This has been an immense year of change and growth for me. I like lists, so I thought this would be apropos.Read More
I’m sure you can tell there is an underlying theme of RENT here.
-Without You - RENT
This song totally applies to my heart, while looking at photos of the year before my mom passed. I must say that my mom would be ticked if I said that I would “die'“ without her. So I’ll say that I’m “very unhappy,” but it doesn’t have the same dramatic impact. These posts will be in reverse order, starting in March and progressing back - like you guessed it - The Last Five Years (jamming in my headphones)
Get some tissues, because some of these pics are RUL
TAKE 2 I got 2/3 of the way done and of course didn’t think to save because everything in 2019 autosaves… NOT.
This was taken March 6, 2018 when she was in deep coma.
For a time, my mom was non-verbal before slipping into a deep coma. In this time, she communicated with hand gestures. Our favorite gesture was “the birdie” that she flipped towards our delightful president, “45.” We cheered when we saw this!
The last time she was cognizant while I played cello for her, she tapped her hand and managed to say, “you’re not giving enough time to the G” or “don’t rush!”
This was the last day that my mom was active, cognizant, and still had her spark and fire.
Here, you see my mom and Bebop, Phillip’s dog. Bebop gave my mom lots of comfort while he was in Madison! She loved the little guy!
Also here is my beloved cousin, Sandy Vilmer! My mom loved Sandy so so so much!
This photo always harkens to “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” from the Original Broadway Cast of RENT
These are my favorite pictures taken in Spring 2018 - they show how beautiful my mom was! Such a firecracker!
Christmas 2017 pictures! The picture of us is one of my favorites of all time - fun, happy, and bright!
You are watching an EXCLUSIVE video of my mom and dad dancing - where they did dance quite a bit, I don’t have much on camera - here it is! My dad got my mom a Dianna Krall vinyl for Christmas - she is singing in the background!
This always makes me break up - pure love and joy!
My mom and I had great times together (as you will see in future posts).
The first picture was taken at Inca Mexican Restaurant in Sioux Falls - we had just had a great day on the town! The second photo was taken to show her cancer doctors both in Sioux Falls and in Texas how she was doing. “Be sure you get my whole figure - to show them how I do cancer.”
The third was after a piano/cello practice session my mom and I had.
Back in October of 2017, my mom, dad, and I went to Santa Fe to see old friends, visit familiar places, and reminisce about past times and memories.
We celebrated my 26th birthday in Custer, SD.
After work on Monday, we got in our new Hyundai Tucson and drove west towards Custer, SD. It was on this trip that I fell in love with Wessington Springs, SD - the rolling hills and pockets of trees are so unique! When we got about thirty minutes outside of Custer, we started to see packs (?) of deer and big horn sheep on the side of the road. I kept thinking in my head, “don’t jump out and destroy my car! Don’t jump out! Don’t Jump out!” My dad would warn me when he saw clusters (ah! There’s the word!) on the side of the road. We wandered around the Black Hills on my birthday, visiting Sylvan Lake, The Game Lodge, and a new treasure, The Badger Hole! The later is a place where South Dakota’s first poet laureate Badger Clark lived. It was one of the coolest places! It was interesting that we were there on my birthday, as he died on my birthdate in 1957!
In mid-September 2017, my mom’s cousin’s, Cleo and Garda, came to see us in Madison. I made dinner and we shared great laughs, memories, and they looked at old family pictures.
These are very special pictures that I took before moving mom up to South Dakota. The first three pictures contain some members of her OG possy, the “Gal Pals” who gave her so much help both physically and spiritually.
I think of this photo as my mom reflecting upon what the past four months brought
After a long day of moving, these videos show my mom giving one last performance at her home in Denton, Texas.
These pictures show things in reverse. The first is an image after her second chemo infusion - she and my dad were dropping me and Phillip off at the airport.
