Students will work on collaborative projects that will be on temporary exhibition in the park. Close contact with working artists and art students in these two countries as well as a visit to the National Art Academy in Tallinn Estonia will provide a wide range of exposure to contemporary issues in visual art in Europe. Visits to major art museums, cultural sites will be arranged in each country. For those students who choose to extend their stay in Europe, Helsinki is the ideal city from which to visit St. Petersburg Russia and the Hermitage Museums and other world-class collections and historic sites

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not the end.

Two more shots I to fit in:

Eric White watches his time-based performance installation.

Billingsley uses the map as a visual aid for a pertinent history lesson.

Thank you all for participating in the blog. Any participant in the symposia is welcome to continue to post photos and thoughts. There is no deadline or timeline.

Keep the dream alive.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the end.

Hello to all following our blog. The wonders and mysteries of Eastern Europe have kept me from posting. This is the end. I arrived home late last night from Finland, having traveled the entire way with Billingsley.

First and most importantly, I owe a deep gratitude to the students for maintaining the highest degree of professionalism and dedication throughout the excursion. You have all represented your school, instructors, and country as ambassadors. I am proud to say that you made my responsibilities a pleasure.

Secondly, I should note that our hosts on each leg of the expedition have formally invited us to return. I intend to. Additionally we made lasting professional contacts throughout the Baltics that will undoubtedly lead to great things for each of us professionally.

Concerning our travel to Russia. We took a luxury bus from Riga to Tallinn-the only way to go! Tallinn was time for R&R, everyone marched to their own beat for two nice days in the city. 4:00 am, the third morning, we boarded another Eurolines lux express bus bound for Russia.

Once in St. Petersburg we had a strict itinerary that we followed flawlessly. Everyone eagerly immersed themselves into their surroundings. The students made every attempt to understand the culture and history, while observing the obvious changes that are making the "new" Russia. Westernization is prevalent throughout the city, corner grocers replaced by designer shops, family restaurants now chains, and sleek European cars have replaced the Soviet Lada. Six years ago guard shacks darkened every street corner with machine gun soldiers. Those olive drab steel shelters have been removed or converted into news stands. The police state does still exist though. They rear their head randomly and without warning by barracading streets, wandering amidst the general populace in military fatigues, and harassing tourists at museums. The country is changing at a furious pace but the tumultuous history is so deeply imbued in the people and culture that no amount of paint or modernization can conceal the past. For me, that constant and unrelenting awareness of the past is what I love about traveling to Russia. The grit, the dirt, eyes on the horizon, and all of the beauty built on the shoulders of the working class make the place. The students this year seemed particularly aware of these things, and expressed an obvious thirst for information about what makes the place Russia. One thing is certain, when a person experiences Russia directly they are changed by it. I look forward to seeing how this trip affects each of those who participated.

In closing, thanks Carl.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This will be the final post from Europe. We will keep the blog going for a while longer so that students can add information now that they are back in

This is a detail of the iron lodestone showing the excellent quality of the casting.
The Kidwelly / Prime Meridian Lodestone
The original stone and the Cast Iron Lodestone
The iron stone revealed
The casting is still very hot!
Opening the mold.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Izvinitye ya ne gavaryu pa Russki

Hello all. Over the course of the past four or so weeks I have been uncertain as to what information I should post on the blog. When I did find myself with some interesting or intriguing prose I somehow decided to postpone posting it. However, since we are now in the final days of our forays into the foremost artistic realms of the Baltic countries, I felt I should share a few things about one experience that has already forever changed the way I will view the art world. Yeah, I'm talking about Russia.

It is impossible to describe St. Petersburg in less words than it would take to write a small novel. The city is under a constant state of development and restoration, but it hardly seems to have lost it's luster. It was made apparent to us early on that the creation of St. Petersburg was to stand as a physical representation of Russian might. In my opinion, that intention was utterly successful. Honestly, this city scared the hell out of me at first. I have never been to such a place. Everyone powerwalks. If you're old an stove up, you powerstrut. No one smiles on the street. If you make eye-contact with a passerby they immediately look down at your shoes and look back at you and you know that they know you're an American. There is a constant threat of being pooed on by the millions and millions of pigeons. If you cross the street at the wrong time drivers accelerate faster toward you. Thousands of windows. Police carry two guns. All the qualities of St. Petersburg - the architecture, the art, the traffic, the people, etc - share an underlying intimidation factor and passionate intrigue that would literally fry a foreigners brain should they not stop to take a rest. The sites/sights we have seen thus far in St. Petersburg have been so unbelievable - it is my impression that they can only be described or catalogued fairly in a categorized list entitled, "Awesome."

