PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
While there was much to enjoy about this conference, I found that there was also much that was not so great.
The first thing that was not so great? The Digital Student Show. I walked in a couple minutes late, so I missed the opening statements, and not being a student myself this year, I didn't apply. It wasn't until about half way through that I realized that the coordinators had deviated from the traditional format. I got the low down from some students and educators after the fact, and the more I heard, the more upset I became.
First off, the student show wasn't jurried. It was up to each individual program to submit a presentation of work, and then all works were to be included in the Digital Show. It was up to individual program faculty to jury their own students work, but they were never given a set limit of images they could submit. This lead to the coordinators receiving more than 800 images, which of course then had to be edited. Well. What the hell did you think was going to happen? Seriously? Everyone wants to be in the student show and every educator wants their students to be in the student show. The method behind the editing seemed a bit arbitrary to me too. Whole programs were cut ( a particular sore spot, since one was my alma mater), small obscure programs had 12-15 images while the top schools in the country had only 2 or 3. And I love the small obscure programs, I think it's great that they get exposure, but isn't it better to showcase 1 or 2 amazing pieces as opposed to 15 okay pieces? The thing went on forever too, all the work blending into one long string of mediocrity and repeated music (seriously, you couldn't even take the time to find 3 more songs for the soundtrack?). There were a few stand out pieces, but not many. Much of the work I found to be derivative, and I wonder with all the edits they made why were we still left looking at essentially the same ring from two different programs?
The purpose of the Digital Student Presentation is to showcase more quality work by students. I always felt that the Digital Show should be for those works which just missed the cut for the actual Student Show. I hate seeing duplicate works in both shows and this attitude of showing everything is even worse. For the participants, the Student Shows are a point of pride, and a great line on your resume. How did it get reduced to this? It's already horribly expensive for students to attend the conference, and we're steadily marginalizing the one thing that is uniquely theirs. They are the future of the field, trained by some of the top practitioners in the field. Shouldn't we be treating their work with more respect and lifting up those who deserve the recognition? It is my sincere hope that the student shows are shown more care and respect in future.
So after that debacle, I stayed for the panel discussion, something which I had eagerly looked forward too. And walked out of 45 minutes later, before we even reached the question and answer section. I thought the topic was great, but the presenters didn't do it justice. They seemed more invested in talking about themselves and their programs, than actually giving advise to one who may want to do something similar. They all talked for WAY too long about themselves, giving useless details, like the exact steps that couples take to make their own rings (seriously, if ever there was a group of people you didn't have to explain that to, this was it) and the number of solar panels on your roof. The presenters seemed like they had set up great little studios and programs but were not public speakers. Which is fine, not everyone in a public speaker. But if you aren't, then maybe you shouldn't do this sort of thing, or at least practice. I left bored to tears and terribly disappointed. But ice cream in with the canucks helped a lot in my recovery.
The last thing that was a bit disturbing was the topic choice for the Professional Development Seminar, which was packaging. Three hours on . . . packaging. Really? I was not the only one baffled by this programming choice, and many of the people I talked to didn't intend on going. I read the blurb in the program just to confirm, and lost even more interest. Packaging horror stories? I have enough of my own thanks, and so do all my friends. I wasn't too upset though, I don't think I've ever gone to the PDS (didn't they used to be on Wend. afternoons, where people had to make an effort to get to the venue early to attend? Why the schedule change?). I always feel slightly guilty skipping any of the conference programming, but sometimes it's nice to take a break from the freezing cold ballroom and sit and relax in the sun for a bit. Also, it gave me time to prep for the Trunk Show (read: go to the FedEx in the lobby and buy paper.) The couple of people I know that went, wound up leaving early.
No conference is perfect, and you take the good with the bad. I do feel the the attendee has a certain amount of responsibility to make sure they have a good time. But, having something to gripe about is part of the experience. It builds community.