The second is her, at a BBQ she hosted at my dad’s house - she wanted to get used to wearing bandanas (this was before she discovered her now iconic beret).
The last picture shows my dad, my mom, and I on the Denton Square - this was a few days before my mom’s first chemo treatment.
These are pictures of my family’s cemetery plot in DeSmet, SD. The first two photos show the impeccable views that surround the cemetery.
The grave stone is that of Benjamin Vaughan, the homesteader of our family. Notice the index finger - both my Grandfather (Kenneth Vaughan) and my mom were big users of the index finger, when gesturing! I guess it runs in the family!
To end on a high note, a few days before her diagnosis came, I came across this book while weeding Juvenile Fiction - it was one of my favorite books as a kid!
Pictures help to tell a story of the last year - now that we have access to all kinds of camera technology, we take advantage of this. I’m going to try to construct a physical album of these photos.
While talking with my therapist (I’ll call her “L”) today, I realized there were some deeper connections to the songs that I associate with my grieving process.
My post on Monday had a video of Nina Simone’s Lilac Wine. Wile talking with L, I realized there was a deeper connection to why Lilac Wine helped to minimize the cognitive blur that I was experiencing. The piece begins in F-sharp minor with the lyrics:
I lost myself on a cool damp night
Gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see...
And be what I want to be
When I think more than I want to think
Do things I never should do
I drink much more that I ought to drink
Because I brings me back you...
Here, I think my heart was emoting the end of my relationship. The intense smell of Lilacs that I experienced on long walks in the cool evenings in Madison, South Dakota maybe subconsciously helped me come out of the haze I was in. Cool summer walks helped to ground me in what was happening - I remember countlessly going over what the past year and a half had dealt.
Lilac Wine now goes into F-sharp major — see what she did there? Here, Nina serenades us about her love and the insecurities she has with it/them.
Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love
Listen to me... I cannot see clearly
Isn't that he coming to me nearly here?
Lilac wine is sweet and heady where's my love?
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, where's my love?
Listen to me, why is everything so hazy?
Isn't that he, or am I going crazy, dear?
Lilac Wine, I feel I'm ready for my love...
I feel I'm ready for my love...
Here, I feel I connected with “where’s my love…” I was lost - the two people who I loved most in the world had just exited my life and their existence was just palpable to me - as in her lyric “Isn’t that he, or am I going crazy, dear?'“ The piece ends on a beautifully neutral note “I’m ready for my love…” Here she opens herself to love and to be accepted by them.
I would listen to this song on repeat and walk for hours in Madison, to help me parse and contextualize what I had been through in the past year and a half:
January - got my new job - from then until mid-May 2017, I felt as if I was getting used to my job and settling into independent life.
On May 23, 2017, my mom found out she had Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. I remember the exactly where I was. When she called to say it might be cancer, I was at the gym. After her test results came back, I was at home. She and I talked - I remember collapsing on my bed, clutching my heart, and wailing. That day, I told my colleagues that I needed to talk to them. I told them what my mom had just disclosed to me and broke down crying, my boss gasped, jumped up and hugged me to say, “You are a good son Vaughan. This is such shit!”
From then, I made several trips down to Texas from South Dakota to be with my mom. The first of which was on June 8, 2017. When she greeted me from the flight she gave me a side hug, as she had just had her port implanted. The next few days were mind-shattering for me, as she discussed end of life things such as wills, cremation, and getting gravestones done. My mom was a HUGE planner - type A+++++. She and I were talking in her bedroom while she was lying down and she started to writhe in pain and pseudo-yelled “Why is this happening to me? Am I being punished? This must be punishment for something I did!” I was at a complete loss of what to do, other than to comfort her and tell her that she did nothing wrong. It was such an immense transition from the strong, confident, take no prisoners woman I had grown up with.
