Over the past several months, our Fine Arts Library has been the subject of debate as the College of Fine Arts considered space to serve as a home to the new School for Design and Creative Technologies (SDCT).
Interested faculty and students joined together last fall to protest any further changes to the library after the opening of the Foundry and the conversion of the 4th floor into classrooms for the SDCT, and in response the dean of the college, Douglas Dempster, called for the formation of two working groups to explore and address the future of spaces in the Fine Arts Library in Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA).
The first, under the leadership of the UT Libraries — the Fine Arts Library Task Force — was asked to explore and evaluate the alternatives to having the Fine Arts collection on the fifth floor of DFA — in part or whole — and explore the drawbacks and advantages of those alternatives.
The Fine Arts Library Task Force completed its work at the beginning of April and submitted its findings outlining a range of feasible scenarios for ensuring continued, ready access to the collections at the library to Dean Dempster and Vice Provost Lorraine Haricombe. Dempster and Haricombe reviewed the documents and formed a set of recommendations which were conveyed to UT Provost Maurie McInnis for consideration. On April 6, McInnis accepted the recommendations to maintain and enhance the 5th floor of the Fine Arts Library to serve the stakeholders in the College of Fine Arts and the larger university community.
“The decision by the provost to accept the recommendations for the future of the Fine Arts Library will provide the best possible outcomes for all concerned members of the UT community,” says Haricombe. “The positive conclusions are the result of many months of productive, collaborative dialogue with stakeholders and a discovery process that examined the multiplicity of considerations for how best the library can serve its users. We look forward to continuing our work serving the needs of the College of Fine Arts and the entire campus at The University of Texas at Austin.”
The Benson Latin American Collection is pleased to announce the acquisition of the archive of Jacqueline Barnitz (1923–2017). The life and collection of the late art historian and professor emeritus will be celebrated in the Benson’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room on Tuesday, March 27, at 3 p.m. Selected materials from the archive will be on view in an exhibition titled The Legacy of Jacqueline Barnitz.
The exhibit provides a glimpse into the archive of the world-renowned modern Latin American art historian who taught at The University of Texas at Austin from 1981 until her retirement in 2007. Barnitz donated the archive to the Benson shortly before her death, and its contents include correspondence, research notes, teaching materials, art slides, notebooks, rare art and art history publications, and an exceptional array of exhibition catalogs from Latin America spanning much of the twentieth century.
An artist in her own right, Jackie Barnitz made a living during her early professional career as a portrait painter and eventually turned to abstract expressionism. In 1962, she traveled to Argentina, where she became enthralled with the dynamic arts culture of Buenos Aires. Upon returning to her home in New York City, she wrote about Latin American art for multiple publications, bringing crucial exposure for Latin American artists in the 1960s and 70s, especially those who had left their home countries for New York in the wake of political unrest. She continued to travel to Mexico and South America throughout her career. Barnitz earned her PhD in art history from the City University of New York after having taught courses on Latin American art at the college level.
Barnitz joined the art history faculty of UT Austin as the first professor to hold a university tenure-track position in modern Latin American art. She was a dedicated mentor and teacher whose students have moved on to research, teaching, and curatorial positions in major institutions around the world. Her textbook, Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America, published by University of Texas Press in 2001, with a second, expanded edition in collaboration with Patrick Frank issued in 2015, is the textbook of choice for most university courses on modern Latin American art.
Barnitz’s contribution to the field of Latin American art history in Austin and beyond is emphasized by Beverly Adams, curator of Latin American art at the Blanton Museum. “Jackie was a true innovator, pioneer, and steward of the field of Latin American art history. From her salons in New York City to her far-ranging travel and research, she constantly sought meaningful connections with artists and intellectuals throughout the Americas. In the Art History department, she helped form a generation of scholars. At the Benson, her archive and library will surely continue to inspire new generations of students.”
The Blanton Museum of Art was the beneficiary of several remarkable gifts from Barnitz over the years, ranging from thoughtful catalogue essays, class tours of the collection, and her frequent donations of art. According to curator Adams, Barnitz made her most recent gift to the Blanton last year, “a number of fascinating works on paper of important artists such as María Luisa Pacheco, Cildo Meireles, Paulo Bruscky, Regina Silveira, and Leandro Katz,” which will soon be seen in the museum’s galleries.
