celtic violin concert. In an ironic turning of the tables, my friend and roommate David Robinson was waiting on ME in the dining center, Sonia Giebel made me a home-cooked dinner, Professor Vicky Funari drew a wonderful portrait of me, and Phil Drexler made regular Facebook posts praising me for a couple weeks. The prize I offered was 4 hours of utter servitude.
E: And finally, have you played skee-ball since?
N: Yes, once. It was under very different circumstances, last summer in Las Vegas. I still won.
As part of the exhibition White Boys currently on view in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, the Creative Residencies Program and the Hurford Center are hosting a panel discussion with four artists from the show and curator Natasha L. Logan this Wednesday, 4/17 at 4:30 p.m. in Stokes 102. Moderating the panel will be Brendan Wattenberg, Director of Exhibitions at The Walther Collection Project Space in New York and Haverford Class of 2006 (While a student at Haverford, Brendan was also one of the first to get involved with the Hurford Center’s student programming).
In advance of the conversation, CFG Gallery Assistant Pia Chakraverti-Wuerthwein ’16 checked in with Brendan to get his thoughts on White Boys and his own time at Haverford.
How do you know White Boys Co-Curators Hank Willis Thomas and Natasha L. Logan?
When I was in graduate school for Africana Studies at New York University, I had a class with Deborah Willis, Hank’s mother, who is one of the most renowned historians of African American photography. Through Dr. Willis, I met Hank and I began to learn about his work, particularly after his exhibition “Pitch Blackness,” which was shown in 2009 at Jack Shainman Gallery. This winter, Hank, Natasha, and I participated in an amazing conference in Paris, co-organized by NYU and Harvard, called “Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West.” At one point during the conference, as we were rushing around between events, I ran into Natasha and she said: “Remind me – we have to talk about White Boys.” And at first I thought, “white boys”? Like, in general?
Were there any pieces from the show that particularly stood out to you?
I am so fascinated by Philip Metz’s “iwishiwas.” Although it’s a very minimal picture, “iwishiwas” gives off a kind of intense energy full of difficult associations. I’m thinking of Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, the history of skin-lightening creams marketed to African Americans, the phenomenon of “passing” as one race or another, and the privileged status of an “all-American” type of white masculinity that you see just about everywhere, from GQ to Matt Damon movies.
Philip Metz, iwishiwas, 2007
“iwishiwas” also references the clinically spare ID portraits by Thomas Ruff, as well as the self-portraiture of Cindy Sherman and Samuel Fosso, who masterfully displace their personalities through costume, makeup, and pose. Except Metz’s self-portrait has the added edge of obviously playing out some kind of personal drama about race identification. Maybe it’s supposed to be funny or satirical, but if so beyond the joke is a dissonant mood. I’m not surprised to see how “iwishiwas” has been used in the branding of White Boys, considering that the image sharply describes an illusion of whiteness.
What ideas are you most excited to explore on Wednesday?
Since the 1960s, the Menil Foundation and later the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard have been working to publish an encyclopedic set of books called The Image of the Black in Western Art. When I first looked at a volume from the series I was intrigued by the way one question – how have black people been represented in art? – could bring together all kinds of objects across time and medium. The question becomes a conceptual device, a way of looking guided by one pursuit. And it changes the way you see historic paintings, for example, as if something’s missing or someone is in the shadows. Hank and Natasha have also used one organizational principle – whiteness – in curating White Boys. Well, they’re not compiling 3,500 years worth of art, but the idea is similar. In our conversation, I look forward to discussing how this provocative idea amplifies, first of all, the way we look at white skin.
As soon as I started thinking about “white boys” I was thinking about whiteness not only as a racial category but also as a color palette. Suddenly, all the white boys in photographs by artists such as Ryan McGinley and Wolfgang Tillmans seemed defined by their race, the variations and similarities in their color, where before they were just having fun or looking sexy. As Maurice Berger has written, for some white people “whiteness is pure and value free. It is innate. It is everywhere. Yet ironically it is also invisible.” So, I’m eager to hear from the artists and the audience how White Boys might change the way we look at white people in contemporary art and the ways in which whiteness (like blackness) might be subjected to the attention – as Hank and Natasha have noted – of ethnographic curiosity.
How has the CFG space changed since you were a student here?
A few years ago I visited Haverford for a conference organized by Ruti Talmor on African photography, coinciding with the exhibition Possible Cities/Imaging Africa. To me, this was a major event for the college, not only in the organization of a superb and challenging exhibition, but also providing the space for scholarship around visual culture and the humanities in Africa. I wouldn’t have imagined that such a program was possible I when was a student. To be honest, I remember Haverford’s gallery as a somewhat quiet place, maybe a place for student and faculty exhibitions. I’m impressed by the transformation of the gallery as a venue for exploring issues within contemporary culture: disabilities, race, African photography. Even the pop-up exhibition organized around the time of alumni weekend in 2011 (when I visited for my fifth reunion) was so witty and inventive. Clearly the Arts and Humanities Center has created a new sense of artistic energy on campus.
When you were a student here you were very involved in performance arts. Why did you decide to transition to becoming more involved in exhibition work?
“Performance arts” sounds so lofty! I really just directed a few student plays. Although I guess I thought I’d give it a try – and after graduation I worked for two years in various sectors of the theater industry in New York. When I began applying for graduate school, I wanted to focus on African drama and cinema. (At Haverford I was an English major concentrating in Africana Studies and I spent the spring of my junior year at the University of Ghana.) I decided on NYU in part to work with Manthia Diawara, who has written widely on African cinema. But, in my first year, I took a class on photography with Deborah Willis called “The Black Body and the Lens.” By this point, I was working part-time on exhibitions at the Museum for African Art. Following Dr. Willis’s advice, I continued studying photography and visual arts. I later interned at a London photography agency, Autograph ABP, and since 2011 I’ve worked with The Walther Collection, a foundation devoted to presenting photography and video by African artists.
Join Brendan along with White Boys curator Natasha L. Logan and artists Lisa Fairstein, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Michael Ratulowski this Wednesday, 4/17 at 4:30 p.m. in Stokes Hall, Room 102, Haverford College.