Teaching with Contemporary Art

Just When We Think It’s Safe…

A shot of the studio that I hope will still be there when we return

For the last seven years I have abandoned (mostly) Friday afternoon happy hours in favor of driving north and spending the late afternoons and nights in my studio. For anywhere between four and seven hours I am able to work in silence or blast the stereo and hammer away at any number of pieces in progress. During the summer I am even able to get there a few times a week to fuel my own projects, get ready for exhibits, host informal gatherings with friends, and even allow students to stop by to work if they wish. My time at the studio, like many of us who cherish our studio practice outside of the classroom, is priceless. It’s quiet. There are no clocks or bells ringing all the time. And the artists that I share our particular building with are just a wonderful group of people.

But yesterday when I drove up to the studio, my first visit since Hurricane Irene, I was greeted with something I didn’t expect at all: yellow police tape. The entire complex that houses my studio as well as dozens and dozens of other small businesses and artist studios was surrounded with posted signs saying it was a violation to enter the property. The floods caused by Hurricane Irene had swept through many of the spaces on the ground floors and the place was literally a disaster. Now I’m not much of a crier, but for the first time in a long time I was on the edge of doing just that. If it weren’t for all the people standing around me looking at the parking lot covered in mud, maybe I would have just let go. While we are lucky enough to have our studios on the second floor in one of the buildings, many of the first floor spaces had been ripped apart by what seemed like flood waters that perhaps rose four feet. Industrial equipment was in tangled piles. Furniture was broken and tossed onto heaps of trash. I mean, this was a MESS. And because the flood waters were so severe, the town has basically told everyone who rents space that they aren’t sure if the buildings are safe to enter since some or all may have structural damage. This is what causes me particular concern since my space is housed, technically, in a covered “bridge” between two buildings. For right now, my studio is basically a spinning pie plate on the end of a stick with a few decades worth of work inside. I have no idea if there’s water damage. I have no idea if the thing is going to come crashing to the ground as they continue assessing the structural damage. So for this week, I am asking everyone out there to cross their fingers and say a little prayer for those all over the east coast and in places like Vermont who are slowly recovering from the floods and damage caused by Irene. With any luck, we will all be able to clean up and slowly get back to our regular rhythm. For now, I could use a little happy hour…



Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.
  1. jess says:

    My heart goes out to you Joe. It’s like having a family member seriously injured and out of reach. My fingers, toes, etc. are all crossed for you. And next time I see you the drinks are on me.

    Reply

  2. Joe Fusaro says:

    Quick update… we got word that the roof didn’t blow off but engineers haven’t assessed structural damage yet, so we are unable to get into or anywhere near the building. Continue keeping your fingers crossed, which I realize is a bitch when it comes to typing anything…

    Reply

  3. Jocelyn says:

    Joe,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your studio, but glad you’re all okay. I hope you can recover your work and another place to continue your art practice. Those studio spaces are so important…sacred. Let us know what happens and good luck!

    Reply

  4. Jethro says:

    Oh, man. I’m so sorry Joe. That is a killer. I’ll be thinking and praying for you-

    Reply

  5. Joe Fusaro says:

    Good news, folks… Just got word that our building is in pretty good shape. But THANK YOU ALL for the warm wishes and positive thoughts. I was pretty scared for a while.

    Reply

  6. Todd says:

    Joe:

    DamnDamnDamn. I’m so sorry to hear this. I was just going to message you about curriculum stuff. Hope things are OK and that you’ve been able to get in there and check things out.

    All the best to you-talk soon.

    Reply

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