I don’t understand why Cleveland is the butt of so many jokes.
In our sports-obsessed culture, perhaps it is the lackluster record of their teams as to why the rest of the nation picks on Cleveland.
Even the Case Western Reserve University admissions representative, a native New Yorker who spotted my husband’s Mets cap, worked in a jab about Cleveland as he touched upon Cleveland’s cultural and sports offerings at our information session.
“Another big plus about attending Case Western – when your hometown team comes to town to play against a Cleveland team, there is a good chance you’ll get to see them win!”
There we were, the five of us, at my daughter’s first campus visit.
Most prospective students came with one parent. My daughter had her whole entourage. For the most part, her little brothers were good sports. Lesson learned: Next campus trip, we just bring the kid closest to college age.
At the information session, about 20 prospective students awkwardly sat among their parents. Most of the students were from Michigan. All were asked to introduce themselves, what they were interested in studying, where they lived, and one interesting thing that makes them unique.
My daughter, the lone student who declared an interest in studying science AND art, declared that her talent for drawing made her unique.
My freshman son, mistaken for a prospective student, joked that his one interesting quality was that people frequently thought he was older than his actual age.
Jokes aside, Case Western Reserve is a highly competitive university known for its science, engineering, social work, and medical schools. The Huffington Post calls it the “Geek-centric” up and coming school to watch because it encourages students to be interdisciplinary researchers and creative thinkers and problem solvers.
Before releasing us to our student tour guides, the admissions counselor gave us a thorough presentation on Case Western’s place in college rankings.
- In their rankings, U.S. News & World report ranks it No. 37 among 280 national universities.
- Case Western Reserve University was also ranked No. 27 on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Values charts.
- Its medical school is ranked 12 in the nation
- The school encourages interdisciplinary coursework across 200 academic programs
- There is a 9:1 student/faculty ratio, meaning that students get many opportunities for individual attention from professors.
- Undergraduate acceptance rates for the 2011- 2012 stand at 51 percent.
You can get all these stats on a website. But what you won’t get unless you visit a campus is the feel of the campus, the buzz of the students as they walk, bike or skateboard by as they switch classes. You won’t get a chance to peek into a class in session.
Case Western Reserve is located in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood, putting it within walking distance to about five museums, parks, art galleries, restaurants, and lots of commercial and retail development that will only add to the university’s offerings in years to come. During our visit, our family became enchanted with the area’s parks and charming neighborhoods. We stopped into a small art gallery where the owner, upon learning my daughter was interested in studying art, asked if she might be available for a summer internship.
Wandering around the campus and its surroundings is an important part of the campus visit. Outside of the academic rigors, the student has to ask themselves: can I picture myself living here day after day, for at least four years?
An “online visit” to a campus website is a poor substitute for a walk through the campus, eating a meal at a student union or peeking into a lecture hall when a class is in session.
One can even get a feel, or have what they learned at a campus information session, reaffirmed over a bowl of linguine.
That evening after the tour,we went out to eat at an unpretentious but very popular Italian restaurant. Seated near us was a large group of students with an older, bearded gentleman at the head of the table, presumably their professor. I hushed my family so I could overhear the conversation at the table. Indeed, the gentleman was their professor, and the group was enjoying a meal before taking in the Cleveland Orchestra, which plays at a hall right on the campus. Student tickets to the Cleveland Orchestra are only $12, and if you are a Case Western student, going to the symphony tops the lists of things to do before graduation.
There was a steady light drizzle as our student tour guide walked us through some academic buildings, dorm quads with washing machines that TEXTED you when your load was done (!!!) and the student union.
This is pretty typical on a college tour: visitors will first sign in at the admissions office, usually housed in a stately old building with gleaming hardwood floors. An admissions representative will give a talk and present a polished video of current students and alumni before releasing you to a student tour guide, most likely on a work-study program.
For my middle child, a ninth grader, tagging along on a campus tour with big sister hopefully got him thinking of what campus he could see himself on after high school.
I watched them walk ahead with the student tour guide as I hung back with the rest of the parents. I watched my daughter tell my son I wish I had started visiting colleges when I was YOUR age.
