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THE MONROE ART COLLABORATIVE

The Monroe College Art Collaborative Club

Month

July 2016

Professors’ Corner Featuring Danielle Berg

By Professor Danielle Berg

I’ve heard of those people who come out of the womb playing a bass or holding a charcoal pencil. (I had to look up what that was called; I can’t draw.) I was no prodigy, and I didn’t think of myself as an artist or a creative person at all for a long time. My family is practical: my sisters are doctors, my mother a nurse, and my dad an accountant.

I was also the youngest of three girls, which made me a copycat. My sisters made a fashion magazine, drawing models and giving them names like “Octavia McFarter” – they were beautiful and sarcastic, my sisters – and since I was the youngest, I would imitate their art, but somehow I never quite made it into the magazine. I was not original. Even when I sang, I did impressions: Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Cher. I really was good at copying. I had no idea what my own voice sounded like.

There was a brief time, in 6th grade, when I kind of peaked. I was accepted into the Creative Arts Program for drama, and got the female lead in our class’s production of Thomas Sawyer. People laughed at my improv lines. Maybe I was good at this drama stuff.

Then I entered junior high and realized other people were a lot better than me. I quit drama.

In high school, I joined cheerleading. The whole point in cheerleading is to copy perfectly. This really satisfied the perfectionist side of me, and I made captain. I created dances and routines. I was legitimately happy here, even though I sometimes wore my green Nikes instead of the team leather whites to silently say, “I’m not a conformist.” When I wasn’t made captain varsity year, I quit.

My final class of college was Intro to Creative Writing. This was somehow the first time I’d ever had a chance to take this class – we didn’t have it in high school, and I was too busy satisfying my Psych major credits to take electives. I loved it. I asked my professor to meet for coffee to discuss my possibly going to graduate school for writing. He said that of his students so far, I wasn’t the best, and I wasn’t the worst. Another teacher told me something similar later. I loved writing, but I wasn’t great at it (and I wasn’t the worst).

Somehow, maybe for the first time in my life, I kept going, even though I wasn’t that good. The Poet Laureate of Brooklyn told me she didn’t think I was ready for a graduate program in Creative Writing. She was right, because my poetry was – not surprisingly – not in my own voice. I thought the less I said, the more mysterious, and therefore, the better. My poems were empty pools. Dry, useless.

Luck brought me to my first job out of college, which was a soul-sucking desk job at a magazine that plagiarized articles off the internet. To save myself from truly losing my soul, I started a blog. I told stories about my life. I made them funny so I wouldn’t be sad. Then my relationship of several years ended, and I wrote about that. My readership went up. People love to read about breakups. Raw and scared and starting from scratch, my voice was finally honest. I didn’t leave things out to sound poetic. Instead, I probably left in too much. I took that writing, edited it into a portfolio, and got into graduate school.

My graduate thesis was nonfiction, the place where I (sort of) found my voice. I wrote about my family and how my relationships with them informed my relationships in life. (Psychology is still a big interest of mine.) And I made it funny so it wouldn’t be sad. I finished a book, and as a person who had quit whenever I was not the best, I was proud to complete and turn in an imperfect book – not the best, not the worst.

Now I’m a professor. I encourage students to write in their own voice, and not that trying-to-sound smart academic voice. I encourage them to talk about what matters to them, because I know that I am only happy when I am talking about what matters.

While I found my voice for my thesis, one book, I haven’t found it forever. I’m still finding my voice as a teacher. Every semester I get closer to being authentic and honest. I believe I can only encourage my students to do the same if I can do it myself. And sometimes it’s challenging, because we play roles in society – professor, student. The same way I got caught up in roles before – as a “poet,” I wrote mysterious garbage; as a little sister, I copied whatever my sisters did – I can sometimes get caught up now, too.

And that brings me to my relationship with art and creativity now. I think it’s about finding my voice every day. If I’m not careful, I’ll sound like Whitney Houston (I wish, and may she RIP), or write like Aimee Bender (again, I wish, and please read her if you haven’t), or I’ll teach like some professor I saw on television. My voice is, of course, informed by all the voices I’ve ever heard or read, but I believe there’s a voice that’s formed from that conglomeration that is all mine. I remind myself all the time that that’s the one I should use. I can’t be judged as “not the worst,” or “not the best,” when I’m just who I am and there’s no one to compare me to.

