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I've never been particularly artistic. My skill in that department consists mainly of the ability to nod knowingly when people refer to artists I've never heard of. Still, I wanted to learn. So when I heard there was an opening for a program writer for Reed Arts Weekend, it made sense for me to apply.

Even this small step was out of character for me. In my three-and-a-half years at Reed, my involvement in school-sponsored extracurricular activities has been close to nonexistent. Compared with, say, unraveling Russian history, the fine points of student government never really seemed that important.

Still, I'd begun to feel like I was missing out on something. Reed is, after all, a community as much as a college. It's shaped much of my life since I've reached adulthood. I'd begun to feel it was time I put aside my cynicism and help shape Reed a little in return.

Conceived in 1990 by professors David Schiff and Maeera Schreiber, Reed Arts Weekend (RAW) has quickly become a Reed institution as hallowed as Paideia or scrounging. "Weekend" is somewhat a misnomer: over the past few years, RAW has expanded to an entire week in February or March.

Typically, a student organizing committee convinces professional painters, sculptors, dancers, writers, and musicians to display or perform their work. Past artists have included writer Ntozake Shange, the Guerrilla Girls art collective, and singer Jay Clayton. Student artists are also awarded grants to create their ownpieces. Student artwork is invariably a highlight of the week, since artists and non-artists alike are encouraged to be as innovative as they want to be.

This year, the RAW committee was headed by Blair Saxon-Hill '02, under the guidance of assistant student activities director Kristin Holmberg. Five other students, including me, took care of every aspect of the event, which was held February 12-18, 2001.

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by Miriam Posner '01
Photos by Orin Bassoff '04

 
 
 

We soon discovered that planning RAW is a lot of work. Budgets needed to be made, rooms needed to be booked, and artists needed to be cajoled. These tasks were made harder for us by the fact that no one seemed to really know how RAW had been planned in years past. One of the coolest things about RAW is that it's largely student-directed. That means, though, that we had to make the rules up as we went along.

We chose "exposure" as our theme, hoping it would inspire thought about the imagery of revelation and obscurity. The word also, we realized, had less intellectual connotations, which is partly why we chose it.

At Reed, the line between culture and debauchery is drawn notoriously thin. It's tough to drag work-obsessed Reed kids from the library. But to what extent, we wondered, should we use sensationalist art as a publicity device? We didn't want RAW to become a joke, or to neglect good artists who did more subtle work.

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