One final word of advice from our tour guide as he made his obligatory plug for us to give him a good score on the feedback card back at admissions: Never overlook the colleges closest to your hometown. Our guide was a native of Cleveland, and he never imagined himself winding up at Case Western Reserve. But he did, and is happy about his decision.
Next up: Our visit to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.
I need to get out more often. And by that, I don’t mean dinner at the Outback and a movie at the local suburban multiplex.
I am going to put this blog post into a new I-know-you’ve-lived-here-all-your-life-but-ya’ll-it’s-all-new-to-me category. Because, I know all of you Detroiters know all about the Fox Theatre like I know about Radio City Music Hall (but hey, real New Yorkers know a trip to Radio City is just for TOURISTS).
But for me – the New Yawker newbie, a babe in the urban D woods – I am loving discovering my new city.
Last night, I had my first nighttime visit into Downtown Detroit. We were invited out by the same very interesting new friends (the ones who press their own apple cider) to a benefit to support the Jewish Association for Residential Care. The featured act: The Rascals.
You know, the Rascals:
My husband and I still don’t know how to get around downtown. ( I really don’t understand how to traverse a metropolis without a subway system.) They offered to drive. We happily accepted the ride.
Driving down highway 10 at night to downtown Detroit, you really get an understanding of just how blighted some sections have become. As you leave suburbia for downtown, the highway submerges, and what’s left of neighborhoods peek out from concrete walls that rise to the right and the left. Every now and again you get a glimpse of houses. Completely dark. What’s left of houses. What’s left of churches. And stores. And housing projects. Empty shells. Dark and lonely.
And then, reaching downtown, the lights, and life, emerges again. If just for a dozen or so square blocks that house the city’s businesses, theaters Detroit nightlife post baseball season is still trying to go on.
Though Comerica Park now stands quiet, it is lit up. Giant stone tigers roar into a post-season sky and roar into a mostly vacant parking lot. I make nice to them and promise I will come cheer for the Tigers (because they don’t play against the NY Mets) come the spring.
Across the street stands the glorious Fox Theatre:
Built in the grand style of the 1920’s, when auto manufacturing was in high swing, it has a 3,600 square foot lobby and a grand auditorium that seats 5,000. And every square inch drips with restored opulence snatched from the mouths of the Blight and Decay demons that caused many of Detroit’s architectural treasures to crumble or lay in waste.
Though I wasn’t that excited to see this 60’s band, it was the venue itself – plus a fundraiser supporting independent lifestyles for adults with disabilities – that made me plunk down the cash for the tickets.
“I bet you have been craving for a night like this in the city,” my friend said as we crossed Woodward – a main thoroughfare in Detroit that is far wider than any avenue in Manhattan. Outside the theatre, a small crowd gathered and a ragged group of street musicians played and asked for change.
Oh yeah, I miss going out into a city for some nightlife. I miss packed sidewalks and even further packed subway cars. Even little Rochester had some hopping areas, some beautiful theaters, jazz spots and restaurants for entertainment.
I stepped inside the lobby. I knew I had to make my way to will call to get our tickets. I knew I should have been more friendly and engaged in conversation with new friends in the community who made their way over to say hi. But they had already been in the Fox theatre. They had lived here most of their lives. This was all new to me. And I was having trouble keeping my jaw from hanging to the floor:
The grandeur of the Fox Theater lobby made me happy and sad all at once. Happy that this gem has been restored and saved from blight and stands as a reminder of what Detroit could be again. Sad to think of all the other architectural treasures of the city – other theatres, the Central Train Station, hotels, schools, mansions, homes – that just lay in waste, I thought of the Heidelberg Art project that arsonists just burned to the ground. Again. Before I got to set eyes on it.
We spent the night listening to the Rascals play with new friends and some JARC residents, who quickly befriended us and were happy to sing and dance the evening away, even though I thought the Rascals depended very much upon their multimedia show than pandering to the crowd:
After the show, the city was dark. No bars open. No restaurants to spend our money in. Just a few lingering panhandlers and straggling musicians. So, back to suburbia we went for a late night bite to eat.
We really wanted to spend more money downtown. But there was nowhere open to spend it.
