17 Feb

I am mourning. Sorta. My alma maters main building was torched, it seems.

The fire spread too fast with an intensity that resonates arson. A historic building was destroyed. Buildings can be replaced. Students visions and dreams cannot be replaced. They can be. Been there done that with loss of art. The heart breaks but visionaries have a talent for coming back even better. I had sent the art for my calligraphy book to be copied by someone I learned later in life I should not have trusted, short of three amazing ‘portfolio of life’ pieces, sons. As life predicts, upon receiving the call from my publisher the box of my art disappeared without a trace, I made that LIFELINE call. That was when I learned the art, all original without trace offs archiving process, had not been copied as requested. I did what all visionaries do. I cried. Once the shock was over, I sat down to fulfill my obligation again. Every stroke of the pencil on paper hurt. Round one of illustrations flowed from my inner creativity well. Round two was painstaking as I was trying to recreate. I learned that as much as it hurts, the memory of loss, what was gained was knowledge of a life lesson I carried forth in to the world- sometimes Do Overs are Do Betters. My book has remained, from Day One of publishing, the top of its class. But the memory of loss getting me there, remains, as it will for the students ravaged in Pratt’s fire which is shades of arson.

I had been at my Alma Mater’s campus a few weeks back exploring Options. I have thought about teaching, now that the career path ahead of me is open to options. Pratt celebrated its Anniversary. I made the pilgrimage to a college that I, in fact, had been to once in my life, back in 1975.

The Dekalb Avenue station was lit with a single naked bulb. I had just moved to New York. The night before I had watched Charles Bronson’s movie of rape and snakes and…. You know his formula. Elevators scared me. The first booklet put into my hands, at Pratt’s Brooklyn Campus, a WHAT TO DO IF booklet- if raped, if busted for drugs, if- the list that went on, was enough to scare me to attend the Pratt Manhattan campus- the newly aquired Phoenix School of Design, at the corner of Lex and was it 30th or 32nd, familiar stomping grounds for me as it was down the block from the Women’s College I attended for one year. They promised art and dance in their curriculum. They gave neither. A year and a marriage later, I was back in the hood, in the heart of New York, in the cross hairs of history and creativity. My career began. Because of me. 

I had wondered how Pratt could place students in the heart of Manhattan- yards and telephone calls away from those would either employ or deploy us- publishers, design houses, magazines, agencies. Wednesday was Drop Off day, the day magazines would open their eyes to viewing for potential new talent. My illustration major teacher, when I told him I dropped off my portfolio at the New Yorker, could not contain his laughter. When I picked up my portfolio case weighted down by the single sheet rejection letter, I could not contain my tears until it was pointed out to me that the letter did not say “DEAR CARRIE who thinks she is better than she is…” The letter said starkly, simply, “Thank you it does not meet our needs at this time…” still an ouchie, but more of a point than a jab. My illustration major teacher didn’t think much of my idea that we students be taught the rejection while in class where we were able to discuss how to do it better.

That was 1978.

Fast forward… 2013. The class Business of Business is still not taught, not even on main campus in Brooklyn, I was standing on the ground of in my pilgrimage to past. I think I may have been the only Pratt Manhattan Center student there in the cluster of Black & Gold Brooklyn patriots. I couldn’t share their stories of being held up by gun, rapes on campus, all the things that scared me off of commuting from Spanish Harlem to the naked light bulb at Dekalb. Students are being turned in to the world incapable of understanding the reality of covering bills, turning ambition into bank account deposits and how to tweak in a world of fiscal collapse MORESO for creative sorts who dream. Innovate. Entreprenueriate (wink). I missed out horribly on being on a campus that was rich in history, little of which was present at Alumni Week, other than a tour I arrived too late to participate in but soon enough to get a sense of self that I was one of THAT 2% we students were told of, that would graduate then continue to work in industry. I started with a piece of artwork in a Macy’s downtown bathroom display. How cool is that moving my career forward from the toilet to the world of bunnies & mice & bears then back to Brooklyn where I saw a world I was envious of. Technology was sweeping the arts. I recall being threatened and told if I took a course at SVA or FIT that I would  be bounced from my certificate program so I did as a girl yet to learn the power of NO did… I didn’t. My heart pangs the times I am in New York passing SVA School of Visual Arts in a cab or FIT Fashion Institute of Technology down the way from the Bronco Bar. Or is it Mustang Missie’s. Who can remember at my adage… I do side with the paper and pencil set over PDAs that darken when the lights go out, more and more frequently these days. I will never die bored even if all I had was a twig and sand to draw in… and a something more… a sense of belonging to a campus, I told our president Thomas Schutte at the reception hour before I tuckered then called to be picked up, how can it be that PRATT INSTITUTE does not have a license plate frame. I want to belong to the culture of drivers on the road who advertise their brainiacs telling their tie to higher education- parents of, son of, alumni of…. It beggared my mind the Design School of Design Schools had no License Plate frame. I told Thomas I would design it. He said email me. I did. That was October. He forgot my adress until after the fire broke out this week. Then he didn’t remember ME. He remembered how to ask an alumnus for dollars…. 

I had asked to meet with Thomas, too, on another matter of importance to our college beyond Tag Holders and wanting to create the course curriculum for Teaching Students the Business of the Business. That was October. Follow up email. No answer. Until the fire broke out. He remembered my email. Not our conversation. Not my offer. Not my request.

I am proud of being part of Pratt. I am proud of being one of the few on our Alumni LINKEDIN forum. I monitor. Rarely post. The most interesting conversation was that of Who Is Working In Their Field of Learning. 2% still. Me. Here. One of 2 PRATT ALUMNI that LINKEDIN acknowledged for being in the top 5% of  most highly viewed LINKED IN PROFILES.

And now. Sharing the student experience of an alumnus the college finds only when dollars are sought. I thought my voice and experience and accolades add up to more than a sum total of what used to be wet ink on a check. The Gothamist link woke me up to speak up. There can be no moving forward if there is no history to look back upon with pride.

Thomas, my offer stands on the table. I will design the license plate holder to make PRATT ALUMNIS proud, a fundraiser, an awareness raiser. As for Copyrights? I did what I told you I was going to do…. stand up for Copyrights alumni live off of. Next time in New York, I mean me in New York sir, lunch at your place…. in the shadow of the rebuild, as does the Phoenix Rise from the Ashes, we can talk taking the lead in the Battle of Copyright Ownership from the Free Enterprise Internet. Lunch is on me sir, considering we have a historic building to rebuild.


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