According to Melissa Guy, director of the Benson Latin American Collection, the acquisition of Barnitz’s collection further strengthens the Benson’s holdings in Latin American art and art history, which also include the José Gómez Sicre Papers, the Barbara Doyle Duncan Papers, and the Stanton Loomis Catlin Papers. “Jacqueline’s collection brings incredible richness and depth to the Benson’s art and art history holdings, and reflects her stature as the preeminent scholar of modern Latin American art history. The exhibition catalogs alone, covering nearly the entire region from the 1960s into the twenty-first century, warrant special attention by students and researchers,” said Guy.
This event is co-hosted by the University of Texas Libraries and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, who gratefully acknowledge the following co-sponsors: Blanton Museum of Art, Center for Latin American Visual Studies, Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts.
About the Benson Latin American Collection
The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is one of the foremost collections of library materials on Latin America worldwide. Established in 1921 as the Latin American Library, the Benson is approaching its centennial. Through its partnership established with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies in 2011, the Benson continues to be at the forefront of Latin American and U.S. Latina/o librarianship through its collections and digital initiatives.
Excessive Noise is an occasional concert series hosted by the Fine Arts Library. Organized by Russell Podgorsek — who earned his doctorate at the Butler School of Music and is an employee of the Fine Arts Library — the series provides students with an opportunity to perform chamber and solo works beyond those required by their degree programs. It also provides an opportunity for the premier of original works beyond the classroom. While generally in the classical vein, Excessive Noise features work from a variety of traditions and perspectives.
The newest installment of “Excessive Noise: Not Just the Notes” takes place this Friday, March 8 in the Fine Arts Library, just in time to warm up for SXSW. The show is free and starts at 6 p.m.
Podgorsek and his co-curator for the concert, Jessy Eubanks, took a moment to answer a few questions about the series and Not Just the Notes.
So, how did you come up with the concept for Excessive Noise, and what were your goals for the program?
Russell Podgorsek: I started Excessive Noise back when I was a doctoral student in music and a GRA at the Fine Arts Library (FAL). Recently retired music librarian David Hunter mentioned that they’d previously had a concert series there and strongly suggested I start it up again. At first, it was just a nice vehicle to have some other performance opportunities for student performers and composers, and capitalize on the surprisingly good acoustic in the FAL, but as the semesters went on we had more alumni, Austin music community members, and even a few guests from out of town perform. We’ve had programs with speakers from Asian Studies, a feature with the Maps Collection, and more recently featured ensembles like invoke and Hear No Evil, allowing them to program the entire event. In other words, I think it’s come to be more a celebration of the library as a community hub, as a place where you come to share and explore ideas. I should add that UT Libraries has been consistently supportive of the series and not only do we appreciate it, but patrons also tell me after every concert what a nice tradition it’s become for them.
You’ve really engaged the community with the series by presenting programming that might otherwise be familiar almost exclusively to people associated with the Butler School or the College of Fine Arts. Can you explain how you settle on themes for the individual events? Is that your own conceptualization, or are you co-curating with the performers?
RP: At first there were no themes really; I was just asking whoever was around and interested in playing to play, and of course I programmed one of my own pieces on each concert. But once the series was had been around for a year or two and the old reference stacks were replaced with shorter, newer ones, the place attracted more interested performers. In some cases, like with the collaboration with the Maps Collection back in 2014, the materials we wanted to showcase dictated the “theme”. For that concert we even had five pieces newly written based on maps of Chicago from the collection. The Orient-Occident performance was a more generalized “East meets West” theme that came out of my own interaction with Japanese culture. We had a DMA composer at that point from China and several grad students from Pakistan at BSOM so the pieces just fell into place. More recently, I’ve had ensembles provide their own programs, although the last concert was a joint programming venture with Hear No Evil (we did two of my pieces with them and they supplied the rest). So, I guess the short answer is we’ve done it almost every way one could. This time around I’ve handed the programming off to the not just the notes collective. The director is one of my students and the co-directors former students of mine, so I’m more of an advisor for the time being.
What’s the story with Not Just the Notes? This seems like an extension of the ensemble programming, but perhaps in a new way.
Jessy Eubanks: Not Just The Notes is more of a concert series than an ensemble. We program new music written by UT composers, and focus on non-musical themes and collaboration. For example, this concert program consists of pieces about how humans interact with the environment, and current environmental issues. We needed a venue for our first concert, and Russell was very kind in letting us use the Excessive Noise series as a host.
One of the great things about the Excessive Noise series is that it gives campus composers the chance to share new material and to experiment in a performance space. Not Just the Notes seems to be a great fit for the series because of that. Can you talk a little about the nature of collaboration in the program, and maybe offer a peak into what folks can expect from the performances?
