on visionary art and visionary students

Last week, I visited Towson University for a speaking engagement, thanks to a kind invitation from the very awesome sociology professor, Dr. Beth Clifford.  Let me tell you, Beth is an amazingly gracious host.  From the time she met me at the airport to the moment we parted ways, she made sure to introduce me to the best that the Baltimore/Towson area has to offer.  I'm still on a virtual high.

First up was the American Visionary Art Museum.  This was one of those museums that I'd never heard of, and then was incredulous once I'd experienced it:  it's a stunning museum.  It is dedicated to "visionary art," which it defines as "art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself."  Seriously, how could you not love a museum dedicated to this?  And the exhibit that is currently showing right now is dedicated to "what makes us smile," so you know I was going to love this.

Unfortunately, the museum prohibits photographs, so I couldn't take any shots of the insane installations indoors.  Happily, however, the outside is still pretty astonishing:




For sure, if you're ever visiting the Baltimore area, you must go see this.  You really must.

After touring the museum, we went out to dinner.  But not before I captured a couple of images of that beautiful Baltimore Harbor:


The next day was speaking day.  I actually spoke twice:  once to a creative nonfiction writing class, and the second time at an event that was open to the public.  To be completely honest, I was exceptionally nervous:  despite the fact that I've written a book, the last time I took an English class was high school (it turns out that at my university back in the 80's, when you're an engineering student and did decently in high school English, the engineering department saw no need for you to attend any college-level English courses).  As a result, I was concerned that these junior-level English students would quickly label me a sham of a writer, what with them having far more education than I have in creative writing.

Of course, I didn't need to worry one bit:  not only were they all receptive to what I had to say, they were engaged, interested, and most impressively, asked me some of the most challenging questions I've been asked to date since writing the book.  Simply listening to them speak and tell me about their lives, I found myself feeling far more encouraged by the future than I have in recent memory.  And if these young men and women are any indication, I'm happy to report that you needn't worry that "today's youth are full of apathy" -- these students are here to prove you hella wrong.

Seriously, between the students and the incredibly passionate faculty and staff I met at Towson (most notably Beth and Dr. Santiago Solis), I owe then all a huge debt of gratitude.  This was without a doubt one of the most enjoyable times I've had in my professional life. 

Thanks so much, Towson.  Go Tigers.


Images: Photographed with my Nikon D300, 35mm lens.  Settings for images as follows:

  1. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/640, ISO 200
  2. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/4000, ISO 200
  3. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/4000, ISO 200
  4. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/8000, ISO 200
  5. aperture 1.8, shutter speed, 1/1600, ISO 200
  6. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/8000, ISO 200
  7. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/8000, ISO 200
  8. aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/100, ISO 1600


Song: Sunshine by Keane