This is not the city that Never Sleeps. Not even by a long shot.
Like last week. I drove myself to the emergency room in the middle of the night thinking I had a kidney stone, leaving my three kids to fend for themselves to get up and out the door for school.
This week, it was my car’s health that made for an interesting week.
Of course, these are the weeks my husband is on Japan on business. the plane can not jet across the skies fast enough to get him home.
Every day, people on the road see me coming because I am not ready to turn in my New York license plates.
You see, to save taxpayer dollars, Michiganders do not have plates on the front of their vehicle. So, when you drive a car from New York, especially with the retro Orange and Blue old-style plates that hearken back to the gas guzzlers of the 1970’s you really stand out.
Because drivers can see me coming, the plates compel me to take on the role of an ambassador of the Empire State. And this ambassador is a very courteous driver.
I leave intersections and shopping center driveways clear so my fellow drivers can exit and enter.
(Detroiters, have you ever tried to get out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot on Telegraph and Maple? How many of you keep that intersection clear? You know who I’m talking about.)
I don’t tailgate.
I yield to pedestrians to cross the street, even the ones with canes, and don’t honk at them to hurry up.
All this to dispel the myth that all New York drivers are assholes.
I took my car in for a routine oil, lube and filter change the other day.
In the old days back in Brighton, I knew exactly who to use. I would leave my car at one of two reliable garages within walking distance from my home, use my coupon, and I knew my car was in reliable hands as I left for a walk,
So, I figured I would give the closest lube guys a chance. Lube Tech is about .7 miles from my house. It was a nice morning, the bike path is nearby and I was looking forward to a walk as my car got checked out. For safety’s sake, I lock my co-pilot, my GPS system, in my glove compartment
It turns out Lube Tech is the kind of speed oil change places, where the work is done in less than 20 minutes. Fair enough, I’ll wait for my car in the tiny waiting room filled with magazines about cars and sports.
Then, a swarthy mechanic tells me that my car requires synthetic oil. Which of course is more expensive and I can’t use the coupon.
I’ve never used synthetic oil, please use the regular oil, please.
Ten minutes go by and the mechanic approaches me with a concerned look.
“Do you ever have problems taking your key out of the ignition?”
“Em, no, never. “
What is he talking about? I just drove my kid to school this morning?
“Because now the key doesn’t come out.”
Oh this can’t be good.
He tries again. I try. One of his associates tries. The key will start the car and turn her off, but won’t come out.
Next, another question:
“Have your power windows been giving you problems? Because they don’t work now either. And neither do your tail lights, ma’am.”
And I’m supposed to be PAYING for this?
So, now, I’m sitting in my car with a stuck key in the ignition and windows locked shut. I’m a woman in a garage with four guys with my husband across the globe. And I don’t feel like paying for my oil change for some reason.
After giving them a piece of my New York mind, I drove off without paying. And I set out to locate my nearest Chevy dealer.
Now this would be easy if I could use my GPS. Too bad it is locked in my glove compartment. Locked with the key that won’t come out of my ignition.
With a little know how, and recalling how my son taught me how to use Google Maps on my smart phone, I make it to the nearest Chevy dealer. Who reassured me that all is under warranty and they will provide me with a rental car, all paid for by the good people of General Motors.
I was hoping to not get a compact car, because on any given day I have to drive at least three kids around town, plus all their stuff.
Turns out the only GM car the rental place had available was the biggest “car” there is: A Chevy suburban.
The rental agent behind the counter, a woman, asked me if I can handle a vehicle this big.
Another rental agent looks up from his computer, raises his eyebrows and smiles at me: “Awww yeah girl, you can handle it.”
So, for a few days, while my car was being fixed for a problem that had NOTHING to do with the oil change, I felt untouchable on the road. Completely confident on making that Michigan left on Telegraph. Or Woodward.
And what’s more, people still saw me coming.
Except this time, Detroiters thought I was from
This summer, I traveled around meeting great people in the Great Lakes State. And I’ve also taken up palm reading as a new hobby.
When you meet a Michigander, one of the first things they will talk about is where they are from. And to do this properly, they will show you on their palm. Their right palm to be exact.
