I still haven't figured out how to ignore the professional conferences that I've gone to for twenty or more years, and realize that dollars spent on them are dollars that aren't spent on trips to Europe or Turkey or India or wherever. This year, ALA Midwinter was in San Diego which meant a special evening with my nephew Michael and his girlfriend, as well as my sister and her family whose visit from Long Island coincided. It was nice to be in 70-degree weather. College Art was in New York. I stayed with Daniel and Gary so we got in some quality time as well as all of the CAA enjoyment. ARLIS/NA and VRA held a joint conference this year in Minneapolis. Though the societies share a good deal of professional territory and membership, the cultures and conferences are quite different. The planning group for this joint conference did a wonderful job of really combining many elements rather than holding two simultaneous and conflicting conferences in the same space. I hadn't been to Minneapolis for 25 years or more so it was fun to be there. ALA Annual, the summer conference, was in New Orleans. I do love that city, ever since my first visit thirty years ago. The conferences were a mix of meetings and interactions with colleagues and friends, full of rich moments.
Other than the conference trips, I also went to New York City several times and to Boston another time or two, once as a kickoff to Provincetown and again to Portland. All of the travel was in the U.S. except for a slip across the border to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We saw Shaw's "Candida" and Molnar's "The president" -- both very enjoyable. NOTL is quite the tourist trap but the theater is fine!
One of my NYU colleagues had gone to the first Prospect biennial in New Orleans and said it was wonderful so I told myself I wouldn't miss the next one. Prospect.2 is on now, until late January 2012. I just HAD to do it and, of course, it meant another visit to New Orleans. I went for a week in early December and had a really wonderful trip, full of art (Sophie Calle installation, Nick Cave and Joyce J. Scott in a good pairing at Tulane) and lots of walking. I happened on an interesting building now housing a funeral home but clearly didn't start out that way. The funeral home's webpage had a history of the building and a visit to the Southeastern Architecture Archives at Tulane provided a chance to see a picture of the building as the Tivoli Theater. (pictures on my Flickr photostream, tag "Emile Weil" architect)
Another highlight of the year was a visit from the Grotjahns. Eleanor is my father's cousin, from the Seattle area, and she met up in Alfred with her daughter Bonnie from England and son Doug from San Diego. They stayed with me in the ancestral home. We looked at lots of pictures and genealogical tables, visited cemeteries and Letchworth State Park, and just talked. It was incredible harmony, especially given that we had actually never met in person before ... or maybe that explains the harmony. Brother Doug and Doug Grotjahn are only three days apart in age.
My work life continues about the same. I am working a couple days a week at the Scholes Library of Ceramics at the New York State College of Ceramics. It's a great circle as I worked in the ceramics library over the summer during college in the mid 1960s. Though I'm stationed at the reference desk, they're using (thank heavens) my cataloging experience to work on special projects like a bunch of Austrian books on contemporary art and a gift collection from a faculty couple. I am still working on small exhibition catalogs for MoMA and making three week-long trips or so a year to the Center for Creative Studies at Bard College. The mix of books for MoMA and CCS is mostly very interesting.
My regular life in Alfred revolves around the Bergren Forum (a lunchtime talk each Thursday, on a wide variety of topics), peace vigil on Wednesdays, Studio Visits (visiting artist talk and interview) for the Freshman Foundation class, monthly meetings of the Village Planning Board, involvement with the Sustainability Working Group, and even going to church. I consider myself more of a cultural Seventh Day Baptist than a religious one (to borrow Becky's term) but I do really enjoy the people. And our Sabbath usually includes lunch together at the Collegiate or another restaurant or dish-to-pass in the Parish House.
In addition to the Shaw Festival plays, I also saw Geoffrey Rush in Gogol's "The diary of a madman" at BAM and it was great. On one of my trips to Boston, we went to a production of a new opera of "The picture of Dorian Gray" with libretto by friend Jim Saslow. The new Miller Theater opened on the Alfred University campus and it's a fine space with a significant rake so viewing music and dance concerts is easy. At one vocal recital, a tenor sang a Rachmaninoff song that I know from a Dawn Upshaw recording. I do miss my Carnegie Hall visits but there have been some decent recitals here.
Among the special art exhibitions this year were the Esteban Vicente show at Grey Gallery (especially the lovely drawing in the Dore Ashton collection), "Objects of devotion and desire" at the Leubsdorf Gallery at Hunter, the Francis Alys show at MoMA and P.S. 1, and "Record" at the ICA in Boston. Those, along with Prospect.2. ["Alys" should have a diaeresis, aka umlaut, on the "y" but neither Firefox nor Safari wants to display the diacritic correctly; same with the "u" in "Durer" at the beginning of the letter]
One of my friends said she was trying to get 52 books read this year. I did read a couple dozen, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, long and short. And I can get the Monday-Friday New York times during sessions for about $30 a term. Lots of reading there, and it counts as home delivery enabling digital access. I off and on blog about what I'm reading, or put it in my Facebook feed. There was a Facebook application (WeRead) which I really liked and used as a record of my reading (along with scribbles in my journal). That app seems to have disappeared though GoodReads may be a successor.
Four people died in the past year or so that had a significant effect on my life. Lois Smith died in the summer at 101: she was the grande dame at the ceramics library when I worked there in the 1960s and was a major force in getting my life onto its track, both in librarianship and pacifism. My dad's second wife, Ethel Dickinson Clarke, died in the summer. Three of us kids went to the memorial service in southern New Jersey. Don Seibert, longtime music librarian at Syracuse, died late in 2010. When Bob and I lived in Ithaca in the 1980s, we would visit Don and Charles in Syracuse. Lots of common ground: music, librarianship, queer, culture in general, good food and wine, just sitting and talking. Charles carries on with their NYC opera trips; I ran into him on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum when I was in NYC for a quick trip in October. Sheri Tufts was my good buddy at the Amon Carter Museum in the early 1990s; she and I bonded almost immediately and shared good times and favorite books. Her first husband had died on cancer and she was especially sympathetic when skin cancer took my birth nose. And then it was cancer that took her away earlier this year.
Well, here we are at the bottom of a second page so I'll stop. You can see some pictures from some of these things on my Flickr photostream or read some more on my blog:
May your holiday season and 2012 be full of health and happiness.