JE: Our first collaboration will include the Campus Environmental Center. We’ve worked with by inviting them to our event, and they’ll have a table set up at the concert to answer questions and share some about the work they do around UT. It’s been really cool to make that connection. As for the performances themselves, each piece deals with a different aspect of how people are interacting with nature and the environment, things like that, and some send very strong messages about current issues such as deforestation or over-consumption.
The program is titled “Green Paw.” Can you talk about that and who will be performing?
JE: All of the performers are UT students, but a number of pieces have no performers at all- they are solely electronic or fixed media. Other pieces are a combination and feature live players with electronics.
The title Green Paw is a reference to the environmental theme of the concert, we thought it sounded cool and wanted a way to differentiate between this concert and (hopefully) future concerts.
What are you planning for the future programming of Not Just the Notes? And what can we expect in the future from the Excessive Noise series?
JE: For Not Just the Notes, one area we’re hoping to explore is working with other students in the arts, such as dance or visual arts. There’s already so much potential in the College of Fine Arts alone, but we don’t want to limit ourselves. For example, there are also many music students involved in computer science, and it’d be very interesting to work creatively with them. There’s tons of options, and we’re also open to anyone coming to us with ideas for collaboration!
RP: I’ve got a couple of potential programs in mind for the future of Excessive Noise: a revival of a really successful project called “Sehr Flash” that we mounted back in 2016 at BSOM and the Texas Book Festival in conjunction with lit-mag NANOFiction, and a “new common practice” concert for which we’ll have several new pieces written all with the same stylistic constraints (the OULIPO groups does this kind of thing in the world of literature). Also, depending on how things shape up in terms of scheduling soloists, we may have a steel drum feature sometime soon.
Lanina’s deeply personal work spans the universe of media — painting, sculpture, video, animatronics, performance — and resides in a space where whimsical imagery dances in a veil of melancholic undercurrents like children’s tales if viewed a lens of Heironymous Bosch.
Lanina spent the better part of her time at the Foundry working on a collection of animatronic projects, from doll to human-size in stature, that are intended to interact with the viewer, with sensors that activate motion and audio when a viewer is in proximity.
Lanina focused most of her time in the Foundry on one project — “Herstory” — a human-sized animatronic doll with a face cast (3D printed) from the artist’s own, which intends to explore gender and cultural identity through the sharing of awkward anecdotes and stories that challenge the way that gender is perceived. Lanina presented a public talk focused on the project, but covering her other works, as well, as part of the residency.
Lanina’s art has been exhibited in such museums and institutions as the Seoul Art Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Galapagos Art Center in Brooklyn. She’s received honors that include fellowships and scholarships from Headlands Art Center (California), Yadoo (New York), CORE Cultural Funding Program (Austin, TX), BluePrint/COJECO (New York City), TEMPO (TX) and an honorable citation from New York State Assembly.
She holds MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College, CUNY, New York and a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Purchase College, SUNY.
Funded by donor Kirby Attwell and COFA, the artist-in-resident series brings notable multi-media artists to Austin for a week at a time for workshops with students, lectures for the public and a chance to pursue their own art on the advanced equipment in the Foundry. The previous artist-in-residence at the Foundry was Israeli American contemporary media artist Yael Kanarek.
On Thursday, October 12, representatives of the Libraries joined College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster and Provost Maurie McInnis to fete the opening of space on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Library redeveloped to serve as a home for the newly announced School of Design and Creative Technologies.
The renovation project, which took place over the summer, resulted in the creation of state-of-the-art classrooms with adaptable technologies, a high-tech teaching lab, dedicated design studios, an audio studio, seminar rooms and faculty offices to serve a program geared to preparing students for careers in professions that require working knowledge of design technologies.
The new school will be led by design industry thought leader Doreen Lorenzo, who is the founding and current director of the Center for Integrated Design, and will focus on educating students for creative professions in heavy demand across a wide range of industries. Students will study designing for health, designing for artificial intelligence, creative technologies in theater and music, entrepreneurial ventures and cross-disciplinary design thinking methodologies.
The space is complementary to the Foundry — the maker space launched on the entry level of the library in 2016 — creating a new opportunity for libraries to serve as a multipurpose platform for the interaction of information resources, classroom learning and creative realization.
“Co-locating a vibrant teaching space in the library with the tools for creativity mere footsteps away collapses the distance between resources and classroom and provides the opportunity for the library to be an even more active partner in the learning ecosystem,” says Vice Provost and Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe.
