Arms of the ancients

Jen Blackstone’s “Academy Proposal” at June Fitzpatrick
By CHRIS THOMPSON  |  April 25, 2007

42 MISMATCHED DESKS: Mixed-media drawing on plaster.

It is with great pleasure that the Members of the Board of The Academy write to inform you that we have accepted your for construction of the State of Maine’s first “private, secular classical education system for adult learning.”

We voted to accept both components, namely the written version as well as its sculptural/drawing component, both of which we were able to review at the June Fitzpatrick Gallery.

The success of the television show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? has made it clear to us, and to America, just how much knowledge and spiritual vigor gets lost after one hits one’s climax at roughly the age of eleven. We agree that a return to fundamentals is in order, and that looking to the ancients is the way to proceed.

You raise an important point when you note the following in your proposal: “Polls show that local public sentiment is 83 percent opposed to The Academy’s construction. We hope that this glossy, with the advertised low credit hour rate, will help convince our neighbors that The Academy offers quality education at a low price and in a convenient location.” (Exhibit J) We agree that, with the proper development and advertising campaign, folks will realize just how beneficial a classical K-4th grade education for adults would be. And how timely. We expect that in due time the residents of Elmwood Road and indeed most of Pownal will be on board.

We were struck by your energy plan: “Quite simply, this waste oil burner purchased from a used-car lot will allow the Maintenance Committee to heat the building with dirty kerosene, diesel, and K-1 from multiple sellers at rock bottom prices.” (Exhibit F) We trust that the environmental implications of this method shall be negligible.

And we are also heartened by your plan for furnishing the classrooms: “Our Interiors Committee located this odd lot [“42 Mismatched Desks”] through a wholesale industrial furniture warehouse out of state. While the items do not match each other in size or appearance, they all appear to be constructed soundly. Delivery costs and the repair of one desk slightly offset the committee’s savings.” (Exhibit O) The sculptural version of this element, “42 Mismatched Desks,” creates a space of genuine hope — it was this image that really clinched our investment in your leadership. The depictions of the desks themselves, fashioned out of what appears to be mica of different sizes and variegated edges, gives the sense of a sort of swarm of learners, a kind of herd, moving while remaining firmly their seats.

Let us then commend you on your thrift! It is here that we find the most intoxicating synthesis of the Yankee and the Spartan, and your ability to conjoin the values shall make it possible to ground the more Athenian branches of the curriculum.

As regards your unorthodox presentation: as noted above with respect to “42 Mismatched Desks,” we find ourselves persuaded that this is a pedagogical, sociological, environmental, and existential undertaking whose scope and complexity simply cannot be articulated with conventional spreadsheets, word processors, and architect’s drawings, nor could it be packaged properly by Kinko’s, and that the rigor of your method has demanded more inventive ways to document and capture the full breadth of the project.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Maine College of Art
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