New York, New York

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New York, New York

Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson

New Yorkers go about their day

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“Ah, smell those bus fumes!” Daddy Warbucks says as he takes Annie onto 5th Avenue. “There’s no air like the air of New York. Come on, you slow pokes! We gotta get to the Roxy before the prices change.”

If you change the location from the Roxy to the MoMA, or the Museum of Modern Art, then the students of this spring semester’s Seminar in Contemporary Art Issues class (myself included) understood the rush. If we didn’t get there during the free admission period on Friday between 4 and 8 p.m., then we’d have to pony up the $25 to get in (or at least $14 for those who remembered student IDs). And it was already 6:30 by the time that we got there.

On top of that, every New Yorker and their second cousin knew about the free admission time at the MoMa as well.

Getting in during this window of opportunity was about as difficult licking your elbow. Still, being squeezed by the sweaty, cranky crowd was well worth it to see some paintings that I’d only ever seen printed in a 2×2 inch square in a textbook, including Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” I honestly thought it would be bigger, but hey, at least I saw it.

Much more satisfying was Claude Monet’s series “Water Lilies” from 1914-26, truly huge and yet delicate. Everyone loves to go on and on about how Monet’s brushwork forces you to stand far away from the piece so as to get the clear image of the painting, but I recommend getting as close as you can to immerse yourself in Monet’s sense of color. It’s really quite amazing. But don’t get too close, because museum guards are really irritable, and getting them mad isn’t part of the class.

The Seminar in Contemporary Art Issues is a class that, until recently, was only offered in the spring and only required by BFA students to graduate.

Now Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Mary Martin, the college’s art history expert, is planning on expanding the graduation requirement to include B.A.s and adding a New York trip in the fall semester. Doing this would both expose more students to the contemporary art scene and hopefully reduce class sizes, as they have been getting a bit too large as of late.

“For several years, it’s been 22 or 25 students,” said Fine Arts Professor Ken Leslie. “It’d be better if it was around 12 or 15.”

This year’s trip, led by Professors Martin and Leslie, led 21 students to New York by train on Wednesday, April 11. We had Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to complete journal assignments, museum trips, and any other free-time activities we wished.

Along with the MoMA, the class visited art galleries in Chelsea, the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney, the New Museum, and the Jewish Museum, along with many other places.

Sunday morning we hopped on the subway for the last time, performed random acts of kindness by giving our unlimited subway passes to strangers, and piled back onto the train. We were back in Vermont by 9 p.m.

“I think the goal is not only to learn about contemporary art, but to learn about your place in the contemporary art world,” said Martin. “I also want them to know that people can go somewhere and actually have fun, to be equipped with the ability to travel.”

Martin also prepared us for the trip with books about contemporary artists, and also a book titled “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark,” a book that explained more of the business and auction house side of the contemporary art market.

Overall? New York City was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. This revelation isn’t uniquely my own, as Leslie showed me that one of his students from 1985, Jeremy Crawford, moved to New York City after getting his art degree from Johnson and now has his own gallery opening there coming up soon.

As Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere / It’s up to you, New York, New York!”

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