Michiganders proudly refer to their state as the Mitten. So much so that you can buy Michigan Mittens or oven mitts at kitschy and cute tourist shops Up North (yes, it’s capitalized) or like the ones I found on Karin Marie’s “talk to the mitten” Pinterest site.
To demonstrate, I will call upon my lovely assistant and local hand model.
See, we live in the Detroit suburbs, right here:
If you want to vacation on Lake Michigan and swim and sail where the water is warm and mostly calm all summer, go to any town located here, like Bay City, between the thumb and the index finger.
Last week, I went “Up North.” for a quick getaway. We stayed at a lovely Inn in Leland, on the Leeelanau peninsula. That’s here, in the pinky:
While up in the pinky, we went on a hike in one of the last remaining Cedar forests in North America. On the trail, we met an older woman who lives in the thumb, near Port Huron
We stayed at a wonderful place called the Whale back Inn, named so because the area where it is situated, when viewed from Lake Michigan looks like….
yes, you get it.
The grounds of the Inn overlooked a pristine and inviting lake (of course it did, we are in MICHIGAN!). There, we met native Michiganders now living in Palo Alto, Calif. (I don’t know what body part California looks like.) They have relatives who farm land in the center of the palm, right between the fate and life lines.
Finally, a guy I met in synagogue the other day held up his palm and said he grew up around Benton Harbor, and that’s right here, at the heel of the palm.
All this palm reading and thinking got me thinking about a country famously known for its shape:
If you travel in Italy and converse with Italians, do they locate their cities of origin on “the boot?” Do they point to their knees, heel or toe when asked where they are from?
Or, what about New York, my home state? Sure, New York has the Big Apple, but what is it shaped like? My best bet, if I had to make a hand shape for New York, it would look like the Vulcan hand salute. Rotated. And reversed.
Or, or, as my hand model – his hand getting tired from twisting from these poses and working for me for 20 minutes -said maybe we should just leave the hand symbol for New York at this:
Remember this song? Remember how in the 1960’s Petula Clark sang so optimistically about all the energy and promise that could be found “Downtown” in some unnamed city?
It is a promise I still believe in, even if my nearest downtown is the downtown of Detroit.
I’ve lived in New York City and in the Bay Area near Oakland and San Francisco. In my life I have walked the streets of Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
I’ve never shied away from exploring a city. You just have to know where to go and where not to go.
…can you guess?
“Have any of you ever been mugged?”
Back in the 1970’s and the early 1980’s, New York City carried a crime-ridden, grafitti and blight stricken reputation. Street crime, such as theft, murder, and yes, muggings, were at their height in the days when New York City had its own brush with near-bankruptcy.
But in those years of my childhood….none in my family was ever mugged, however many times we took the subway. I was taught from an early age the following streetwise tips:
- Always be wary my surroundings.
- On a subway platform, stand closest to the token collector booth and far away from the platform edge.
- On the street, walk like you KNOW where you’re going.
- Keep rings with stones turned in.
- Tuck necklaces in too.
- As far as purses, the most fashionable purse a woman can wear in NYC is the kind that can be worn postal style across one shoulder.
With this training in place, not much else impeded us from enjoying the city. My childhood was filled with urban memories like going to the Circus or the Ice Capades at Madison Square Garden, dining in Chinatown, the Lower East Side’s delis, or learning at the museums.
It was our city and NO we never got mugged.
Now, I live in Detroit.
Okay, I’ll ‘fess up. I guess you can’t say I live in Detroit. I’m a full-fledged suburbanite now. With the neatly cut front lawn and a fancy sign on the main road at the entrance of our “development” to prove it.
But in my heart, I’m an urbanite. I still long for the energy of the city.
One big problem here. I’m finding a hard time looking for some native Detroiters who are willing to show me around. There is too much history of bad times here. Too many suburbanites who have been victims of crime somewhere in their past.
The people here told me that I would love the suburbs. There is so much to do see, so much shopping in the suburbs. But downtown? No, they just don’t go downtown.
“I will not go downtown,” said one friend I’ve known for a while. The daughter of my neighbors back in Rochester, she is a woman who has lived in cities in China, Japan, who has ventured all over New York City. Now, she just takes her kid to the movies and the mall.
