Category Archives: Reed Campus Center

A Lesson on Vessels and the Art of Celebration

Robbie Heidinger Visit 1If there are trophies for athletics, why not have one for art as well?

That was the premise of a recent hands-on workshop by ceramic artist Robbie Heidinger P ’14 in the Grubbs Gallery. During her May 7 visit, she worked with two dozen students from Williston Northampton School’s Arts Intensive Program to craft just such a vessel.

In her own work, which was on display in Grubbs through mid-May, Ms. Heidiger said she has been inspired by the shape, colors, and textures of plants. She began her recent visit to Williston by passing around a vase of spring flowers and urging students to examine the shapes.

“There are really no rules,” Ms. Heidinger told them. “I just want you to start thinking about structure.”

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Teaching Democracy

What is the best way to study American constitutional history?  How do we make our students passionate about documents that are almost 250 years old?

Peter Gunn, a member of the Williston faculty since 1986, teaches the spectrum of American history and economics classes.  An inspiring and enthusiastic teacher, Peter’s lectures teach students to question something that is much too often taken for granted: the democracy that is our nation’s foundation.  In his classes, students question, debate, and strengthen their opinions about the American constitution.

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Christopher Benfey: Something Big on the Line

Chris Benfey described the pot as though it were an old friend. Made of red clay and with a type of glaze known as tobacco spit, the jug sat in his grandparent’s hallway next to the big, black telephone. At the top of the swooping handle was an indent where the potter had pressed his thumb like a signature.

To write his memoir, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, Benfey surrounded himself with such objects. The purpose, he said, was to ground his pockets of misty memories in reality.

“For this particular book, it was very important for me to have a world objects around me,” Benfey told his Dodge Room audience on November 8. “Doing a memoir is always about getting lost in the self—and objects keep you honest.”

Benfey, the fourth and final author in the 2012 Writers’ Workshop Series, said that it was almost impossible for him to separate out his two loves of literature and pottery. Those dual interests became more pronounced during his years at the Putney School, where they were reinforced by quirky professors and equally eccentric classes.

“There were two things I really cared about at Putney,” Benfey said. “One was pottery and one was poetry.”

Benfey was also inspired by people: his English teacher—who would threaten to dance on a table in pink tights if his students didn’t pay attention—was one; Potter Dave, an Edgefield slave in the 19th century who inscribed two-line poems on his enormous stoneware pots, was another.

It was Dave’s “short, decisive, enigmatic poems like lightening bolts in the night sky” that inspired Benfey as he was writing his latest book, he said. But while a poem could be a flash of lightening, a truer metaphor for memoir writing came from fishing.

“You have something on the line or you don’t,” Benfey said of the process. “And you hope when you write a book that you have something big on the line.”

Mo Willems: Incomprehensible Books for Illiterates

As the audience was settling into the Dodge Room on a cold November night, one mother suddenly turned to another and, pulling a slim book out of her bag, asked, “Which one did you bring?”

“We’ve got Knuffle Bunny and three of the pigeon books,” came the reply.

On Nov. 1, as a full house waited for children’s book author Mo Willems, the excitement was palpable—particularly among his youngest fans, who had brought along their bedtime favorites. When Willems took the podium with an expansive, “Hi, guys! How are you? Let’s get started!” all eyes turned toward him.

Willems, the third author in the 2012 Writers’ Workshop Series, immediately launched into a story. He started to tell the tale of the three little pigs—only there were 10,000 pigs, one house was made of aluminum siding, and the little pigs ended up playing backgammon with the wolf.

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New Beats for Reed

The Reed Campus Center has long been known for a place of classical, jazz, and a cappella, but dubstep, acid jazz, or K-pop? Those are just a few of the new sounds students can expect to explore once a Reed classroom is transformed into the new Digital Music Lab.

“This new facility will have a tremendous impact on our music program,” Ben Demerath, Fine and Performing Arts Department head wrote in an email. “Students will explore projects ranging from keyboard skills and ear training to writing their own arrangements.”

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