Hand Papermaking Newsletter May 2020
Once I had settled into the unfolding pandemic days of uncertainty and confusion, I discovered that our current situation has provided yet another opportunity for personal growth. It has come in the form of my taking baby steps into the growing field of online learning. I should comment, briefly, that I have mountains to climb on my journey towards comfort with technology! But our current collective confinement has provided me with the motivation to explore a new way to seek the connection that is such a personally satisfying aspect of the art of teaching.
I have tip-toed into two avenues of online education, both giving online dog training classes on the Facebook platform, and utilizing the every popular Zoom format for three bookmaking demos for Abington Art Center. I am learning quite a bit from both offerings.
The journey began because I was hesitant to meet with a new dog training client. I proposed that we proceed through video exchanges and phone consultations. Then, a colleague from my dog training center suggested I might try completing a couple of my classes that began before pandemic confinement via creating a private online Facebook classroom. Since I’d already started the video production, the next step was to set up the Facebook classroom. This was a hurdle, but I received much guidance from a younger colleague who was quite familiar with the process. In turn, I had to coach my interested students through their first steps. And I was surprised and proud of my newfound ability to do so, at least for simple things!
So, when the Director of my local Abington Art Center, Rosalie Guzofsky, asked if any instructors might be willing to try offering a lecture, demo or class through their Zoom platform, I bravely committed to three one hour session demos, during which participants could watch me having fun cutting, folding, gluing and sewing three simple book structures. It was free for viewers and new for all of us so I thought, “why not give it a try!” By the way, I’d never even Zoomed before, so I must have been feeling pretty empowered after mastering my early Facebook classroom hurdles!
I wrote up a description for the art center website, advertising Three Zoom Bookmaking Wednesday afternoons. I picked three structures I could almost execute blindfolded. The art center was so pleased that overnight the reservations to participate in these free demos were piling up. SO no pressure here, right?
Week one’s demo was in making the playful Star Book. In week two I planned to show everyone how to fold an accordion spine. And in week three I featured a simple Japanese Stab Binding. I gathered book models and materials already on hand, as we are all sheltering in place. All that remained was to figure out the Zoom logistics. I sensibly requested that the art Centers education coordinator, Jeanne, be along for the ride to handle the inevitable quandaries
My new workspace has a great little counter with very bright lights above it, perfect for me to see what I am doing. Because I wanted the camera to have a clear view of all my cutting, folding and assembling, I used my smart phone camera, propped on a ledge in front of me. I positioned a healable cutting mat on the counter, both to protect the surface and to delineate the area that would be visible to viewers. And finally, I asked Jeanne to run me through a practice sign-in and to make sure she could see and hear correctly.
My first realization was that her presence to handle the technological logistics during live demos was going to be key to our success! I am lad I signed onto the link early, as Jeanne needed to remind me how to turn on my camera and mike! She welcomes our guests as they signed on, and remained there to handle any potential glitches This left me worry free to “do my thing!”
The very first demo session, how to fold and glue a Star Book, was the most fun I’ve had since March 11th, my last day of teaching in the real world! Many old friends and new had signed up for this free opportunity, and although I only briefly saw them on the camera screen, I recognized their voices. We perhaps got too chatty! I learned that many people were following along and folding with me, so I needed to be extra clear and give ample time. But we still completed in time for questions and answers. I really enjoyed the experience! However, watching the recorded session later, it was evident that during the next demo, participants would need their cameras off and mikes muted. Every time someone coughed or sneezed or breathed loudly too close to their devices, everyone saw that person rather than my screen, which was quite distracting.
So, as people signed on for our accordion book spine demo, we had the chance to exchange brief greetings. Then everyone’s mike was muted and they were instructed to ask any questions with a hand wave feature or in a chat box. Jeanne was able to relay folk’s questions to me as we folded. It was such a quiet contrast to my first session that I related immediately to what many performers and TV personalities have been conveying. It is so much harder to read the crowd with no audience feedback and energy exchange. But it turned out that I had no trouble entertaining myself with my hour-long monologue, and Jeanne fed me questions as they arose.
We’ve just wrapped up the final scheduled demo, a couple simple variations of the Japanese Stab Binding. This one proved to need a little more time to clearly explain as people followed along, with more frequent questions. Therefore, I didn’t feel quite as isolated. And I think Jeanne and I have fallen into a smoother rhythm of handling feedback. I took more opportunities to pause and ask if anyone had issues. That’s probably why we went a little over time, but it was OK.
The demo sessions were so popular and I had so much fun that I have offered to do another series of Three Zoom Book Wednesdays. This time I will provide a supply list, knowing that everyone intends to follow along. An hour seems the perfect increment of time to sustain attention, so I will plan structures that can be accomplished within that time frame. It is crucial for me, at this stage at least, to have a Tech Wizard like Jeanne to get people signed on and to relay questions as they arise. And finally, I guess I CAN teach “this ol’ dog” some new tricks she enjoys, even involving technology!
Note: Abington Art Center’s Facebook page has posted some of the Zoom Books that participants made during these fun sessions.
