Thursday, August 18, 2011

How it all started

The Journal and Sketchbook class that Patty and I teach began as a five-week summer class in Prague in 2005. I've just rediscovered photos I took during the 2007 session. One of the activities that Patty devised involved our class, with its back and forth between drawing in the sketchbook and writing in the journals, and the Kafka classes, taught because Prague is Kafka's city, and the city where he is buried. Patty asked the students to write a letter to Kafka and to do a drawing to accompany their writing.

For the penultimate class, we would take the tram across town to the Jewish cemetery where Kafka is buried. We men would pick up our yarmulkes from the gatehouse, and walk past the graves (including many bearing the last date of 1943 or 1944, when the Nazi extermination program reached its ghastly peak) until we reached Kafka's tomb.


There, we gathered the students in a circle and asked them to read their letters aloud to us, and to Kafka. It was a simple thing to do, but there was something quietly touching about it, too. It's typical of Patty to think of something like this - I would never have thought of this in a million years.




We are now teaching this class for full 15 week semesters in Chicago, for weekend classes at small art centers, and for four-day intensive classes at Interlochen. I am even going to do a version of it for students in Columbia's film program this fall. But it all began with these great students on the streets of Prague.

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