1. Notes on the Origins of the 1996 Course (Teaching and Research)
Teaching and research are often seen as separate and unrelated activities. But my 1996 course could never have occurred without the research I had done in the area of literature and the arts--or without the research of another teacher/scholar. In September 1992, three months after publishing my book on Melville and Turner, I was asked by the University of Kansas Press to review a book manuscript about Moby-Dick and American Art by a scholar named Elizabeth Schultz. Amazed by the breadth of her subject, the depth of her research, and the quality of the artistic riches she had unearthed, I enthusiastically recommended the manuscript for publication.
Unpainted to the Last was published by the University of Kansas Press in August 1995, just in time for the opening of the traveling exhibition of the same name that Schultz had organized for the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. As soon as I saw the book, I began to think about the possibility of using the paperback version as a text in my upcoming course on Melville and the Arts in January 1996. In September 1995 I was able to see Schultz's exhibition when I visited Lawrence to present a paper on Frank Stella's Moby-Dick at a symposium held in conjunction with the show. Seeing the actual art works that Schultz had gathered together made me wonder if I could incorporate her exhibition, as well as her book, into the upcoming course. After moving on to the University of Michigan Art Gallery in November and December, Unpainted to the Last was scheduled to make its last stop at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in January and February 1996.
As I designed my syllabus, I decided that late February would give me just enough time to prepare the class to benefit from an overnight excursion to see the exhibition. After finding a weekend during whichthe NKU basketball team had not scheduled the bus we would need to use, I made the bus trip to Evanston a requirement for the course. The time I had spent reviewing Schultz's book manuscript in the Fall of 1992 was now about to result in all of the unexpected pleasures that my students and I were to experience in the Spring of 1996. Because the traveling exhibition ceased to exist one week after we saw it, the learning opportunity we derived from it was rare indeed.
None of this would have happened for me or my students were it not for the years of labor expended by Elizabeth Schultz--on top of her own teaching duties at the University of Kansas--in surveying her subject, interviewing artists, tracking down art works, writing her text, organizing her exhibition, revising her text, securing permissions, attending to detail after detail year after year until the published book and the traveling exhibition each finally came into being. This is the kind of research upon which good classroom teaching, even at the undergraduate level, depends.
The photo at the top of this page shows Elizabeth Schultz holding forth on Frank Stella's The Town-Ho's Story at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago on April 12, 1997. The photo was taken by Robert Del Tredici, who, with Schultz, accompanied our NKU crew on the bus ride through the snow from Rockford to Chicago that morning. What brought us to Rockford is the subject of my next entry.
2. Notes on the Origins of the Rockford Exhibition (Doing our Homework)
The origins of the Rockford Gam were, for us in Highland Heights, simply a happy accident. The invitation to exhibit our work in April 1997 came, like so much else, during the whirlwind month of April 1996. Once we decided to create a web site, and wanted to incorporate illustrations of some of the art works we had seen in Evanston, we realized that we would first have to secure copyright permission from the artists whose work we wished to post on our pages. With the help of Elizabeth Schultz, we were able to contact all of the living artists whose works we hoped to reproduce, and the estates or legal representatives of those no longer living. In every case but one (see Michael Gallagher's page), copyright permission was freely and generously given.
The process of contacting the artists led to some interesting conversations. A phone call to the owner of Vali Myers's Moby-Dick in Connecticut led telephonically to the artist herself on her Wildlife Preserve in southern Italy. When Rob Kallmeyer, the student who wanted to reproduce her work, reached her there, she gave him not only long-distance permission but inspiration. Robert del Tredici in Montreal was delighted that Brian Cruey wanted to put Meditation and Water are Wedded Forever on his page and seemed touched that Brian was equally interested in his subsequent anti-nuclear photography. Graeme Ried, curator of the Sheldon Swope Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, was generous in giving Bill Fletcher permission to reproduce Gilbert Wilson's Insanity Series--as well as in inviting Bill and his classmates to visit the museum and its multitudinous Wilson holdings (another thing that happened during our whirlwind month of April 1996).
