Monday, June 27, 2016

ps160208  Sustainable education art: Origins of STEHM art in the 21st Century  

The author got his first exposure to an alternative history of printmaking when he was an undergraduate student helper in the A/V labs. He provides his account of where he began and where he’s going over the course of fifty years in the arts and teaching.

Bill Ritchie, A/V lab, Central Washington University ca. 1964

Origins of STEHM art in the 21st Century

Printmaking is the ancestor of all technologies. Although Seattle was the end of the world of printmaking, for me it would be the starting place in my exploration of technology in humanities, science, technology, engineering and math—STEHM.
Technologies for humanities and art interested me beginning in my undergraduate years in college. In the early ‘sixties, technologies only meant photography and rudiments of analog recording and film for me as I was student employee in the campus audio-visual service.
Graduate school provided me with a solid grounding in traditional printmaking and a job in Seattle as an instructor at the University Of Washington. Not much had changed technically, but in my third year at the UW, I flipped.
The epiphany didn’t happen overnight. I spent months in European museums met a few old masters of printmaking; then I understood what was happening. Like the septuagenarians I met—those pioneers of creative printmaking—I had seen the beginnings of technology changing printmaking, printmakers and prints.
I returned to Seattle not only changed as an artist and teacher but also I was a father of two as well. I was energized, and I did not want to shut myself in the old printmaking world. Besides, if I was to help educate young artists who would be developing their careers for decades into the future, I had to do the right thing.
The old baggage of printmaking would not be enough to sustain emerging artists. I felt this more than I knew it. There was no crystal ball, but when I brought video into printmaking, the students saw in the boob tube something portentous. Their video art became prints, and their prints became installations, performance art and sometimes looped back to video.
Similar things happened when we had the university mainframe computers to play with. Next came a mini computer, then microcomputers started showing up in my classes. By that time, computer games were taking more of students’ time and attention; video alone could not compare to multimedia art.
Another survey abroad—this time circling the globe—convinced me the printmaking division had to change. The study of multimedia art could be grounded in traditional printmaking as part of a balanced, sustainable curriculum. The painters—overlords of printmaking—felt otherwise.
My thoughts had reached a different level, and the only way I could proceed was to go outside the institutionalized art world. I had to redirect my work owing to the old, rigid national standards. I had been just a short step from a vanguard place for UW printmaking.
I could not work in an institution without collegial leadership. I would neither lower my sights nor try to change the rules of their games. I would make my own games, and call my new world, Emeralda.
About the Author: Bill Ritchie plans that printmaking will be taught, researched, and practiced in a community of practice and blends traditional printmaking and new technologies. His press designs and videos are for printmakers globally while he builds local teams to develop the Northwest Print Center and Incubators.
A world traveled art professor, a teacher of people of all ages, at eighteen Bill Ritchie took up printmaking the year he left his father's farm. At twenty-five he moved to Seattle to teach at the University of Washington. He is a visionary and innovator—considered by some to be a little edgy. As Seattle is a center of high-tech industries, he challenged students to expand hand printing and incorporate new technologies for education and design.

He extended university-level printmaking education though non-conforming to traditional standards. For over 50 years he exhibited in art exhibitions ranging from traditional visual arts, through electronic arts, to installations and performances. For nineteen years, the University supported his research and enabled him to travel around the world. He writes essays, fiction and screenplays for elucidation and pleasure, but is also included in books, newspapers, newsletters, radio interviews and TV features.

Educated in state universities in Washington and California, he was hired at age 25 to teach art at the University of Washington in Seattle, with emphasis on printmaking. He served as an adjunct professor at The Evergreen State University, University of Oregon, Highline and Shoreline Community Colleges. He extended printmaking to video and computer art. Believing that technologies would be helpful to future teaching cultural arts, he took early retirement at age 44 and started a studio for teaching, research, practice and services. He and his wife bought a gallery in 2008 for a permanent work and exhibition space.

For his visual arts, teaching, research and design he won 67 awards, fellowships, grants and prizes. Fifty-nine events included his participation in honors and his contributions. He had 29 solo shows and participated in 249 mixed visual art exhibitions worldwide with works being collected by 582 individuals and 61 public and corporate collections.

He provided for 113 events in public speaking, consulting and workshops on printmaking techniques and history, new technologies and cultural arts entrepreneurship, many with other artists and designers to develop art installations, computer-aided business models and design, manufacturing, marketing and sales of etching presses and printmaking toys.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

ps160617  Dwarf Fortress and Emeralda: It’s all about re-inventing reality 

Reading about the hit video game, “Dwarf Fortress,” the inventor of “Emeralda: Games for the gifts of life,” discovers parallels that inform him how fantasy games reconstruct reality in the minds of video gamers, and how Emeralda has had this use for him.

 When I read about Tarn and Zach Adams—the brothers who created Dwarf Fortress—there were bits of the text written for The Stranger by Kelton Sear that struck a familiar chord. I have nothing like the programming skills of the Adams (nor the Miller brothers who created Myst, nor Richard Garfield of MTG).