“I’m just boring here. And I’m telling you, don’t go downtown.”
I laughed into the phone. Nervously.
“No, I’m not joking. Don’t go looking to explore downtown Detroit. It is just not safe.”
Another source giving me advice about Detroit was my electrician. A life-long Detroiter, he told me the story of how his family all used to live in the city, but his grandparents’ home was broken into. His grandfather was beat up pretty bad. In his own home.
He then told me the story of how, as an older woman, Rosa Parks herself was mugged on the streets of Detroit.
“I mean, the mother of the civil rights movement! Can you imagine what thugs would mug Rosa Parks? I would not go downtown. No, Not even to the riverfront. I wouldn’t take my kids down there. Don’t go.”
Another stern warning came from the welcome wagon lady.
First, she reminisced about how once, Detroit could have been one of the richest, and one of the most beautiful cities in America. She spoke of the beautiful hotels and department stores like Hudson’s. Hudson’s where you could have your hair and nails done and your umbrella fixed while shopping for the finest fashions. And then you can dine at one of its fine restaurants.
We sat on my couch and I tried to envision what Detroit must have been like through her shared memories. As I admired the welcome basket filled with gifts like caramel chocolate popcorn and new dishtowels, she told me how her son last year was carjacked at gunpoint when he stopped to fill up at a downtown gas station.
Still, she encouraged me to at least go check out the Detroit Institute of Art. I certainly will, before the city potentially sells off its art collection to cover what they owe to their pensioners.
Some final advice from the welcome wagon lady:
“If you do go downtown, make sure you have plenty of gas. Don’t ever stop for gas below Eight Mile. And don’t stop for a red light at night. And If a cop does pull you over for running a light, be glad he did.”
This gallery contains 6 photos.
Rochester is now starring as the stunt double for New York City in Spiderman 2. And it’s making some Rochesterians as mad as the Incredible Hulk
The news from Staten Island, it’s not all bad.
For the most part, everything seems – SEEMS – like it’s back to normal after Sandy, the worst storm in Staten Island’s 300-year history.
The stores are hopping with Christmas shoppers.
The streets are typically jammed with traffic.
The noisy holiday revelry in local restaurants with present opening, reindeer antler wearing patrons lay on an extra surreal layer to this island that everything is okay.
Last night, my husband and I ate at Euro-trendy Alor Cafe. As we dined on crepes and roasted Barramundi and sipped our Riesling and Merlot, we listened to a trio of flamenco guitarists:
All this normalcy takes place above “the Boulevard.”
Drive below the Boulevard, in the neighborhood where I grew up and my parents still live, things get strange.
Everywhere, there are subtle and not so subtle reminders of how Sandy reaffirmed for many Staten Islanders why the Island’s South Shore has the dubious distinction for being named “Zone A.”
First, you notice the inspection postings that dot a front window on nearly every residence:
Then, there are the police cars that are out on nearly every corner. All day and all night:
And on the other side of the field, some more harsh evidence of Sandy:
On the other side of my childhood neighborhood are the eclectic bungalow-lined streets of Cedar Grove. Though I didn’t know anyone who lived here, I am thankful for the peacefulness these streets offered me in my teen years. These are the streets where I felt safe riding my bicycle. Many of these streets now have RED inspection stickers which mean that most of these houses are no longer safe to inhabit.
Even the neighborhoods makeshift 9/11 memorial had been destroyed by the storm surge:
As I walked these streets in the low December sun, I thought to myself: Am I a disaster tourist? Am I just a gawker?
No. No I’m not.
I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of the most badly damaged homes. The ones reduced to rubble. I felt by taking photos of these homes, I would be just be further violating the homeowner’s dignity. FOX news and CNN took photos of the worst, only to chase the next big news story and forget about this place just weeks later.
In this tucked-away corner of Staten Island, I’m not a tourist, though I no longer live here. I want to show the world these secret streets, to show them in their continued state of misery. Even though the media has moved on.
Don’t forget this strong and dignified neighborhood, however modest their homes.
