Last week, my former student and Pratt alum, Ryan Lammie, kindly spent two days on campus visiting my Senior and Junior Seminars and my Thesis Painting class. He came in from Pittsburgh and did this service gratis for us as have other young artists in the past. Students are dulled by hearing faculty talk about what life will be like on the outside after they graduate, and worse, they never believe us. More authentic to them are young artist-alums who return and speak of their experiences.
Ryan was one of three students who developed a major show, Pratt-Harlem, and quickly drew in other colleagues with a wide array of skills. It was a collaboration between Pratt Thesis Painting Students, the Pratt Painting Club and P.A.L. the Graduate MFA student organization and the Harlem Community. Everything they did was student organized and faculty hands-off. From first meeting to take down of the show was eight weeks. They did it all themselves. It was an amalgam of creative energy, cooperation, organization and focus.
Ryan went on that summer to the Yale-Norfolk Program and after returning to Brooklyn, decided that there had to be a more viable and creative way to thrive as a artist than live in Brooklyn which had become very expensive. It is a few years later that he returned to campus having started an artists’ collective named Radiant Hall in Pittsburgh. He shared with my classes what he has learned in this time. Go the the website and see what is possible when people work together for an end that benefits each and every participant. What I remember most were his words that they organized this affordable space around the artist’s individual needs, case by case, not developing a space and forcing the artist to fit into it.
I hope these smart ideas will be shared and planted in other communities.