In times between me going to Texas to see her, I wasn’t able to talk with her, as she was sick most of the time because of Oxaliplatin and Paclitaxel chemo medicine. She talked about how bland everything was and that even water tasted like poison. At this point, I asked her if she had taken her Creon, the drug she took to help digest food. She yelled “SHIT! I didn’t! Oh no! I’m going to go throw up!”
In July of 2017, Phillip and I went to Texas for the Fourth of July. Here, we met my cousin, Nathaniel, his wife, Lisa, and their two little boys. My mom LOVED having them. There is a picture somewhere of my mom watching “Finding Dory” with the boys on the couch - it is Precious. Mom gave Nathaniel and I the task of going through Ancestry files and scanning things - we had a GRAND time of it. While we were doing that, Lisa, the boys, and my mom were running around the house, having a great time. It was that weekend when my mom woke me up suddenly at like 3am and dragged me into the TV room to tell me that she didn’t have much time. She said, “let me look at you before you go back - I want to hold you and be next to you at all times now. I’m scared Vaughan. I’m scared. Things are going to change a lot, soon.” All of this was completely shocking, as I was half asleep and was crying.
On August 5th, I went down to Texas for one last visit before they moved up on the last week of August 2017. We gave out dishes, gave away clothing, and did a good Marie Kondo-ing of my mom’s house and things.
Later today, I’ll post about the move here to South Dakota and the beautiful things that went with the move.
In the months of June - August, my mom lost 50 lbs from the side effects of chemo. It was horrible to witness. Bless my father, Michael Hennen, for being right there at every moment with my mom. I cannot imagine how hard that was for you.
In the two trips before she moved to South Dakota, I saw her after Chemo treatments. There was a unique smell that emitted from her body afterwards - chemical, metallic, artificial, and scary. I don’t know how to explain how a smell can be “scary,” but this was.
I would not have gotten through any of this without countless therapy sessions the following Fall of 2017. L helped me process, contextualize, and understand what I was feeling, and how to simply exist in this difficult space.
Cancer is such shit.
In the weeks after my mom’s death, I went to St. Paul for a conference (LibTech) and to Denton for a little break from the cold. Here, my dad and I built some great fires in our chimenea. Here are some pics.
From May 23 - 25 my dad and I went to Winnipeg and Hecla Lake. In Winnipeg, we went to the Botanical Gardens, Canadian Museum for Human Rights (a MUST for everyone), and ate amazing French food in the St. Boniface District. I must say, I debated smuggling back some extra sharp cheddar with peppercorns, but decided against it. After our stay in Winnipeg, we took a drive up to Hecla Lake and stayed at the Hecla Lake Resort. On our way up to the hotel, I began freaking out because there was no sign of any hotel. Like ANYWHERE. But we stumbled upon a small sign and found are way to the hotel!
This summer was simply amazing. I long for the long days, warmth, and intense sun. My fuel for activism was reignited over the summer through our protest against the vile policy to separate families at the US-Mexico border, my participation in the Lake County Democrats, and Madison Area Stands Together’s community-wide potluck.
In August, I went back to Texas for a vacation before the fall semester began. I spent time with my Grandmother, visited hometown of Galveston, Texas, swam in the Gulf of Mexico, drank many margaritas, drove by homes I grew up in, and saw many old friends.
The week I got back to Madison, I purchased my first house and immediately ripped up carpet and began painting over the horrid maroon and avocado green that covered all walls. I think it is here, in home improvement, where I connections with my mom the most.
To end the post I was supposed to upload last night, I found this amazing picture while going through emails my mom and I shared. I can almost hear her voice coming out of this photo!
There are times when we fall in love songs and are unaware that the songs will have unique impacts on your life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would experience the events the band wails about in this song.
I will always associate this album with the summer of 2012 - letting the bluegrass soak into my and my friends ears, mixing with the dried sweat, Lone Star, and faint wafts of cigarettes.
Today marks one day since my mom moved onto the next realm.
