I used to write it all down, hoping someone would read it years from now

I have been negligent on keeping this up due to a confluence of circumstances, so this will be a long one.  Feel free to skip past the self indulgent stuff, which will pretty much be all of this.  The hope is that this thing will evolve to more of a shared responsibility between Shannon and I.  Since Shannon is on a two week hiatus with her masters thesis she currently regards computers as having the same worth as spiders. She knows they (computers and spiders) have a function, but she would rather hit them with a shoe, so you will have to deal with me for a bit.  This is a good thing because I am going to need the practice typing.  My hope is that you all will enjoy following us in our adventure(s) and that my kid will know what the hell happened at the this time in his/her life.

Smoking Jesus

So, do you see that picture up there?  If you are offended, apparently you are not alone.  A student in our art department painted that piece, submitted it the annual student show and it won best-in-show a year ago.  So far, so good.  A picture was taken to document the occasion with the student (his name is George Cole), my co-worker Andrea and myself with the painting.  The Sunday before the show closed the Jacksonville Daily News ran the picture and stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy.  The school started getting calls saying we were harboring Satan, we should be fired and my personal favorite, this was all happening because now “we have one of ‘those’ in the White House.”  Some people wrote much of the same to the paper.

I have to admit, I thought most of this was funny, except for the part where my boss kept telling me things were going to have to change.  She also told me early on how much the piece offended her, but she could never tell me why the piece offended her.   Some people in the community said “my Jesus doesn’t smoke,” so maybe that’s the reason.  I liked to think their sentences got cut off.  For example, “My Jesus doesn’t smoke…Kools” or “My Jesus doesn’t smoke…your schwag weed.”  I wanted to lead these people in healthy discussions on the free play of signs and signifiers and cultural representations of the Christ figure in art and literature, or even have George explain to people his experience with Christianity and his search for faith, but I was told I should keep my thoughts to myself.

This next part I have only heard about second hand from people who were in the room.  Apparently some of the people on the board of trustees said they were not going to give any money to the college any more.  There was a story years ago about a student who published a piece in the college student writing anthology critical of McDonald’s dietary options.  One of the members of the board owned the McDonald’s franchise next to the college and demanded the piece be removed from the anthology and the administration complied.  Needless to say, what the board wants, apparently the board gets.

The solution to all this going forward was to have the administration review all pieces prior to the juror seeing them.  This way, if they saw anything potentially controversial, they could remove it.  I thought this was a phenomenally bad idea.  I accumulated academic articles to prove what a phenomenally bad idea it was.  I asked to be removed from association with the exhibitions if this was going to be carried out.  I was told I had to do the exhibitions and they were going to conduct review no matter what.  We decided to go our separate ways.

I feel like my whole role in this was akin to playing a fret-less bass.  Is it kinda cool? Yeah, a little.  Is it ridiculous and self-serving? Probably.  Will I regret it in 27 years?  Those guys in Journey made a ton of money, so I guess I will have to wait and see.

So I knew I was going to be out of a job and we knew Shannon was pregnant.  I had been toying with the idea of going back to school for a while now for a few reasons:

1. I literally applied for between 60-80 university jobs and had approximately four interviews.  One school lost funding half way through the search, the others hired internal candidates.  On a side note, if you have a ton of self-confidence and would like to knock it down a peg or two, try applying for university teaching jobs in the arts or gallery shows in New York.  It has worked wonders for me.

2. I love making art and I love teaching college freshman, but I think a lot of people who teach college freshman have no idea what they are talking about.  Most of the time I have no idea what I am talking about.  I want to know all the educational reasons I teach the way I do and why others teach the way they teach.  I want a more complete picture of how art education has evolved and functions in our culture.  I want a solid background to be a better teacher and push things forward.  I would love to shape school policy for a better educational experience for students.

3. I want to live in abject poverty.

Surprisingly enough, my wife was on board with all of this.  We went to visit Ohio State this past fall to get a feel for the program.  OSU is supposed to be the best school in the world for art ed, and it had the bonus effect on being significantly closer to family.  Everyone there was really nice and supportive.  I applied, got it, got a fellowship and now we are moving to Columbus at the beginning of September.  I will be honored to attend the same school as this fine gentleman (be careful of the naughty words at the beginning):

So what have I learned through all of this?  Well first off I have an amazing, supportive wife who was encouraging, empathetic and pragmatic through all of this.  Second, art really does have power and an effect on people.  Third, my students know that art can be thoughtful and effective.  And finally, I wasn’t a great fit at this school.  I will miss some of the people here terribly, but I hope I made the right decision and I especially hope to get another chance at a different school some day soon.  I also hope one day when our unborn kid asks why, in our right minds, would we move away from the beach, he/she will learn that their parents think it is ok to take a stand on principle.

I will try to keep the posts up once a week.  Next Sunday: PREGNANCY MONTAGE!

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1 Comment

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One response to “I used to write it all down, hoping someone would read it years from now

  1. Big Mike Murder,

    Sorry to address you with your rap moniker, but that is what you should go by in your new academic surroundings. Perhaps introducing yourself like this will give people the impression that a) this dude is nutzo and b) the Kellner Clan ain’t nuthin’ to f#@! wit’.

    Personally, I am glad you stood up to the Jerk Store admin at your old school. Puppies and flowers will be the new Art Show standards, huh?

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