Look closely and you will find the rare and unique collections at the UT Libraries.
One of the special collections at the Fine Arts Library is the FAL Artists’ Publications Collection which includes artists’ books — books created with the intention of being a work of art. Some artists use books to explore narrative or the relationship between images and text, while others challenge our understanding of what books are and how we read them through the manipulation of form.
The Fine Arts Library contains over 200 artists’ books. Serving primarily as a teaching collection, the artists’ books show different binding techniques, materials, sculptural forms and conceptual approaches, with the FAL holding titles by such recognizable artists as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha. Some of the books in the collection push the boundaries of reading by engaging with other senses such as smell, touch and taste.
The opportunity to smell, touch, taste and hear the artists’ books will be available on November 7th from 5:30-7:30 pm as part of the Experiencing Artists’ Books event. This event is associated programming for the new Visual Arts Center (VAC) exhibitionFool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto curated by Allison Myers, Art History PhD candidate and 2016-2017 VAC Curatorial Fellow. Myers will lead a dialogue between local artists and bookmakers including Jason Urban, Artist and Studio Art Faculty, and Lindsay Starr from Cattywampus Press. After our dialogue, audience members will have the opportunity to engage with the unusual books in our collection.
The Fool’s Romance / Books from Aeromoto exhibition opens on September 22nd from 6-8pm. Come and explore over 300 artists’ books from Aeromoto, a non-profit art library and community space based in Mexico City.
We hope to see you at the exhibition opening and the Experiencing Aritsts’ Books event later this fall.
Once again the summer break has provided enough clearance for us to undertake a major renovation project, and mirroring last summer, that effort is occurring at the Fine Arts Library.
Dovetailing with last year’s completion of the Foundry — a creative maker space loaded with technology and production tools — the fourth floor of FAL has been cleared of physical resources in an effort to create space that blurs the line between classroom and library.
The reimagining of previous stack space will result in new classrooms and collaborative spaces to accommodate the Center for Integrated Design (CID), an interdisciplinary program administered in the College of Fine Arts that connects design, engineering, information, business, computer science and architecture programs from across the university to bring solution-focused design thinking to university curricula in a comprehensive way. The center seeks to provide all UT students the opportunity to study design methodology and apply it in creative and entrepreneurial scenarios.
Recent expansions of CoFA curricula into areas emphasizing innovation skills and design thinking are meant to better prepare students for a professional landscape that is ever-evolving in the face of technological development. But these programs have strained the college’s existing facilities, and partnerships with the Libraries — like the CID space and the Foundry — are helping to address the needs of current and future undergrads and graduates.
The 4th floor renovation includes the creation of two large classrooms — one of which will be equipped with active learning and creative technologies — a large seminar room, a medium seminar rooms that seats 12 and two small seminar rooms. The changes will also provide new office space for the faculty and staff in CID, as well as for faculty in the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET), a primary partner with the Libraries in the development of the Foundry.
Libraries staff moved more than 100,000 books, bound journals and scores to offsite storage facilities to accommodate the new construction, and moved the remaining 195,000 items to the stacks on the fifth floor of the building. Thanks to a robust delivery system developed over the last decade, the Libraries can provide campus access to any remote materials within 48-72 hours.
The renovation is on schedule and expected to be complete in time for the opening of classes this fall.
Libraries have long been “third places” for community groups, students (both young and old), immigrants, national and international visitors, and members of the local the community. At their best, libraries provide patrons with safe spaces to engage with the written word, new technologies, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. Libraries expand the horizon of possibility in ways that are both emerging, and traditional. Library spaces are being transformed to include tinkering labs, community kitchens, makerspaces, and virtual reality rooms, all of which exist alongside books, newspapers, computers, and reference desks. These new ecosystems are ripe with the potential to connect people and create new communities.
As library administrators and staff consider what the new horizon will look like for patrons, it is important that we make that horizon accessible. When considering what an accessible horizon looks like in the context of emerging technologies, we should be mindful of our role as intermediaries and translators. Much like learning a new language, engaging with emerging technologies can be daunting. Without a framework for how to utilize or engage with new technologies in productive and enriching ways, our patrons could easily be discouraged, or worse, feel isolated in their learning endeavors. We can encourage and support patrons in their exploration by providing thoughtful programming, workshops and tours of our spaces, and by emphasizing jargon-free explanations of new technologies and their application in the real world. By providing an accessible framework for how to think about oneself in the context of emerging, technology-rich environments, we can empower patrons to move toward new horizons with confidence.
