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designanator
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April 22

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JANUARY 6, 2013 8:42PM

The winter of our big-content, part five

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It was Saturday, January 22, 1977 and the morning after Maria's birthday party with Sue, Colin, and me. After so much fun the night before the day was bound to feel like a let down. We had two full weeks left in Wintersession and then the mid-winter break that was just a few days long.

JAN FEB 77

 

 

It was in late 1977 that Bill Withers' hit song Lovely Day came out as a single and climbed to #6 on the Billboard R&B chart. This version by Diana Ross would come along much, much later. Given that the morning sun coming through our two windows made it impossible to sleep late into the morning and we were always happier with a lovely day than a rotten one, the song has relevance to the beginning of '77:

 

Similar to so many households around the nation, Saturday had turned into chore day for us. A cold spell had hit the northeast and on this particular day the daytime temperature was in the 20s. We had laundry to deal with and there was little incentive to walk the distance to the laundromat. Our building had no provision for laundry, but as mentioned several posts back, there was a liquor store in the front of the building along Benefit Street which was super convenient if one needed beer or wine in a pinch.
 
We decided to wash the laundry by hand and hang it on an improvised clothes line in the bathroom. One small load on Saturday, another load on Sunday and we'd be caught up.

 

Unlike a lot of our classmates apartments around the east side of Providence that had been carved out of old houses, our building was always an apartment building. The photo below from the '76 yearbook shows our classmate, Charles W., sitting in another tub in his apartment which was in the same building. This is exactly what our bathroom looked like right down to the detail of the tilework. Ironically, Maria and I who took lots of photos during our time at school never thought to take a photo of the bathroom.

BATHROOM
 

 

As sketched from memory, a part of Saturday's laundry hanging out to dry in the bathroom:

LAUNDRY

 

 

With little food in the apartment beyond what was needed for breakfast and lunch, we decided to do something we had never done before: have dinner in the RISD refectory which was less than a five minute walk and relatively inexpensive and included seconds and thirds if one was especially hungry. As a freshman and sophomore I had more meals than I can count. For Maria it was a different story. As a freshman at Brown and then a transfer student the next year living in her own apartment sophomore year she had rarely set foot in the place.

 

From a late '60s vintage postcard, the RISD refectory is the largest building shown. It is surrounded by freshman dorms. The domed building in the distance is the Christian Science Church which is across the street from RISD's Woods-Gerry mansion the site of so many student exhibitions and administration offices:

RISD REFECTORY

 

Of all the times I entered the refectory there was never a photo of me walking in the door because none of us thought ahead to the day when I might be posting stories about this time in history. However, in early May, 1973 when I was a freshman I happened to be one of about 30 student protesters standing just outside the entrance to the refectory. I was visible in the photo that appeared a few days later in the RISD Press. A popular graphics teacher was being fired and we protesting that along with other issues of student control in the running of the school. The teacher was fired anyway. The red circle shows my location in the group:

PROTEST RISD PRESS
 

The student protest was just one of many of hundreds of memories connected with the refectory. The dinner that night was roast beef which ran counter to the primarily meatless meals we cooked at home, but the prospect of a long walk north to Star Market that cold day made it easy to give up our culinary principles for one evening. (It should be noted that vegetarian dishes were available at that time in 1977 at the refectory, but that evening we couldn't resist the roast beef dinner.)

That night also marked the first time I ever dined in the refectory with Maria in a space that had seen me having so many "solo" meals in my first two years at school when meals in the dining hall were included as part of the overall package. During freshman year I typically met up with my friend, Ned. Sophomore year found me often dining by myself because Ned was then living in an apartment and cooking his own food. As luck would have it, during sophomore year I rarely spotted any friends from graphics to sit with.

As a freshman and sophomore it was my habit to be one of the first students in line so there was little waiting in line and I could choose my favorite table by the window with a spectacular view of the city beyond. The sunsets during spring and fall were truly spectacular with the tall buildings of downtown Providence silhouetted in the distance. On this evening we arrived about an hour after the hall opened and shared a table with other students who were quite oblivious of our presence at the table.

Some of the most memorable stories I had about the dining hall related to the theme dinners, such as Hawaiian night when we'd see some people from the area also eating dinner along with the students. One classmate had spotted a woman dumping large amounts of food into a bag in an what sounded like and unsavory and unsanitary "doggy bag." There were also the ice sculptures: typically of the same two designs over and over again. One was the swan and the other was "the padlock" similar in shape to what a student would use on a locker.

The hall was also the site of several dance concerts I attended, including one memorable concert with Flo & Eddie during freshman year.

