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.
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:
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.
As sketched from memory, a part of Saturday's laundry hanging out to dry in the bathroom:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Inside fron cover..."Marz" had been hired the year we were freshmen:
Table of contents:
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:
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:
Back cover, announcement of an important meeting regarding this issue, plus a cartoon by the popular printmaking teacher, Art Wood:
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:
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:
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:
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."
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:
Art school senior year chronicles:
Roadkill brought us closer together:
Story, drawings, and photos (except as noted next to photos) are © 2013 by B+Co., Inc.