Campus Conversations

An incendiary message

Perhaps creation and destruction aren’t as different as one might think. At least that’s what a group of College artists set out to demonstrate on Valentine quad before students left for the Thanksgiving break last Wednesday.

The project may have appeared to be nothing more than smoky fire consuming varied scraps of flammable material. However, upon closer investigation, the flames and ashes took on a deeper meaning.

“We had to do a project for one of Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Dewitt Godfrey’s art classes where we created instructions for someone else in our class to carry out,” said Dan Cohen ’04E, the principal organizer of the event. “In pieces like this, it’s the instructions which are the work of art, not the product,” he continued.

Cohen explained that under these guidelines the emphasis of a masterpiece by Sol Lewitt (the influential American minimalist installation artist) would not be on the physical art. “[It would be] a piece of nice paper with the instructions on how to create the sculpture, along with a gold foil stamp and a signature, and maybe an accompanying letter of authenticity, and that’s it-that’s what you get with your $5000 or whatever.”

Cohen and Tracy Montigny ’05 created instructions that required creating, then destroying artwork. Although their methods of destruction differed-some chose burning, others preferred ripping-they both centered around the concept that, as Godfrey explained, “Destruction is often an integral part of creation.”

The class also was required to reinterpret the instructions as a secondary step in the creative process. “[I tried to] rework them to be bigger, better, or funnier,” Cohen said.

Cohen’s bigger, better version of the initial instructions took the form of a fire. “Fire has been a kind of cleansing tool since the beginning of time-we often burn fields before planting,” Godfrey said, expressing approval of Cohen’s project

Many passing students asked about the fire, and some added their own artwork to the blaze. “I think it was a successful event,” concluded Godfrey.

Hunger for the hungry

Hunger for the hungry

In preparation for Thanksgiving, MassPIRG organized their annual “Give up Your Meals Day,” requesting that students at the College forfeit their meals at Valentine on Thursday, November 21st. Why? MassPIRG, in conjunction with Financial Aid and Class Equality arranged the event so that all money that the College would have spent on the students’ meals would instead be donated to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. “In return, the Food Bank used the money toward the Turkey Fund, which provides Thanksgiving turkeys for local families who otherwise could not afford a Thanksgiving meal,” said MassPIRG event planner Laura Kim ’06.

This year, the program, a part of MassPIRG’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week had 430 eager participants. Students signed up in Valentine during the week before the event.

The day culminated in a “Hunger Banquet” sponsored by MassPIRG. Over 100 students packed into the Frontroom for dinner and to listen to speeches given by Dave Theis from the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, Director of the Amherst Survival Center Dennis Meehan, and Fern Sperier from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

“The banquet was a culmination of the week. It helped to further raise awareness about the expansiveness of hunger in the world and our country,” said Pem Brown ’06.