Tuesday, January 12, 2016

After the CBAA Conference 2016

As I checked in at the hotel in Nashville, the woman behind the desk finished up, got me my key card, and said, "Have a good conference," with a twinge of suspicion. "Thanks!" I said, "I will." She thought about it a little. "I don't like conferences," she said. "I fall asleep. Or I try to leave fast."

Obviously, she's not hanging with the right crowd.

Imagine walking into a room where you don't have to explain what you do. You listen and are listened to. There are presentations about every aspect of your field, and you are torn among the three talks that happen at once. How to choose? You meet more people at the talks. You talk to the presenters afterwards. You go back to your hotel room saturated with new ideas.

There is an all-day vendor fare and you calculate how much room you have in your suitcase. Would paper fit? Different colors of linen thread? Carved bone folders? Tours, round tables, meetings, ask your new friends to lunch, gather a group for dinner. Don't be shy! Say hi!

Conference formats may all be similar, but the specifics, and most of all the people, are what warm you. At the College Book Art Association Conference 2016 in Tennessee last week there were over 200 of us passionate people, intense and dedicated to books, their making, their histories, their writing, and their teaching. 

As for sleeping at conferences, I can hardly keep still. It's so stimulating, energizing, and inspiring. A few photos, highlights from Nashville…

 The view out the hotel window.
Behind the Golden Arches is The Parthenon,
originally built for Tennessee's centennial in 1897 out of plaster,
but rebuilt in the 1930s out of more permanent materials.

 Hatch Show Print.
What we all came to see!
The amazing and wonderful letterpress shop:
I took my own walk before the conference started.
Others were on a tour.

 View of downtown Nashville from the pedestrian walking bridge 
over the Cumberland River.

I spent most of the first day at the Frist Center for Visual Arts
(on the far right). The "Phantom Bodies" show was quite thoughtful and moving.
The Frist was once a post office. We had a reception there that night for the Nashville Printmakers show.

 The Parthenon in daylight.

 Members' juried show: "Backstory."

 Minton Sparks, spoken word/storyteller/poet
and her guitarist, was our "Keynote Speaker."
She was awesome. Check her out at mintonsparks.com

 Hedi Kyle, grandmother of inventive book structures,
received the Distinguished Educator Award.
One of the highlights of the conference was having a long conversation with her.
About her life, about retirement, about coming out of retirement for a workshop or two…
She'll be having a show "The World of Hedi Kyle" and teaching at 
the San Francisco Center for the Book: April 15 - July 17, 2016.

 Cocktail competition winner: Mare Blocker
for "The Man in Black."
It was available for purchase at the bar, but I wasn't brave enough
to try what amounted to a hard root beer float with a splash of Jack Daniels.

 Friends along the molding in the art building on the way to the exhibition.

 This book caught my attention. Amazing, relevant, and political use of this form:
Mix and Match Family by Jaime Shafer (2013)

 Challenging the assumed character of family.

 Last evening. The silent auction: last minute bidding.

The theme of the conference was "Telling the Story."

 The Nashville-based committee that organized the conference.

Aside from the dancing, the last activity was paying up for auction bids
in the lobby at the student center at Vanderbilt.
The silent auction, combined with the live auction, presided over by a 
local Tennessee auctioneer, a generous chunk of change 
was raised for student awards.

The next day I had to get up at four forty-five to catch a shuttle to the airport.
But I woke at 1:00 am instead.
It was snowing.

Bye bye Nashville. 
See you again soon, new friends.


K_Shark said...

I was at that conference and while I did enjoy the sessions and the city, I, unfortunately, didn't get that feeling of comradery that you and I know others probably shared. I felt like everyone already had their own groups and cliques and being the introvert that I am, found it hard to break into them. Perhaps next time will be better.

Alisa said...

Dear K Shark,
I completely understand and empathize with what you are saying. Many people know each other, and some stick together, but many also feel as you do. The first conference in 2009 I went with a huge Bay Area contingent, but the second one I felt pretty much alone. The third one was in my region, but I couldn't go to all of it, so felt a little on the margins. This is my fourth conference and one of the most social for me. Over time I've found that sitting at a table where people already are, or just turning to the person next to me at coffee breaks and introducing myself and asking who they are and where they are from is the best way to begin making connections. Also, being curious and talking to the presenters afterwards and asking questions—they are happy to continue talking about their subjects. Most people are there to meet others, and are open to new contacts. I spent at least half the time talking to people I'd never met before. It's a push, but it's worth it and gets easier. Getting involved in the organization can also help. Best wishes for next time!

Velma Bolyard said...

it looks like an amazing conference. i love it when people i talk to GET what i do. when i tell people here i'm an artist or book artist or weaver... around here they always assume i'm a painter...and that i make adirondack landscapes. for sale. cheap.