Libraries are the go-to place for knowledge-seekers looking to sharpen their intellectual capacity and understanding of everything from boolean logic to gardening in Texas soil. They provide books on the arts, and on creative practices like knitting, cooking, and photography, so why not provide a larger technical infrastructure that will enable patrons to integrate traditional creative practices with technology? Why not provide patrons with the tools and skills they need to move into new realms of possibility via the practice of making, and making alongside others? While creativity may come naturally for a large portion of the population, it isn’t necessarily a skill that is mastered overnight. Like many skills, creativity takes patience, practice, and a good support community. With many communities losing access to arts funding it is an opportune time for libraries to consider playing a role in the creative lives of citizens, and makerspaces are just one example of how libraries are rethinking their role.
A Brief History of The Foundry
The University of Texas Libraries’ exploration of makerspaces began in 2013 under the oversight of the former head of the Fine Arts Library, Laura Schwartz. During this time, a Special Interest Group (SIG) was charged with researching makerspace technologies within the scope of academic libraries. The group’s findings provided insight into what services are typically made available through these spaces. Following this period of exploration, the Libraries began to pursue funding from outside sources in order to renovate existing library spaces to accommodate new technologies.
In 2014, the Libraries applied for a Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology (LIFT) Grant and an Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) grant. Neither of these applications was successful.
However, even before funding was secured for the makerspace, the Libraries decided to move forward with a project to build a recording studio in the Fine Arts Library. In spring of 2015, the Libraries participated in the second round of the university’s project fundraising tool Hornraiser — a new crowdfunding operation launched by the university development office — which netted over $15,000 for the studio, and served as a kind of proof of intention to create a larger creative space.
In 2015, the university’s College of Fine Arts (COFA) launched a new program, the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) which provided additional purpose and created a partnership for the development of the space. The Libraries coordinated fundraising efforts with COFA and the Provost’s office with the expressed purpose of collaborating with CAET to build tools and services in support of the program. A proposal to the Hearst Foundations was rewarded with $200,000 in grant monies to create a makerspace that would be available to anyone on campus, regardless of major or departmental affiliation.
To supplement the Hearst Foundations grant award, COFA and the provost provided additional funding to support the Fine Arts Library renovation, the purchase of makerspace technologies, and staffing for the new space. Two key positions were established to support the program and new functionality in the library. The Arts & Creative Technologies Librarian is responsible for day to day operations and provides support to faculty across campus in order to integrate The Foundry into the curriculum, and the Media Support Technician provides support for the equipment and facilities.
With staffing and funding largely secured, the Libraries worked with designer Harmony Edwards (Edwards + Mulhausen) to seek input from campus stakeholders; faculty, staff and students were invited to provide feedback during design charrettes and focus groups. These discussions allowed the Libraries to better understand how faculty and students envisioned a makerspace, how they might engage with the technology in that space, and if they were currently using makerspace technology in their personal or professional work.
By early 2016, Libraries staff purchased multiple 3D printers, technology for a video wall, top-of-the-line Mac Pros, Bernina sewing machines, a 3D scanner, a large format printer/cutter, two mills, a laser cutter, and an array of additional tools based on feedback from earlier stakeholder conversations. This technology, combined with the high-end audio equipment that would reside in the recording studio, formed the foundation of what was to be known as “The Foundry.”
Construction took place at a fevered pace over the summer of 2016. In early September, The Foundry’s impressive grand opening was celebrated with overflow crowds from the campus community and beyond in attendance.
After the initial success of the launch and praise for the exceptional results had subsided, the difficult work of developing processes and a structure for use of The Foundry began in earnest. The following months were considered a rollout period and involved developing an assessment plan, workflows for equipment certification and use, bringing equipment online, and developing learning materials that would support student and faculty engagement with the space.
As of May 2017, The Foundry is almost fully operational.
There is always a learning process involved in doing something for the first time, and it was no different building a creative space full of machines in the middle of a library originally designed for quiet reflection and housing books. Here are a few bits of practical advice to keep in mind.
