Haystack Art Schools Collaborative 2013

Two weeks ago, Chris, Sabina, and I took a trip up the coast to Haystack Mountain School of Craft for a conference. The conference was called the Eastern Art School Collaborative and gathered between seventy to eighty students and faculty from about ten different schools.

It was wonderful to be a part of an artistic community before the inevitable hierarchies set in. My friend, who is in the Metals program at SUNY New Paltz mentioned The Lord of the Flies to me on the first day and I couldn’t quite get the association out of my head. Like the shipwrecked boys in that novel, our community was new and not expected to last. Unlike the novel, we never made it past the first stage of wild discovery and excitement; we never turned on each other or elevated some above others.

Oh, we would have gotten there eventually. But our time together was so short that it was all we could do to appreciate each other and our circumstances. We were, if anything, overfed, with three huge meals a day. We lived in a tree house that emerged from the mists at dawn and glowed with fire at sundown. We had companionship, natural beauty, confidence that everybody there felt interest in our work, and the expectation that everybody there could teach us something unique and valuable.

My imagination wandered down paths where we weren’t so well fed, where we became comfortable to the point of taking each other for granted, or where power struggles reasserted themselves into our loose social order. I wondered what it would take for the kitchen staff to revolt, for patience to snap, for appreciation to wane. I wish that I knew what it would take to stave such things off forever, to always live as peacefully as we did for those three nights.

Other than bonding, sharing, and showing off, we did take part in activities that were meant to foster insights into our creative practices. Artists Mike Rossi and Anna Hepler worked in the forge and fibers studio respectively, creating sculptures with the help and input of the attendees. Choreographer and environmental activist, Cassie Meador, conducted a workshop on movement and a brainstorming session regarding her upcoming new work. The most meaningful activity in my experience took the form of a writing workshop with poet, Wesley McNair.

Mike Rossi <3s his Smith and Wesson safety goggles

Mike Rossi


Anna Hepler works on woven wire sculptures with attendees, Chris among them

Anna Hepler works on woven wire sculptures with attendees, Chris among them


Mr. McNair, the poet laureate of the state of Maine, read us poetry and led us in discussions concerning the free verse format of the readings. Free verse is meant to visually indicate concepts and emotions by manipulating the structure of the verse on the page. In one exercise, he read us lines and asked us to guess where the line would break. For example: This line, “The black snake pours himself swift and heavy into the ground,” from a Mary Oliver poem, has two line breaks in it. The actual format reads:

The black snake

Pours himself swift and heavy

Into the ground

I had several variations on this written on my paper. My favorite was different than the true poem’s verse form:

The blacksnake pours himself


And heavy into the ground

But I can see why Ms. Oliver placed her line breaks where she did, how the word “heavy” feels when it is left hanging at the end of a line. Wes also left us with eleven general rules regarding free verse writing:

1. Break to visualize the mind at work, shaping the poem, thinking the thought of the poem.

2. Break to visualize the poem’s central action.

3. Break to indicate the poem’s mood

4. Break to emphasize related sounds

5. The word at the end of the line is most important

6. Break on nouns, verbs, and things that describe them

7. Don’t forget the wordlessness around the poem

8. Imitate the stresses of meditation and feeling in vocal tones

9. A stanza can be either regular or irregular

10. It’s all about timing—don’t say it too soon or too late.

11. Break the rules

I felt like this workshop really spoke to my interests in writing.

As you can see, I don’t take a lot of pictures of people. It feels too intrusive…or maybe I just want the scene to remain undisturbed, unaffected, and, inevitably, taking a picture causes that scene to be disturbed. Somebody will turn, notice me, make a face.

I do like to take pictures of landscapes and landscape details. I’m drawn to patterns and systems, textures, striking colors, and repetition. So, other than snapping away at the beach—because I haven’t seen the ocean in eight years—I captured many an image of rocks, lichen, water, moss, and barnacles. Seriously, moss and lichen lovers rejoice–I got you covered.

1 thought on “Haystack Art Schools Collaborative 2013

  1. These pictures are inspiring and it’s very clear that you got a lot from this trip. I really enjoyed your macro-photography! I know that I can’t go hiking with a camera because I always have to stop and catch the tiniest of little variances of things. It’s nice to see someone else’s perspective in that manner.

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