Two students, Gina Brock and Nate DeGroff, had chosen to write their papers, and to make their presentations, about Robert McCauley's Ahab. When I reached him by phone to ask if we could reproduce this work on our web site, he, like the other artists, was interested in the visit we had made to the Evanston exhibition--as well as in the student initiatives that were evolving from it. When I mentioned that my students, in addition to creating a web site, were at the same time creating an exhibition of Moby-Art by each member of the class, he asked if I thought they might be interested in exhibiting the works they were making in a joint exhibition with a class of his own students at Rockford College if he could arrange this for the Spring Semester 1997. My students quickly embraced this idea, proposed during the very week in which their own creations began to be exhibited in our Fine Arts Building. So was born the idea of the Landlocked Gam.
A gam in the whaling industry is the social occasion on which crews of separate ships get together to share experience resulting from their common pursuit. Robert suggested calling our prospective gam "landlocked" because both of our institutions were far from either ocean, yet our students would be creating their own works based on oceanic images and themes inspired by Melville's book. Only after he sent me a catalog of one of his own exhibitions did I realize that Robert McCauley was from Mount Vernon, very close to my hometown of Everett, Washington, on the shores of Puget Sound. We have each been teaching for a quarter of a century in landlocked settings physically far from where we both grew up, but doing so in ways that have unconsciously drawn upon our common watergazing origins.
Once we decided to invite some professional Moby-Dick artists to join in our Landlocked Gam, Robert suggested that we begin with the ones that my students had already contacted for web page permissions. Without knowing it, the students who were choosing their own favorite artists during our two hours at the gallery in Evanston were helping to determine the artists whose work would be invited to share in their own pictorial gam in Rockford a year later. Vali Myers responded to our invitation by sending three Moby-Dick-related prints from her studio in Melbourne, Australia, where she works during the part of the year she is not in Italy. Frank Stella agreed to the exhibition of a rarely seen poster printrelated to his Moby-Dick series, Robert Del Tredici exhibited sixlarge silkscreens based on Moby-Dick drawings from early in his career,and Robert McCauley exhibited a number of new works. Mark Milloff had planned to send The Chase--The Third Day, a large early pastel in the manner of Attacking the Pod, or the Living Wall (reproduced in part on Aaron Zlatkin's page), but technicaldifficulties intervened.
The two speakers at the official opening of the exhibition on April ll, Elizabeth Schultz and Robert Del Tredici, were themselves reflections of my students' own responsiveness during our morning in Evanston a year earlier. The pictorial gam between my students and their counterparts at Rockford College was be enriched, but not overshadowed, by the presence of works, words, and persons whose responses to Melville's novel have helped to energize their own.
3. Notes on the Origins of the Utah Presentation (The More the Merrier)
I first learned about the National Association for Humanities Education when I was asked to deliver the keynote address at its 1995 Conference in Cincinnati. The theme for the Conference was "Building Bridges among the Disciplines," so I decided to address the relationship between teaching and research in my own interdisciplinary work. In a talk entitled "Chasing the Loon: The Crazy Pleasures of Comparing the Arts," I recalled how the whole direction of my own interart research was changed by Barb McCroskey, a student in my Music and Literature course in the late 1970s who asked if I could also develop a course that involved painting. The text of "Chasing the Loon" (with one of its seventy-two illustrations) is reproduced in the Spring 1995 issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities (pp. 3-18). I am delighted to have returned to the 1997 NAHE Conference accompanied by students who have taken me deeper into those crazy pleasures than I had been in 1995.
One highlight for me of the 1995 Conference was a presentation made by Professor Michael Phillips of Brigham Young University and three of his undergraduate students. His example made me think of proposing a similar session with my own students for the 1997 Conference. I did not know whether three of my students would want to give up half of their Spring Break to attend a conference consisting mostly of academic adults reading papers at each other, nor was I sure whether money could be found to get them there if they did. After submitting a preliminary proposal for myself and three students, I discovered that seven members of the class wanted to go. Carolyn Leech, who had accepted our proprosal as program chair for the Conference, encouraged me to include as many students as I could in our presentation. Thanks to the generosity of several offices at our University in both student and academic affairs (and an extremely low round-trip air-fare between Louisville and Salt Lake City), all seven students were able to make the trip.
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