Between 3:50 and 4am, my mom passed away. Phillip rushed in to get me from where I was sleeping - only twenty minutes before, I went to get my dad to switch watching over her. I think it was her way of sparing me the experience of seeing her last moment on earth - I had been through enough…
Phillip came to get me and I rushed out, where Peg was reciting the rosary, the mantra ohms were wailing throughout the room, and the prayer candles of St. Michael, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and St. Joseph were blazing. It was a completely surreal scene. Later I found out that moments before she passed, Peg got a charley horse, stood up and it was gone. She then went out to where my mom was sleeping and began to recite the rosary. At the moment she passed, Phillip snapped awake and looked at my dad who looked at him and told him he couldn’t feel a pulse anymore.
I remember saying something like, “the new chapter now starts.” I kept saying, “I should have just stuck it out and been there!”
4:30ish the hospice nurse came to help disconnect her pain pump, catheter, and help get her ready for the undertaker.
It was around this time that my dad called the Cremation Society of Minnesota to alert them of her passing, and to contact the undertaker in Madison.
Around 5am, the Hospice nurse finished disconnecting everything and gave her a final wash. We decided to send her out looking good in her favorite outfit, because my mom was always impeccably dressed. We put one of her favorite outfits - heavy in purple and orange. I remember putting her scarf on and completely sobbing - the hospice nurse helped me lift her head to put the scarf on. She then helped me put on her warmest socks, because mom liked her feet to be warm.
At around 6:30am, about a year ago to the hour, as I am writing this, I saw hearse round the corner onto North East 4th street. My heart dropped and the reality set in.
He carted in the gurney with a beautiful velvet maroon body bag. He was on of the sweetest men I’ve ever met - all of us were crying - he was gentle and waited for us to have our last moments with her physical body. Everything sped up - time became darker, fast, and everything felt like my heart was wet with black, sticky tar of sorrow. I think the undertaker is used to the fact that his presence brings people slight uneasiness.
He and the hospice nurse helped to get her body onto the gurney - they put a board under her back and turned her onto the gurney. After she was on the gurney, he backed up for us to say our last goodbyes to her earthly body - ***this is immensely hard to write, but I’m going to soldier on***- I squeezed her now cooling hands to say “eternal music” and “I love you so much mom! We will never forget you!”
I honestly don’t remember if Phillip or Peg were in the room. My sight was only on my dad and I.
It was so morbid to see him zip up the body container with my mom in it. He then carted her out of my dad’s apartment, my dad and I followed.
I vividly remember the crisp, cold, clear, sunny morning that was starting. My dad and I held and clutched each other so strongly that I could feel his pain. We were sobbing as the hearse door closed and she left.
We came back inside to the staggeringly empty room - the hospital bed a horrid memory of what had just occurred.
I took these photos after the hearse left.
Almost immediately after, Peg got her things together and we helped her pack her car. Peg, Phillip, my dad and I went to get breakfast. Peg left back to WI to begin the new chapter without SKV.
Phillip gave my dad and I some space to mourn. I went into dad’s apartment — it still smelled slightly clinical. I sat on the couch, grabbed mom’s blanket and hugged it so tightly to smell her - in times like these our innate animal tendencies come back. I sobbed into the blanket screaming, “I don’t have a mom anymore! I don’t have a mom!” The waves of sobs came for about a half an hour. They began again when I heard my dad try to tell his mom that SKV had passed. “Hi Mom… Susan… I’m calling to tell you that… Susan… I’ll call you back because I can’t do this.”
After gaining some composure, I began calling my friends, then my mom’s close friends from Texas, New Mexico, and Minnesota. It was cathartic to talk to her friends, lament about what had happened, and to hear their equal mourning.
The song, Most of All to the right by Brandi Carlile, talks about what she learned from her mom. This directly translates to my experience.