Those pioneers of games who inspired me to make Emeralda: Games for the gifts of life are decades younger than I am, therefore it’s natural that they could skip the kind of hands-on, high touch, low-tech arts and crafts that I worked on for a generation before they were born. They had computers and music synthesizers and they knew how to use them.
Yet there is something about games, including collectible card games and computer games that kept the creative fires going in me despite that I don’t code and I don’t play games at all. The strategic back story of collectible card games interests me only a little. These games are all fantasy-based actually, and this fact is boring to me.
I would rather devote my time and energy on strategies with which I can deal with reality. Even if Jane MacGonigal, clarifying her view (shared by most gamers I suppose) that “reality is broken,” I nevertheless prefer real life versus the lives that I observe many people living by their games.
However, as Sear, writing about the Adams brothers for The Stranger offered, “The game is largely about dwarves and the fortresses they build, it’s mostly about life. Or, more accurately, the infinite narrative and experiential possibilities that can arise from the universe’ tangled web of natural laws and the unyielding flow of time time that carries it all forward,” I remembered my similar, parallel description of Emeralda.
Emeralda is about my experiences that I set in motion in 1972, a short story that began what is today a forty-four year narrative. The documents I made offer me an infinity of experiential possibilities that arise from the web of events that flowed over the time of my life. On my computers and a variety of media are documents about artworks, photos, ephemera, text and electronic recordings. That I have managed to keep Emeralda alive for so long is a wonderment.
From the mid-nineties, when the web came along and I was learning how to use it I wished I could be like the Millers, Garfield, the Adams and other game masters so that I could put Emeralda into a form that other people could play with it the way people play with Dwarf Fortress. The difference is that Emeralda is about real things—works of art, for example.
The nearest I came to realizing this wish was when I had coffee with two family attorneys to show them my Perfect Studios trilogy, and how the books were intended to be foundations for families of artists to insure that the artist’s legacy would not be lost. Instead, because of the design of the game, the artists’ legacy would be in a form prepared to transfer by selling or otherwise placing the works of art in some kind of socially and artistically beneficial way.
In this way, Emeralda is an artist’s legacy management and transfer system. It might be economically beneficial to the artist’s heirs would be a plus; and there was a strong possibility that the community might benefit, too, utilizing the economic valuation of the work and establishing nonprofit, charitable trusts or foundations. That’s what I plan for my legacy.
Emeralda is a lonely game—like playing Solitaire. Sears said that Dwarf Fortress is not as well-known as it should be. A Dwarf Moot was held a few days ago, and Richard Garfield was there to add his support, lauding the game and its creators.
“How could a game so influential and groundbreaking be so obscure?” quoting one DF player. Occasionally I hear that my nineteen years at the UW were influential, yet not as well-known as Dwarf Fortress, of course. If Emeralda were to be downloadable and families of artists used it, that would be my crowning glory.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

vp160601 Inspired by a new guy in town: Taking the chill off Seattle 

Several emails exchanged with a newcomer to the Seattle printmaking world, hired by the Henry Gallery to be print curator and programming person, reminds this author of the days when he was a professor at the UW, and how he welcomed Stephen Hazel to town.


Several emails passed between me and a newcomer to the Seattle printmaking world. He was hired by the Henry Gallery to be the print curator and programming person. The first time I approached him I was reminded of the days when I was a professor at the UW, and I welcomed Stephen Hazel and his entourage.
I think it’s only proper to welcome new people who practice in your field, but in the decades I’ve lived here, I have learned that it is exceptional to do so. People talk about the “Seattle Chill,” referring to the fact this is a generally unfriendly place for newcomers.
He’s lived here a year this month, but I didn’t learn about it until last winter, and then I introduced myself to him at the Seattle Print Arts annual meeting. I gave him my card and invited him to come and visit. He never did. Yet, I really wanted to get to know him—I had never met a print curator for any museum in Seattle.
It often occurs to me that it is strange that, if there are print curators at the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye, or in Tacoma, they never seek me out despite that I am the oldest printmaker in the region (with few exceptions) but moreover, a former professor of art in printmaking. Not only that, I’ve traveled around the world and I have met and worked with some of the old, famous printmakers, studied at the Munch Museum, and accumulated a long list of shows and the rest of the things that make for an interesting background.
Could it be that this huge resume of mine is the very reason I feel like a pariah—someone to be avoided because, as Linda Farris once said to me, “You’re too big.” Are people afraid of me, feeling perhaps that they are unworthy? Pshaw!

I’m inspired to do emails with this new guy mainly because he seems untainted by the local printmaking history. He probably doesn’t care about the history of jealousies and grudges that I know about (and try not to care about). I hope he is bigger than that, and if he wants to accomplish great things in Seattle, he probably can if—for one reason—he comes from the outside and is not dependent on local favors.