Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Alfred Connection

For my blog entry I would like to propose an unconventional mapping- not a placement of where a building or object exists today or where it once stood, but rather as Ezra put it recently "mapping the un-mappable".
Rather than map something about Alfred or in Alfred I would like to examine what makes Alfred a unique community outside of the village limits- something I will for now call the Alfred Connection.
What on earth brings young people to Alfred, a village with a single street light, from as far away as California, Hawaii and Alaska? To that I would answer the same thing that brought me from not quite so far away as Western Pennsylvania- I encountered Alfred through a personal connection.
I doubt that many students are wooed by AU's wealth of brochures, information about curriculum or fancy poster boards at college fairs. However, when a school is recommended to future students by people who they know and whose opinions they respect it is not hard to imagine why Alfred has such an interesting and diverse population. I encountered Alfred through a non-profits arts in schools programs where a ceramic department faculty was an Alfred graduate. It was his insistence that Alfred was the "right place" that eventually led me to attend the University. I have heard countless stories from fellow students about their "discovery" of Alfred, I've never heard anyone talk about Alfred's reputation, or standing as ranked by the College Board or what number Alfred occupies on the US News and World Report's top list of colleges.
It is most interesting to me that Alfred can be examined as a sort of case study as to how information, ideals and values get disseminated and distributed across regions, and even nations.
Speaking from my own limited observation as an Arts Student from western Pennsylvania I have noticed that a desire to emulate qualities found at Alfred to be a driving factor in the way that many arts organizations that are local to my home in Pittsburgh operate- regardless of how far they are geographically from Alfred NY. The non-for profit arts center the Manchester Craftsman's Guild sought to preserve glaze recipes and calculations from the time that one of our faculty spent at AU- how much do we rely on the way that we were taught to do things in the way that we intend to live our lives?
Do we as students of Alfred U really spend our time learning to be students, artists, engineers or whatever our respective majors are? Or, are we rather being taught to be "Alfredians"? In that we are instructed to rely upon the methods that our professors teach we are in many ways a generational reiteration of traditional methods and permutations of a similar construct.
If Alfred survives as an institution it is because its students are ever involved in the process of becoming it's legacy. In this preservation of the particular Alfred experience- are there ways that we as a group can visualize how our interactions with Alfred spread and expand? It is my humble suggestion that if the class as a group is interested in this topic that we all might share ourselves as a sample group and attempt to visualize when, where and how we were first educated about the existence of Alfred, and how, as we have shifted from prospective to current students, we have educated others to the existence and importance of Alfred.

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