The most important lyric that my Therapist, L, and I discussed, “She taught me how to be strong in saying goodbye, And that love is forever” speaks to so much of the last year, especially to my breakup. In the last cognizant day of her life, my mom and I were talking about life stuff and I asked her what she thought of my relationship. She said, “You and will always be friends, I know it”
In the same conversation, I asked her what the future might hold for my sisters. She said in a very firm and confident voice, “forgive and go forward with love.” No words will impact me more.
I hear her voice when I am at the gym each morning, telling me to get my “sweet butt up and at’em,” “can’t stop don’t stop,” and “shape up!” When I am getting tired from tire flipping, I hear her say, “push yourself!”
Teaching was one of my mom’s biggest passions - she was a teacher for probably 60 years — I can imagine a ten year old SKV teaching younger kids or guiding kids on what they “should be doing.” (laughter)
She sent this email when she learned of her diagnosis and what it would mean for her piano teaching career.
These are some of my favorite pictures of my mom with her cousins, Octavius, my cub scout pack, on a ski lift, and with my dog Zina.
December 27 - January 4, my mom and I went to Rome! We had a stellar time, as you see.
This morning, I woke up at 4am to begin writing this piece. I began with the following reflection about my then partner. It’s interesting what we notice in retrospect.
I never asked you what your experience was like, when you saw my mom die.
I never asked you how it impacted you to see her body be carted away.
I never asked you if you were sad about her loss, because I was blinded by my own grief.
I wish we had talked about this.
I wish we would have discussed, if your presence at my mom’s death, helped you parse not being present for you dad’s death…
That day, when I was full of sobs, you stayed strong and let me cry while your face stayed dry… but I don’t know if you were crying when you went upstairs to put Bebop away.
As I reflect about the actions of a year ago, to the hour, I can’t remember where you are. I can see Peg and my dad, but not you… I’m sorry I wasn’t there to comfort you. To stand with you. To hold your hand… but I know you were there… but again, I was blinded by grief.
Did you cry for the loss of my mom? Was it hard on you? We never discussed these things, and for that I am eternally sorry - I was so wrapped up in my own sadness, that it never crossed my mind what was happening in your life.
When you left back for IL, was it a hard drive? When you got back to your apartment, was it hard knowing you would never see SKV again?
From here, I go forward, push forward with her strength, spark, and passion for life. #OnAndEverUpward
It is fitting, that my mom, one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, chose to exit the world on International Women’s Day. Here’s to you mom!
I sit here in my office listening to University of North Texas' performance of Puccini's Turandot, thinking about how great the Zine workshop that I put on went!
At the peak around seventeen people were in attendance! Sion Lidster, a writer and zine maker in Sioux Falls, SD lead the workshop and I helped to make sure everyone was on the right track. Everyone involved had such a great time! For a majority of all the students participating, it was their first time making a zine.
Sion began by introducing himself and gave a brief background of zines and zine culture. We started the workshop by making a quick little eight-page personal flip book. He explained how to fold the zines and the layout of each page. We then spent fifteen to twenty minutes working on this booklet - people filtered in throughout this initial event.
The second part of the workshop was the creation of a single zine folio. Here, participants cut up magazines and drew interesting designs to create very vivid pages.
Because the workshop took up four or five tables, other students began inquiring about the workshop and about zines.
At the end of the two-hour workshop, every student had a physical item to take home with them! Below is the black and white version of the zine!
I was so anxious before the workshop because I didn't know if anyone would show up.
I hope to do a similar program with younger students - those in middle school and high school will like the self-authorship, resistance, and freedom of the zine. A high school student was in attendance and she was excstatic with the final product!
The coolest part of the workshop was that students had a newly made zine that did not exist an hour previous. ALL of the participants loved the program and had a great time! I hope to do something like this again!
It's hard to comprehend how much I have learned in the past months about music librarianship and art librarianship. From March 2-5 2016, I attended the Music Librarian Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio and from the 8th to the 12th I attended the joint ARLIS/VRA conference in Seattle, Washington.