When bringing a makerspace online, it is important to develop effective and productive working relationships with campus departments. At The University of Texas at Austin, the Office of Environmental Health & Safety is responsible for oversight of campus facilities. This group is charged with developing safety training procedures for labs and shops across campus. New technology-rich spaces like The Foundry present a challenge when developing safety protocols. Makerspaces aren’t necessarily as dangerous as a wood shop with a large table saw, but the spaces do present safety challenges, and therefore need to have sufficient safety training procedures in place. Negotiating the terms of these procedures with institutional partners is a key component of a successful launch, and the time involved in this should not be underestimated. When considering a makerspace for a school, college, or university, relevant campus safety services should participate in planning conversations from the project’s initiation. Experts can advise on compliance requirements, and may even work directly with principals to develop safety procedures that are customized to the proposed space.
Aside from ensuring that patrons are safe, administrative procedures and workflows need to be addressed. Depending upon campus size, seemingly small workflows could potentially take longer than expected to develop. Will patrons be paying for their 3D prints? Which pieces of equipment warrant safety certification, and which can be made freely available without training? Who should be teaching the certification classes? How long should a patron be able to use a piece of equipment? All of these questions help inform the workflow development, and will help inform the character and value of the makerspace.
Prioritizing the development of an assessment plan, or, at a minimum, a mission statement, will present the vision for a makerspace, and allow progress towards that vision to be monitored in measurable increments. Makerspace technology can be intimidating to many students and faculty. Foundry staff are addressing this concern through the assessment plan, and by closely monitoring how welcome patrons feel in the space. Surveys are a great tool to better understand how patrons are engaging with spaces, services, and technical resources, and, in the case of The Foundry, assist in monitoring progress towards creating a welcoming space. Survey data can and should inform planning discussions, and can assist administrators in demonstrating an operational commitment to the mission.
Looking ahead to the next year, The Foundry will cross-reference data from multiple sources in order to refine existing workflows, and accommodate growing interest from faculty across campus. Increasing the number of strategic partnerships will hopefully open the door to interdisciplinary use of the space, with faculty from multiple departments partnering to teach workshops or courses that use Foundry resources. Additional funding and staffing will inevitably need to be pursued in order to accommodate these demands.
Even though The Foundry is in its infancy, it has generated enormous excitement across campus. Potential partners are continuously connecting with Foundry staff to discuss their ideas for collaborative use of the space. Faculty, staff, and students are demonstrating a vested interest in the space by submitting requests for new technology and services, and by sending positive words of encouragement, along with articles about makerspace projects that are inspiring to them. This type of excitement and willingness to stay engaged with a space can be difficult to find on large research university campuses, where competition for internal and external funding can be fierce. If the excitement, enthusiasm, and generosity of the campus community aren’t evidence of the value of a makerspace, then what is? When thinking about creating new communities, the final product may be less important than the process used to get there. Breaking down departmental and organizational barriers is not for the faint of heart, but with a willingness to collaborate and tackle challenges alongside one another, it can be done.
Amber Welch is Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Texas Libraries.
The Fine Arts Library has a collection of over 500 zines focused on art, music, performance, as well as zines created by regional and local authors. Zines are typically described as self-published or DIY works that have limited editions. Zines are often made of 8 ½ by 11 sheets of paper folded in half and stapled together. Early zines emerged from science fiction fandom, though over time different social and counter-cultural movements adopted the medium as a way to disseminate information and share ideas. More recently, artists also adopted zines as a creative medium and method to distribute work outside mainstream channels within the art world. Many cities around the country and world, including our Texas neighbors in Houston and Dallas, have zine or independent publishing festivals.
Back in January, a group of Austin librarians and zine makers gathered to discuss the possibility of creating a new festival called Lone Star Zine Fest (LSZF). LSZF took place on June 11th at Cheer Up Charlies and was co-sponsored by UT Libraries, Sherwood Forest Library, Town Talk Library, and artist Josh Ronsen. The goal for this festival was to create a space for Austin’s artists, poets, zinesters, and zine-lovers to come together as a community to celebrate and share work. LSZF had close to 30 exhibitors participate and over 375 attendees during the Sunday afternoon event.
Longhorns were well represented at LSZF as exhibitors and attendees. Several graduate students, undergraduate students and staff shared their zines or small presses. The UT Libraries also had a table where Gina Bastone, English Librarian, and I highlighted the Zine Collection at Fine Arts Library and UT Poetry Center at the Perry-Castañeda Library.
Gina and I also created a zine to use as an outreach tool that playfully describes the two complementary collections to readers. Members of the public along with UT students, faculty, and staff who stopped by our table expressed surprise to hear these two collections were present within the libraries. The library zine proved to be a fun outreach tool that we plan to continue using with our respective departments.
