James Weissinger’s Message to the Haverford Community on How to Best Make Use of VCAM and the Hurford Center for Arts and Humanities and More!

What is your message for the Haverford community about the VCAM and Hurford Center and how you’d like people to use the facilities?

It’s important to have multiple ways or modes of getting involved with something. Just being a student at Haverford is already a ton of work. It can sometimes be difficult to negotiate that work with all the other interesting things that are going on on campus. So if you feel like you don’t have a lot of time, it doesn’t mean that you have to organise a full-blown student seminar in your sophomore year. You might start with a reading group, or an art trip to Philly, or a small Students Art Fund project and then maybe build up to a larger research stipend or fellowship. There are different ways and levels of getting involved with the Hurford Center and with VCAM, and you don’t need to do everything at once!

I’m hoping that VCAM will be a place of experimentation where it’s okay to fail. It’s important to have a space where students can experiment with these new modes of artistic creation and learning. Yes, we have the facilities to show the most polished final product that a student might create, but  I also really want this to be a space where we have flexible studios, where you can experiment. It’s the process that’s important.

The Hurford Center’s Year In Review is also the not-so-secret cheat sheet that can help you understand the workings of the Hurford Center as you imagine your own projects and how the Center can support students and faculty through various grants and programs.

 

Tell us a little about where you are from and your background at Haverford?

I grew up in Jenkintown, a suburb in Philadelphia. I attended Haverford as an undergraduate and majored in English. When I was in my junior year, the Hurford Center started offering programs for students heremy friends and I got involved with reading groups and seminars and partners’ internships. When I graduated, the Center created a Post-Bacc fellow position for recent graduates to get more students involved with the Hurford Center. I did that for 2 years and then stayed on as the Associate Director of the Hurford Center. So I’ve been here about 11 years!

 

How have you seen the Hurford Center grow over the many years you’ve spent working here?

When I started the Center was just called the Hurford Humanities Center. Then in around 2008, the College asked the Center to take charge of Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. The exhibitions that happened at the gallery were not only artistically challenging but also pedagogically relevant to folks working at Haverford. At around the same time, it also started the Artists’ Residency program, so we changed our name to catch up with the reality and include the arts, and became the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities.

The Center later got a grant from the Mellon Foundation that has helped fund the Mellon Tri-College Creative Residencies Program, which took the idea behind an interdisciplinary gallery and applied it to the Artists’ Residencies program. It brought artists in residencies together with classes that might not have anything to do with art across the 3 colleges and was a way for the 3 colleges to get together. That program gave inspiration to the latest grant from Mellon, the Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives initiative or PACC, which focuses in on Haverford faculty and connecting to the community, to non-profits in Philadelphia, and artists working in tandem with those non-profits.

 

What is your role at the Hurford Center and at VCAM as the Associate Director of the Hurford Center, and the Operations Manager for VCAM?

My role is to coordinate all the different aspects of the Hurford Center, including the faculty and student seminars, reading groups, and the different curricular grants that faculty can apply to for funding to take their students on a trip or learn about something new and integrate that into course material. On a parallel suite, there are the student grantsthe student arts fund, student seminars, student research stipends, fellowships, and internships. There’s also the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery program, which is broadening now because of VCAM. I’m also involved with the PACC (Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives) initiative.

My job involves coordinating, working in-between those aspects of the Hurford Center, and helping to find points of collaboration between all those initiatives. Very often one will spill off into the other in very interesting and unpredictable ways. My work also involves communication: working with the college’s communication office to tell the story of what’s going on with the Hurford Center, to promote upcoming projects, and to document them, through news stories or film clubsengaging in a lot of editing, a lot of writing, as well as some art direction.

 

What do you like to do in your free time? What’s a fun fact that people don’t know about you?

Outside of work at Haverford, I DJ, and I’m involved in music production. There’s a really wonderful community of music producers and folks just obsessed with music, supporting a culture of music-making in Philadelphia. So I’m always excited to chat with students who want to talk about that!

Noorie Chowdhury, Mumbai, India