Both conferences exposed me to many different areas of librarianship and helped me connect with both students and professionals in a variety of fields. The conferences reignited my passion for librarianship and gave me tons of new ideas for outreach and programming.
It was evident that the attendees of both conferences are advocates and defenders of the "common good" in libraries and society.
Music Library Association (MLA) Conference - Cincinnati, OH - March 2016
The MLA conference taught me a lot about networking and what other schools are doing to promote access to their unique and diverse collections. The association is trying to become more "diverse" - there were great open discussions about what "diversity" means and how to create and foster a "diverse" library. The discussions in the committee meetings and round tables were enlightening and made me realize the profound amount of respect many librarians have for their counterparts.
Through the great musicianship of the performers at the conference I found a spark to begin playing cello on a regular basis again. It was great being in a group of people who are passionate about music scholarship, stewardship, and performance. I never realized that MLA had so many wonderful musicians in its ranks!
My mentor for the conference was Leslie Anderson. She is a hoot to say the least! It was nice to see a familiar face after meeting dozens of strangers and nodding and smiling all of the time. At times, I want to be like April Ludgate (Parks and Recreation) and run away from the onslaught of people.
I attended so many enlightening sessions! Three of my favorites during the conference were:
- "Teaching Performance Based Research Skills: Students Reflections and Experiences" by Kristina Shanton from Ithaca College.
- "Soulful Sounds of Southwestern Ohio: From King Records to Dayton Funk" -- Sponsor: Black Music Collections Round Table and speakers that included: Scott Brown (UCLA), David N. Lewis (WVXU Cincinnati), Brian Powers (Public Library of Cinncinati and Hamilton County)
- The attendees of this session had the privilege of hearing Otis Williams, the lead singer of The Charms and Philip Paul, a King Record session drummer.
- Philip Paul was just notified that he will be entering the Jazz hall of fame this year
- The attendees of this session had the privilege of hearing Otis Williams, the lead singer of The Charms and Philip Paul, a King Record session drummer.
- Digital Curation with OMEKA lead by Anna Kijas (Boston College).
The Digital Curation and Research Skills lectures were especially helpful, as I would like to allow more music to be accessible to patrons.
I met several new student colleagues at MLA, who I will most likely be interacting and collaborating with for the rest of my professional career. We had a great time getting to know each other's backgrounds, home institution, and inspiration for pursuing music librarianship. It was also really fun to get to know the music librarians who I have seen through list-servs and periodical articles.
While at MLA, the Contemporary Art Center had an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe titled "After The Moment: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe". This amazing exhibition celebrated the 25th anniversary of the CAC's exhibition of Mapplethorpe's The Perfect Moment. The show featured responses to CAC's hosting of The Perfect Moment, both for and against -- many of the responses against were very intense and showed the ripe chord that this show struck with many conservatives in the area.
Do Ho Suh was also being exhibited at CAC - his works are seen below - they had huge structures made of translucent materials!
Check out CAC's web archive of every exhibition that has been at the Center since 1939!!
Pictures of the CAC's exhibition of Do Ho Suh
The CAC had a great outreach and program to get patrons into the museum! --Drink and Draw, where people can come, purchase drinks and draw! This is a great idea for a library - maybe we could replace the alcohol with a themed drink like a V8 or smoothies.
Here is a slideshow of some pics from MLA!
Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and Visual Resources Association (VRA) Joint Conference - Seattle, WA - March 2016
The ARLIS/VRA was an amazing experience and made me happy that I am taking myself out of my comfort zone to learn about art and art librarianship. There are so many facets of art librarianship and visual resources that it is sometimes overwhelming for an art novice.
ARLIS exposed me to a group of amazing individuals who are greatly invested in making materials more accessible and better utilized.
The Graphic Novel Special Interest Group (SIG), GLBTQ SIG, and Fashion, Textile, and Costumes SIG were AMAZING! The SIG meetings allowed me to meet people who share my interests and discuss issues that we both care about. My friend and colleague, Andrew Wang, presented at the Graphic Novel SIG and presented a poster about Zine cataloging! He is a great role model for art librarianship students!