Still there are signs of hope. This beautiful Spanish-mission styled church still stands:
Outside of a makeshift relief center where residents can get food, drinks and even Christmas gifts, there is this tree, with a sign of hope and resilience:
Here is my article on Susan Ferrari Rowley’s Rochester exhibit which ran in the November 11, 2012 Living Section of the Democrat 7 Chronicle:
In the male-dominated world of art, it’s tough to be a woman sculptor. Women artists seldom get the space they deserve in the pages of an Art History 101 textbook.
The exclusion of works by women is further evidenced in the inventory of American museums, where only about 5 percent of museum collections include works by women artists, according to the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. An even smaller percentage include sculptures by women.
That is why Robin Muto, who is the co-curator of one of Rochester’s newer galleries, AXOM Gallery & Exhibition Space, jumped at the opportunity to show the work of Rochester-based minimalist sculptor Susan Ferrari Rowley in an exhibit specifically designed for the studio’s airy, high-ceilinged space.
“New Directions,” on exhibit at AXOM, 176 Anderson Ave., through Saturday, offers the viewer a range of human emotions in stark white fabrics, stretched and sewn onto soldered aluminum frames. The works will head to New York City’s OK Harris gallery in December.
Contrast in form
“New Directions” reveals Rowley’s current migration from creating larger outdoor and public sculptures to works scaled for private residences. Asymmetric pieces likeInseparable, Centered and Off-Balance exude an edgy tension as they balance precariously on pedestals Rowley custom designed to be just big enough for their footprint.
The “living on the edge” quality of these smaller works also suggests anatomical elements of a body, legs and arms. A calming, translucent glow that seems to start from within the sculptures hints at an inner soul.
Rowley’s sculptures are a contrast of materials and moods. They are large and imposing, yet they invite the viewer to come closer. Through cloth and metal and angular and curved lines, the exhibit of about a dozen abstract pieces can be experienced by stepping around, over and through them.
Outside the main gallery is the story of the art through photos of Rowley making them in her Scottsville studio.
The dominating work in “New Directions” is 4-2-2, a 10-foot composition of three geometric forms. This construct of three white, billowy shapes gives off a peaceful, translucent glow made possible by the carefully placed overhead track lighting. At the same time, three enormous metal poles that extend from the floor to the 14-foot ceiling impale the composition. The very moment of this piercing appears to be captured within the tension of the cloth.
Though abstract and stark in composition, 4-2-2 was created out of a very human emotion: the heartbreak of impending loss. Rowley says it was inspired by the death of her dog Tu-Tu (pronounced tiyu-tiyu), who was a loyal companion for almost 14 years.
Rowley melds techniques like sewing, traditionally regarded as a feminine skill that she learned from her grandmother, with the more masculine crafts of soldering metal and machine tooling. The combined media make each sculpture confrontational in its large scale, yet lightweight and vulnerable in overall appearance.
“I like to work in opposites,” says Rowley, associate professor of fine arts at Monroe Community College. “Metal is hard, and poly fiber fabric is soft. There are male and female qualities, a vulnerability yet strength in my work that are emotions I needed to embrace in my own life as I evolved as an artist.”
A cause in jewelry
“New Directions” also includes Angular Extremes, wearable bracelet art that is the result of Rowley’s tenacious three-year campaign to convince American machine tooling factories and other manufacturers that they can make art and jewelry.
The aluminum bracelets are cast in a Milwaukee factory that did not think they were cut out to manufacture jewelry until Rowley talked them into it. The bracelets are shipped to Rochester, where another company provides the black-and-white nickel color coating.
She then designs the boxes, made from post-consumer recycled materials, with New York’s Jamestown Container.
It is a company where her late mother-in-law spent most of her working life. The label for the packaging was produced by another American company.
These bracelets are also part of the AXOM exhibit and available for purchase at Shop One2 Gallery on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus and the Memorial Art Gallery Store.
Influences on work
Growing up on Long Island, Rowley developed an appreciation for the arts by making treks into New York City. She found art in museums, but also in the windows of Macy’s or in the hand-drawn fashion advertisements in the Sunday New York Times.
On a sixth-grade field trip to the Museum of Modern Art, Rowley fell for a sculpture of abstract feminist sculptor Louise Nevelson. Rowley had found her calling.