In addition to working with Gina to promote our collections, I also represented UTL on the planning committee for the festival. Serving as a co-sponsor of this event, shows Longhorns and Austinites alike the value UTL places on supporting creativity on campus and within our city. As the liaison to the Art and Art History department, it is important to me to help create spaces on campus and within the greater Austin community that celebrate makers and their creative output. One of my favorite moments of the day was an exchange with an Art History student. Upon checking in to exhibit at the festival, the student remarked that I am their librarian. The student expressed excitement that UTL helped put on an event like LSZF. This was one of the many positive remarks heard from Longhorns throughout the day, demonstrating the importance events like this have to our community.
Stop by the Fine Arts Library or UT Poetry Center to see new zines and chapbooks acquired at the festival.
Choreographer, dancer, artist and teacher Yacov Sharir recently donated his archive to the Fine Arts Library. Sharir moved to Austin in 1978 where he founded the American Deaf Dance Company and was hired on as faculty at UT shortly thereafter. He developed a dance program that has become a model for universities across the country, founding the university’s professional company-in-residence, the Sharir Dance Company, in 1982, which became Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks (SBDW) in 1998.
The lengthy project of processing the collection of materials from Sharir’s professional career required the persistence of graduate researcher Katie Van Winkle, an advanced degree candidate in the College of Fine Arts.
Van Winkle took time to answer some questions about the project and her impressions of the experience.
Tex Libris: How did you get involved in processing the Sharir archive?
Katie Van Winkle: I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Performance as Public Practice (PPP), a program in the Department of Theatre & Dance. When I began my studies in the fall 2013, a fellow PPP student named Cassidy Browning was working with Dr. Sharir as a research assistant. Cassidy moved on to dissertation work, and recommended me as a replacement, just as Beth Kerr (Theatre & Dance Librarian in the Fine Arts Library) and Dr. Sharir established the archive project.
I have found always physical and digital archives invaluable in my work both as a scholar and as an artist–but I have almost zero training in archival work. At UT, I participated in a one-day workshop with the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP), and a theory-based course on “Archive and Ephemera.” Instead, I have some experience in inventing and implementing technological solutions for arts management: for example, as a Dramaturgy Fellow at Center Stage in Baltimore I developed an early prototype of the National New Play Network’s New Play Exchange (http://nnpn.org/programs/new-play-exchange) through a Dramaturgy-Driven Grant from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.
What did the process consist of? What was the scope, and how much in terms of materials and types of materials were there?
KVW:The Sharir/Sharir+Bustamante Dance Collection is a gift archive from Dr. Sharir to UT’s Fine Arts Library. It consists of video documentation of many hundreds of dances between 1977 and 2015, as well as paper documentation (programs, photographs, press clippings, etc.) of the work of the American Deaf Dance Company, the Sharir Dance Company, and Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks. A large selection of this archive has been digitized by Anna Lamphear and Katie Thornton and other staff members of UT Libraries’ Preservation and Digitization Services. The digitized collection is hosted on Texas ScholarWorks.
This symposium celebrates the public launch of the first phase of the digitization process: the videos! The paper archive will be digitized in 2017 as phase two of the project.
Dr. Sharir’s office contained 671 individual video objects. Since the earliest was dated 1977, and the latest 2015, these objects embody four decades of video technology: U-matic (3/4″), VHS, Hi8, Betacam, Digital Video Cassette and Mini DV, DVD, and born-digital files stored only on hard drives: .mov and .mp4.
Some of these 671 objects were labeled with titles and dates and choreographers and other pertinent information; some were not labeled at all. Some of the objects documented multiple dances, some from multiple events with multiple choreographers or dance companies participating; others documented a single dance.
The major challenge we faced was how to balance efficiency and depth of coverage. We wanted to ensure that the digital collection represented as many unique dance works as possible, without wasting time digitizing duplicate tapes, but the inconsistency of visible information made this difficult. Also challenging: there was no way to tell if the physical object had degraded beyond use without playing/digitizing it at the PCL.
Here’s the sequence of my work:
In the fall of 2013, I created an inventory of most of the video items (we discovered more later on). I ordered the items chronologically (as far as possible), gave each a unique number (0001-0671), and made a spreadsheet detailing all “metadata” available at that point. Depending on the item, this could include: unique number, date, item format and brand, event title, individual dance titles, event type (rehearsal or performance), run time, dance companies, choreographers, venues and sites, videographers and their notes, performers, designers, musicians, composers, other collaborators, and notes.