The GLBTQ Special Interest Group presentation allowed attendees to learn about the great programs that center around GLBTQ issues in Seattle. The presenters included representatives from Gay City, Seattle Public Library, University of Portland Archive.
Fashion has always been fascinating to me - when I was a kid I wanted to be a fashion designer! This was the first time that I got to discuss with scholars in the field and learn more about the textile facet of art librarianship. Coming from a music background, all of this stuff is VERY new.
I believe it be beneficial and very eye opening if VRA and MLA did a joint conference. Imagine the great ideas that could be fostered with musicians and artists in the same room! Music librarians are madly trying to digitize musical scores to promote access and preserve the physical artifact. Visual Resource librarians could help greatly with this process, as they have great expertise in digitizing high quality images. In many cases when a score is digitized, it is not scanned at a high level and the beautiful cover is not included with the scan.
The Visual Resources librarians can greatly help to link artists to the cover art of scores or albums.
Let me preface this blog post by saying that I was not expecting St. Louis to be as cool as it was! In the past, I have driven through St. Louis many times while on family road trips or going back to Bloomington when coming back from Texas, but we never stopped in to view the crazy cool city!!
The morning began like any normal morning, I picked up everyone who was riding in my car, got some much needed coffee, and we were off! While on the road, we had a good vent session about our classes and program.
On the way, we stopped in Pocahontas Illinois for a stretch potty break. I was sure to get some lower leg stretches in, as I am 6foot 3 and it gets fairly cramped in my 2005 Toyota Corolla.
My first glimpse of St. Louis was the arch, peeking out above a hill. I exclaimed to the car, "There is the Arch! We are here!"
We had lunch at a brewery, ordered a table for 6, but realized that the other car in our caravan was at a different brewery location! Rachel Schend and I shared the Huevos Rancheros (H-OOO-EVOS) - one of the people in our group did not know how to pronounce Huevos or what they are - and the crab cake eggs benedict. The eggs benedict was AMAZING, but I was SUPER happy with the Huevos Rancheros.
While driving to Washington University in St. Louis, I noticed how gorgeous St. Louis is. The day was completely clear, sunny, and in the upper 60s. The area surrounding Washington University in St. Louis reminded me of the are around Rice University in Houston, Tx. The architecture of the campus buildings and the enormous houses near the school scream Houston.
The Art Library was delightful! They had a great concept of passing out a sticker with the library resources site on it, a button of an image from ARTstor or another database.
After meeting with the librarians, we viewed the art museum. While looking at a very interesting installation of videos, my brain gave me notice that it was time for some coffee.
Post coffee, the St. Louis adventure continued at the arboretum. This featured many acres of beautifully manicured plants, succulents, and a variety of buildings that were temperature controlled to allow for the growing of unique plants. I believe that the most beautiful areas were the arid cactus and succulent building, the Japanese garden, and the land around the house - pictured below.
After the Arboretum, we checked into our AirBNB (my first experience) - it was great!
We had dinner at The Block -- their mushroom soup and meatball pizza was SO yummy!!! After, we went had a few drinks at the City Museum. We climbed around and had a great time sliding down the huge slide - WEEEE!!
Kendra then led us to Steve's Hotdogs... MANNNN was this place delishhhh!
The St. Louis art museum was GORGEOUS! I never expected the building to be so majestic! It reminds me slightly of the cathedrals in Rome.
After we left the St. Louis Art Museum, we were off to Bloomington!
We hit some traffic on the way back, which made me late to my shift at the Fine Arts Library.
All in all, it was a great trip!
It is fitting that my first blog post is about the Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. exhibition that I just displayed at Indiana University's Fine Arts Library.
The exhibition taught me about the many facets of opening, curating, marketing, and closing an art show.