If I can strive for that all the time – occupying my own voice – then maybe I’ll pass that onto whomever I’m lucky to teach.

As for what I create today, it’s often lesson plans and games. But I write, play ukulele, and sing. I do yoga, which sometimes feels like dancing, and I’m signing up for an adult tap class. Being in a group, working toward a similar goal, and expressing ourselves is what makes my heart light up. It happens in the classroom and it happens when I sing in the car with friends. It happens when I write, too – though it’s done alone, it’s an attempt at reaching other people, and closing the gap. That’s art, to me.

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The Monroe Echo – A New Way of Giving Monroe Students a Voice

We are very proud to announce that Monroe College will be launching its newspaper again! The Echo will publish its first issue in September and we are currently looking for more people who would like to contribute to this exciting new chapter at the college. Since this will be a student-run club, everyone who is interested is more than welcome to join! Some of the positions that we want to fill are writers, section editors, and an art director. However, we are also looking for people who simply want to share their opinions or pieces with us. Our sections will range from sports, Monroe College life, the arts, special features and news. Students who are interested do not need to have any prior experience. There will be a team of students to assist with any questions or problems that may arise.
The goal is to have a monthly newspaper that will give students a voice to be heard — and we are sure that there are many things that you have on your mind but did not get a chance yet to really express.

As we are growing as a newspaper, we would like to invite you to grow with us, become a better writer and also more involved in daily college life (plus, this is a great resume builder).

Please reach out to us with any questions you might have at themonroeecho@gmail.com. We are open to new thoughts and ideas!

I am looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Nathalie Waldschmidt

BIRDS ESCAPE

By Rejeive Walkerrejeive birds

Coffee House Hot Topics: Black Lives or All Lives?

“It was hard. We are all different and it hurts us all. On a different level we are all different and we will always be different.”

“I feel like at any given time a #Hispaniclivesmatter can be started but it just depends on what is happening socially at the time. It’s common sense that All Lives Matter, some just matter more at a certain time. #Alllivesmatter is to an extent taking away from the #Blacklivesmatter movement, but as we said tonight it all depends on the motivecoffee house two three behind a specific person that backs up #Alllivesmatter. #Minoritiesandlivestylesmatter would probably be better than using the word “all”.

“They should dig deeper on factual evidence.”

“Black lives matter but all lives matter too at the end of the day. Not everyone will agree on every movement. People will always have concurring opinions and differences.”

“In my opinion I don’t think anything is going to change if we continue to be peaceful. We have been peaceful too long with barely any change.”

“#Alllivesmatter”

“Be the change you want to see in others.”

“Killing is wrong in any way.”

“#Minoritylivesmatter”

“Black lives matter because they have and always will be a target to the community.”

“Black lives matter and I feel like that is the issue at hand and needs to be focused on. All lives matter but we have a bigger issue right now.”

“All lives matter, no culture or minority should be treated differently.”

“Black lives matter should be addressed on a bigger scale.”

“In my own thoughts I believe humanity matters. We should preserve our humanity in others to realize the importance of a human life.”

Coffee House July 11th: How Soon is Too Soon?

What Students Said:

“The first day.”

“If both parties are on the same boat.”

“In my perspective, it all comes down to the two people in that relationship making that decision.”

“If you already in the bed, it’s too soon and not true love.”

“When you say it is.”

“Too soon would be on or after the first date.”

“It is never too soon, when you think you’re ready.”

“I say it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be your opinion anyway.”

“Both people must be on the same page. There is no rule on setting a time limit or a date. That is like saying how soon is too soon to die or attend college. They all must be on the same page and have the same feelings.”

“Intimacy between two people can’t be planned. When it happens it happens. But the two people have to be in agreement that both of them are ready for something like that.”

“It depends on the chemistry.”

“It matters not the time you decide to have sex. I do not think you should wait until the food is fully cooked to taste it. You may not like the finished product. Why consider a marriage you may not be happy in?”

“It does not matter to me because I need to know if I can be satisfied up front.”

 Want to add to the conversation? Go to “Submit” and give us your opinion!

 

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