Sharir and I then began selecting “batches” of video items to send to the PCL, 20 at a time. We prioritized based on questions like “how old is this tape?” (older objects got priority); “how significant is this event/dance?” (Dr. Sharir, of course, was the expert of this); and “have we digitized any version of this event/dance before?” (new/unique pieces got priority).
In January 2014, I delivered the first batch of 20 tapes to Anna and Katie in the PCL, where they worked their magic using lots of devices that I do not recognize or understand! I continued to deliver and pick up batches of tapes through the summer of 2016.
Anna and Katie digitized 398 video objects between January 2014 and September 2016. WOW.
After they uploaded each batch to the libraries server as .mp4 files, Dr. Sharir and I watched each digitized video. While he watched the dances closely, reminiscing about his fellow artists and considering the quality of the videography and lighting, I filled in the blanks of my spreadsheet, based sometimes on in-video credits and sometimes on Dr. Sharir’s recollections.
Once he watched the video through, Dr. Sharir decided whether or not to accession it into the digital collection. He based this decision on the significance of the dances represented, the quality of the video (for instance, some videos lacked audio, and some had degraded over time), and whether we had coverage of the event in the collection already. We generally chose to accession subsequent nights of the same dance program, a collection-level acknowledgement that live performance changes in every reiteration.
About halfway through the watching process, Dr. Sharir’s co-artistic director José Luis Bustamante delivered three crates filled with beautifully organized files of programs, press clippings, and season announcements. I am so grateful for this gift! Matched with Dr. Sharir’s files, it has allowed me to create a four-decade production history, and provide extensive credits and notes for almost every item in the digital collection.
Once an item is chosen for the digital collection, I upload its .mp4 file to TexasScholarWorks, and add in all its metadata. On TexasScholarWorks, UT folk and the general public alike can search and browse the collection, view streaming video, and download the videos to their own drives. Each video is protected by a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States).
I take the digitized tapes to Beth Kerr at FAL, and she adds them to the physical Sharir collection located in off-site storage. This physical collection contains all digitized video objects, whether accessioned or not into the digital collection. It also contains all the video objects we decided not to digitize (usually because they were clearly duplicates of something we already had accepted).
You worked closely with Dr. Sharir on this project; did he provide any impressions about the digitization/digital preservation of his work?
KVW: I don’t want to speak for Yacov, but I know he is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to share his work with the global public and with future generations. (He is also grateful to regain all that shelf space in his office!)
He has found great joy in “re-view”ing his choreography and dancing over the decades, and in responding again to the work of the many extraordinary artists he worked with and presented/produced here in Austin and elsewhere.
He shared many jokes and memories with me. Certainly the most poignant and somber touched on the lives of his artist colleagues who had died between the filming of the dance in the 1980s or 1990s, and the day we watched it again in 2015 or 2016. The Sharir Dance Company, like so many arts organizations, lost beloved members to the AIDS epidemic. We felt sometimes that we were watching ghosts dance.
How long did the project take?
KVW: 3 years and 2 months since I began my work as (part-time) archivist. (But the project isn’t done yet—we have phase 2 still to complete). Add in more time before that (I don’t know how much) for Beth and Yacov’s work getting the project up and running and funded.
Did you discover anything in the process that was either unexpected (either in the materials or cataloging), and can you reflect on the accomplishment and its value to the broader world?
KVW: My favorite moment in the inventory process was discovering a VHS tape with no labels except two sticky notes reading: “This is the one you’ve been waiting for. UNCUT UNRULY UNHOLY.”
Having never participated in a archival process of this scope, I had no idea just how much time this work takes. It’s a major undertaking.
Yacov is a treasure: of the dance world, of Austin and the UT faculty, of the Department of Theatre & Dance. His career has been hugely significant and influential, from his pioneering, inclusive work with Deaf and hearing dancers; to his artistic and production collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Deborah Hay, David Dorfman, Doug Varone, Margaret Jenkins, Tina Marsh, Allison Orr…the list goes on.
Documenting and preserving dance has always been difficult. Yacov’s work is perhaps particularly suited to a digital life because he was a pioneer of the integration of digital media and live performance, beginning in the early 1990s and continuing in his collaborations with dancers, musicians, computer programmers, and biomedical and wearable-tech engineers today. (Check out [3D Embodied] and AdMortuos for the most recent examples in the collection):
It has been a privilege—and a real pleasure—to help make this important piece of dance history available to the public. I grew up and discovered theatre and dance here in Austin, and I’m proud to contribute to the preservation of the city’s cultural history.