More information on the show can be found here.
For those of you who are Kennedy fans this is the speech that I gave at the closing reception of the show:
It has been such an amazing experience to be able to work with Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.’s posters and artists’ books for the past few months. I was exposed to Kennedy’s works last spring while taking the Art Librarianship course with past director, Kristina Keogh. I am going to give you all some background on Kennedy before I delve into his art,
Kennedy grew up in the Deep South and saw racial injustice when growing up. Both of his parents were well educated and when Kennedy was in Middle school, he and his parents moved to Michigan. In Michigan, Amos was the only Black child at his school; much of his thoughts on diversity and social change must have come from this time.
Kennedy had a rather indirect way in becoming an artist. After graduating from college, Kennedy became a very successful systems analyst for AT& and stayed in the profession for more than two decades. --all the while something was missing from his life. When visiting colonial Williamsburg VA, he saw a printmaker using an antique print machine.
Kennedy was enthralled by this mechanism of the print press and loved the product that it made. Amos came into the print making in a very unique time, as many printers from the early 20th century, or their children were giving away presses. Kennedy got his hands on one and soon after began studying under the renowned graphic designer, Walter Hamady , at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After graduating with an MFA, Kennedy was offered a position as the first African American faculty member at the Indiana University School of Fine Arts. He taught at IU from 1999-2001. While at IU, he was known for holding Barbeques, skipping contests, and was the definition of the "embedded" professor, as he was at school until very late at night.
After an incident that I will explain later, he decided that the bureaucracy of IU was not for him, so for the next decade, he dedicated himself to his art, learning from other print makers and observing their craft.
In the early 2010s, Kennedy moved back to the Detroit area. Just this past year, he became a USA Glasgow follow, where he was awarded$50,000 to use for art.
Kennedy's artists' books all have a central meaning to impart to the reader, whether proverb or poem, image or text. Many of his artist books contain text from proverbs or poems by African Americans.
Of the collection that we have at IU, I believe that "Mask Book" is the best representation of Kennedy's genius, where artists' book creator and printmaker combine. Each page is intricately printed and has a unique fold and sewing pattern.
Another unique artists' book is the African Proverbs necklace. This necklace is a copy of one that he made for his partner, Elena Bertozzi. In the display case behind me, you can see the initial part of the project and the final product. The same goes for the Proverbs of the Georgia Islands - you see each iteration of the printing process.
One of the best things about Kennedy's works is the fact that readers are left with a new perspective of the world. Nappygrams are a perfect example of this - these postcards were items that Amos would distribute when he felt something needed to be said. The postcards that he created about IU represent this perfectly.
My first exposure to Kennedy was his provocative book, Strange Fruit, which documents the 3514 African Americans who were lynched and burned between 1892 and 1927. The book was so beautiful, yet so haunting, much like the Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit.
I knew that it would be great to exhibit Kennedy's works for Black History Month, as they present such a vibrant and strong reflection of the African story both in North America and in Africa. I believe that this is an ideal time to exhibit these works because of the social injustice and unrest that exist in America today.
As one of Kennedy's posters reads, "Art Informs". These issues were going on in the early 90s, and are still going on today. The "it takes a community to murder a child" collection reminded me of how much gun violence there was in the past year. And how many more cards would be in the case. As I wrote this last night, a dark sense of bewilderment came over me. Have we not progressed at all as a society? Then I remember that it is this type of art that provokes us to question our society.
Much of Kennedy’s works are like this. When reading the text, such as “it takes a community to murder a child” or “burn the nigger”, it creates a very morbid feeling inside, almost embarrassment.
Kennedy's prints and artists' books make us reflect and think where we are as a society. I would like to end this talk with a moment of silence dedicated to the innocent children and people that Kennedy has us remember.
The most important thing I learned in this exhibition is teamwork - I was lucky to have a dedicated set of colleagues from the Society of Art Librarianship Students, who helped me greatly.