 

Again, a drawing from memory of the two of us in the midst of freshman and sophomore students having dinner. It was like traveling back in time a few years for me, the faces may have changed, but the clothing designs and ambience were the same:

REFECTORY

 

There was something unexpectedly pleasant about the dinner. After so many months of preparing and eating suppers in the apartment it was a nice contrast to be eating with so many fellow students. We also realized that we had "culinary fatigue" after a large number of dinners cooked from scratch. That night marked the beginning of a number of evenings at the refectory. The thought was we could recharge our batteries as needed and then return to our foodie challenges at home.

 

***

The next, Sunday, January 23rd, I spent some time in the afternoon at the school's library. I came across a story in The Washington Post that I thought related to my degree project and asked the librarian if I could have the section of the paper when they were finished with it. There was no problem with that arrangement and it was marked for me to pick up a few days later.

It was a story about a computer specialist who had his own airplane and was married to several women all at the same time! Part of my degree project had evolved around the idea of multi-functioning and here was a fellow who was "multi-married." His death in a plane crash (his plane) started the unraveling of his marriages to several wives and covered some three pages of the paper's section: 

WP STYLE SECTION 1-23-77

 

WP 1-23-77 

 

 ***

 

The next day should have been just another quiet day on campus, but a special edition of the RISD Press changed that for anyone who picked up a copy. I took a copy of the paper from a stack in the RISD post office midday and returned to the apartment. Later in the afternoon when Maria returned from her printmaking class I mentioned how we had another situation brewing that was reminiscent of freshman year when protests took place on campus. That protest in '73 did not have the same ramifications for her as it did for me since she was a freshman at Brown that year.

At issue in January, 1977 was the non-renewed contract of a filmmaking department professor,  Marian "Marz"  Marzynski. Same situation as '73 when a graphics teacher found his contract had not been renewed and the student body was incensed.

 

RISD Press Special Edition, January 24, 1977:

1-24-77 COVER

 

Inside fron cover..."Marz" had been hired the year we were freshmen:

1-24-77

 

Table of contents:

1-24-77-2

 

Close up from table of contents page, next two images. The first image gives an excellent summation of the situation at the time in January:

1-24-77-3

 

1-24-77-4

 

One of many letters in the edition, this one signed by Dale Chihuly, famed glass artist and RISD professor at that time in the school's history:

1-24-77-5  

Back cover, announcement of an important meeting regarding this issue, plus a cartoon by the popular printmaking teacher, Art Wood:

1-24-77 BACK COVER

 

 

Going back in time to the first installment of this series, "Marz" was captured in one of my photos of the gallery opening and is directly to the left of the student holding the 16mm camera:

JOES GALLERY OPENING

 

 

Tuesday night, the 24th, we both attended the meeting in the auditorium to hear more about the situation. As with the protest in 1973, it united students and faculty "against" the administration. No photos taken by us that evening, a sketch provides the imagery of us sitting in the auditorium:

1-25-77 RISD AUDITORIUM

 

 

 

The May, 1973, RISD Press cover, once again, from earlier in the story and a close up scan of moi in the protest group assembled outside the refectory. I am the uppermost person in the photo and wearing glasses: 

5-4-73 RP COVER

 

5-4-73 FRONT COVER-2

 

My collection of RISD Press issues from the spring of '73 with headlines/cover stories related to the protest. 1973 and 1977...as Yogi Berra said so well, "It's déjà vu all over again."

1973 COVERS

 

There was so much happening this particular week in 1977 that I have divided it into two posts. The next one will be out later in the week....

 

 

 ***

 

The previous installments of the series leading up to this point are here:

The winter of our big-content:

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

 

Art school senior year chronicles:

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

Part seven

 

Roadkill brought us closer together:

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

 

 

 

 

 

Story, drawings, and photos (except as noted next to photos) are © 2013 by B+Co., Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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So I was reading along thinking we had just seen a newer Chihuly special on PBS where his installations are in nature and in historic greenhouses. I was going to ask you if all this were during his tenure there.

I think every campus had an uprising of sorts in those days. No academic freedom - no peace, etc. You guys probably just had better posters.
Stacey, thanks very much for the great comment! Back in '77 Dale was creating glass cylinders that were fused with woven glass filaments. The glass filaments were woven in the form of American Indian designs and I recall that a woman who may have been Indian and from the American Southwest (not positive about the specifics of her, this is what a friend told me at the time) was weaving these fine designs which were then incorporated into the cylinders. There will be more about Dale as the series progresses into the spring of '77.

Speaking of uprisings, Brown had a huge one in '75 that was on the national news...some 3,000 students involved and it made whatever we were doing seem fairly minimal. For starters, we didn't even have 3,000 students!
I love the graphics and typeset from the student paper --- so of its time. And I can clearly see your glasses on the front of the one edition in that photo. Love the tiles in the bathroom --- and Bill Withers/Lovely Day.

That ELP gig has got to be coming up soon ...