“I remember on the train ride home thinking, ‘Making sculptures and placing them on pedestals, that’s what I want to do with my life!’ ” she says.
Later in graduate school, Rowley wanted to find additional 20th century female sculptors to emulate. She had studied the work of Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp. Then she found fiberglass artist Eva Hesse and sculptor and printmaker Nancy Graves.
“When I read about their lives and how they struggled as women sculptors, their drive inspired me. I knew if I was driven, I would be OK,” Rowley says. “I had to live up to my potential; I had to produce and show as a woman sculptor.”
More than 30 years into her career, Rowley still possesses that drive. She sometimes works alone in her studio. Sometimes she is “making it happen” on group collaborations. In 2004, she proved to be a quick study on zoning and construction codes when she designed relief art for noise-barrier panels placed along Rochester’s western highways for the New York Department of Transportation.
Rowley also made a suspended sculpture for the set of Garth Fagan’sLight Night and Melanin.
The diversification of work, trying to make it fit in several situations, is what she tries to impart to her MCC students, says Rowley, who received the 2011 SUNY Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.
“I tell my students that our brains have tremendous capacity to diversify,” she says. “Artists today have to have communication and business skills as well as artistic talents, especially when they are commissioned on a piece and will need to work with those with non-artistic backgrounds.”
Saturday night, the night my parents went to a double wake for two Staten Islanders who drowned in their basement when the ocean came in, my faith was totally shaken.
I’m normally a person pretty strong in my faith, pretty sure that God has a plan and we can’t understand it. I pride myself in holding strong to my Jewish heritage and encourage my students to do the same.
But the other night, if just for a few hours, I gave up.
I went to bed in a dark place, filled with the images of helpless cold people from the neighborhoods of my childhood. I went to bed angry, completely pissed off at God. God, I thought, didn’t you promise to Noah never to destroy the earth again by flood? What was that about? Why do we humans have to see floods over and over again? How am I supposed to get up and teach my students tomorrow about your blessings, for blessing us with everything we need like food and shelter when there are people like my parents who are still without power and warmth in their own homes? When there is a wife who has lost a twin son and her husband AND her home in one single wave?
Lesson learned: when you go do bed angry at God, you don’t receive the blessing of sleep.
The next morning was Sunday. The sun shone brightly. Even when you can’t see it, there is the sun.
In New York City, it was Marathon Sunday. Fortunately, Mayor Bloomberg came to his senses and cancelled the marathon, but not before thousands of marathoners traveled just to be stuck and cold in the big apple. For me, it was off to teach Hebrew school, which opens each week with me helping to lead a tefilah,or prayer service, for students 7th grade and up.
Before going to bed, I expressed my very dark thoughts about prayer and God very honestly to my boss.I wasn’t feeling very thankful to God after days of looking at the destruction, and learning how close death hit to home.
Thankfully, she sent me some reinforcement. The rabbi of the temple Sunday morning addressed the kids so thoughtfully and patiently. She told us, yes, we can still feel blessed by God for God’s daily miracles: for giving us the ability to stand, to see, for giving us food and clothing. We do not despair or feel guilty for the blessings we have but instead use tefilah, to inspire us to help others in crisis. Just being together in a room of people joining together makes you realize you are not alone in sadness, and praying together can lead to hopefulness and action.
That afternoon I got a call from mom. She was overwhelmed with gratitude. She said Angels came to Staten Island that day. Would-be marathon runners took the ferry and ran around the island.
Thousands of them took to the streets, knocked on doors and started helping out and cleaning out. Several of them descended at my parents house and emptied the contents of my parent’s waterlogged basement.
Back here, in Rochester, many fundraising and relief efforts are underway including the Sea Breeze Fire Association collecting and then driving down a truck load of supplies to Staten Island and Long Island.
Brighton and Pittsford kids next week are organizing a bagel breakfast for pick up or delivery to benefit the New York Mayor‘s Fund for sandy relief, aptly named Sand-Aid.
These are indeed dark days and it will take a lot of fundraisers like this in the weeks and months to come, even after the media finds another story to cover. But with relief efforts like this, there will be light again.