Abington Art Center Makes It Official with New Executive Director
Permanently Hires Rosalie Guzofsky, former Director of the Studio School at Abington Art Center
The Board of Abington Art Center (AAC) has elevated Rosalie Guzofsky, former Director of the Studio School at AAC, to the post of Executive Director.
Arts Montco talked to Guzofsky about her goals for the center and her connection to the arts in our area.
Guzofsky brings a wealth of knowledge to the position with more than 20 years of managerial experience in higher education administration and the arts having worked at University of Pennsylvania, Moore College of Art & Design, Drexel University, and Gratz College, as well as Point Breeze Performing Arts Center.
After leaving academia, Guzofsky was rethinking what she wanted to do. “I made a list of what I enjoyed and the environment where I enjoyed working,” she said. “I always came back to art.” After seeing an opening at Abington Art Center, she applied and got the job.
At the time, there was no longer an Executive Director, but there was a need for the position. After getting to know the Board and the institution, it became clear that Guzofsky was the woman for the job. She brings both passion and experience to the role and sees great opportunities on the horizon for a center she feels is still a hidden gem.
Housed in historic Alverthorpe Manor, Abington Art Center sits behind a beautiful stone wall. Guzofsky’s goal is to make AAC accessible and to reconnect with the community. “This is an incredible regional resource,” she said. “We need to be creative and innovative when facing the challenges of every small arts organization – raising funds for the center and connecting with the community.” She plans to do this by creating partnerships with other organizations and continuing wedding and private events rentals.
In the future, Guzofsky would like to renovate the historic home. “There is a beautiful basement with an art deco bar that would be perfect for events,” she said. “I would love to make that a multi-purpose space to hold concerts and other private events where our partner vendors like Stone & Key Cellars and Neshaminy Creek Brewing could serve wine and beer.”
For now, AAC will continue to offer classes, events, and exhibitions. The Winter Solo Series is on view now through February 22 and features installation, sculpture, and painting from three artists.
Online registration is currently open for winter workshops and courses for adults and youth, which run weekly through March. New this year are classes in encaustic painting, mixed media, and figure drawing. AAC members receive 10% off as well as discounts at select local businesses and free access to lectures and programs.
Guzofsky is particularly excited about another new course: Drawing from Masterworks of Regional Architecture. Sessions will take place on site at some of Abington and Cheltenham Township’s architectural masterpieces, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Beth Shalom Synagogue, as well as houses and train stations designed by Horace Trumbauer. The first and last session will be spent working from the 1930’s era interiors of Alverthorpe Manor. “This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the historic significance of our building and the philanthropic legacy of the Rosenwald family, the original owners, and their long-established connection to the arts,” Guzofsky said. “It’s a beautiful marriage of what the center stands for, connecting art, architecture, and the history of the area in our own backyard.”
Her hope is to bring people into the building, interacting in the space.
Abington Art Center is located at 515 Meetinghouse Road, in Jenkintown, PA. The Studio School and Gallery are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. To learn more visit abingtonartcenter.org.
Abington Art Center and the Rosenwald Legacy
By Jessica Willingham
You may not know the Rosenwald name, but you surely know the family’s legacy.
Born to German Jewish immigrants in 1862, Julius Rosenwald became a prominent American businessman best known as a part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company in Chicago. As a philanthropist, Rosenwald established a fund in his name, which matched millions of dollars to support community construction of schools for African American children in the segregated South. In partnership with Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald helped fund almost 5,000 “Rosenwald Schools,” as they were colloquially called. As a result of their collaboration, approximately one-third of African American children were educated in these schools in the early 1900s.
Rosenwald had five children. His oldest son, Lessing J. Rosenwald, followed in his father’s footsteps as part-owner, president, and later chairman of Sears. Lessing Rosenwald moved to Philadelphia for work and settled outside the city in Jenkintown where in 1939 he built an art-deco-inspired mansion called Alverthorpe Manor.
Lessing Rosenwald was an avid collector of rare books and prints. While housed at Alverthorpe Manor, he offered visiting scholars and art students unprecedented access to his collection, even providing personal tours. He believed in sharing what he acquired and was often quoted as having said, “A work of art that is never seen is little better off than a work of art that has never been created.”
In 1943, Lessing Rosenwald pledged his collection to the Library of Congress and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Today, the Rosenwald Collection remains one of the world’s premier collections and includes over 2,600 rare books, 22,000 fine art prints and drawings, and a supporting references library of over 5,000 volumes. The collection contains woodcuts from the 15th century, early 16th century books, and works by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, William Blake, Honoré Daumier, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso.
Aside from donating his collection, Lessing and his wife, Edith, would later donate their home to the township. Abington Art Center has been housed in Alverthorpe Manor for the past 50 years! Since opening as an art center in 1970, the manor has been renovated and the 27-acre grounds transformed to include an event pavilion, an outdoor stage, and paved paths through the woods behind the manor through the Sculpture Park.
Today, Abington Art Center presents exhibitions, programs, and events throughout the year including the Summer Concert Series and Coffee Break Conversations with exhibiting artists. The center offers adult and youth classes and workshops, Summer Art Camps, and Kids Art Parties, and makes a wonderful wedding venue.
The Rosenwald’s generous gift transformed their private residence into a public place that has offered 50 years of arts and culture to the community – a lovely legacy for a philanthropic family!