  • The Russian Museum
  • The Russian History Museum (celebrating 300 yrs.)
  • Peter and Paul's Fortress
  • 19th century prison
  • Peter and Paul's Cathedral
  • Russian Space and Rocket Museum
  • St. Isaac's Cathedral
  • The State Hermitage Museum (twice!)
  • Hydrafoil Boat Rides
  • Kunstkamera (archaeology, ethnology, oddities museum)
  • Church of the Savior on the Spilt Blood
  • St. Petersburg Art Academy
  • Peterhoff
I would also like to make note of a truly remarkable celebration we partially witnessed last night. As I write this I am having a discussion with our hostel receptionist about the ceremony entitled The Holiday of the Crimson Sails (Alye Parusa). She tells me it is in recognition of the last day of school for St. Petersburg's high school graduating class and afterward St. Pete throws out all the stops as everyone is invited into the heart of the city for the party. The is an old story that this celebration stems from, written by Alexander (Grin?). To summarize, a fair maiden falls in love with a fair prince, but trouble ensues and they cannot be married, so she perseveres through a series of struggles and is eventually whisked away into Happily Ever After in the arms of the prince on a ship with red sails. Sound familiar? Of course - there are thousands of songs, poems, Danielle Steele novels, and movies utilizing this plot. However, this story stands as a symbol for the graduating class of St. Pete. It is a "follow your dreams" sort of scenario, but I find it interesting that they personified it into a Holiday. Clever and endearing, if not anything.

In the Neva River/Canal, right in the middle of St. Petersburg, they literally had 2-and-3 mast ships with red sails, which coasted through the Troitsky drawbridge under a firework lit sky, and probably out into the Baltic. There was also a free concert in front of the Hermitage Museum and around the Alexander Column (by the river) featuring pop groups which performed alongside acrobats from Cirque du Soleil. At this concert was a huge crane that dangled a massive strobe-lighting chandelier over the crowd. When I say massive I mean it was probably around 50 feet tall.

Unfortunately we only heard the fireworks, and could only see the chandelier from a distance; this all due to a fact I was just told by our hostel receptionist. There were over 3 million people there last night. Now that I think about it - I believe it. I have never seen so many people - all teenagers or people in their 20's or 30's, and every. single. one of them, was drunk. Imagine weaving through a literal sea of young drunk people, all screaming in Russian. Very tense, but entertaining. We took a hydrafoil boatride through the canals to both avoid and watch the runamok masses, and at the same time befriended some locals on the boat. We made our way home this morning at around 3:45 a.m. with the party partially still raging, and others leaving en masse. The city streets were completely trashed. Glass and garbage literally everywhere. However, here's a testament to the city of St. Petersburg; We walked to the harbor this morning to catch a boat to Peterhoff at around 10:15 a.m., and in order to get there we had to walk the same streets the party took place on. They were completely clean.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Wales / Prime Meridian Lodestone

This is the Kidwelly Castle where the selected exhibition for the Iron Conference will take place. I see this every day from Andy's back yard!
This is a view of the quarry at the edge of the Pricili Hills. Deeper into these hills is the source of the hearth stone at Stonehinge.
This is the Bluestone that I selected for the Prime Meridian.
The stone in the mold. About halfway through the process of making the piece mold.
The mold in it's wooden flask, being prepared for casting.
Welsh iron from the Dragon Furnace being poured into the mold.
The last tap being poured into the mold.

Hello from Kidwelly, Wales.
While Stuart and the group are busy exploring St. Petersburg, Russia, I have been here in Wales working at the West Wales School of the Arts with Andy Griffiths and his great crew of iron casters. Andy is the co-chair of the upcoming 6th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art. Somehow, in addition to all the work he is doing to organize the conference, Andy found time to assist me with my "Lodestone Project". This Lodestone will be sited on the Prime Meridian. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Andy and the crew for helping me. Thank You!

The team! A wonderfully generous and hard working group of folks who made this possible .

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello Everyone,
I am posting this from Wales where I have gone to cast another Lodestone at the West Wales School of the Arts. Andy Griffiths has been a fabulous host and has made it so easy to get the proper stone and make the mold. The project is going along very smoothly and quickly. Stuart is off to Russia with a group of students, Ken has taken his lot to Tallinn and a few have had to return to the States to teach or are continuing their travel to other places. I posted images from the opening of the Pedvale Exhibition which Laura e-mailed to me here in Wales. We had good weather for the opening although it looked like rain any minute right through the day and evening. The next day was cold and overcast so it was OK for travel. I flew to london and took trains to Kidwelly where I was met by Andy. I am staying with Andy and look out of the back window of his place at Kidwelly Castle. The castle is a remarkably well preserved 12th cent. bastion where the International Iron Conference will stage the selected exhibition. I will try to get an image on the blog later.

Images from the opening of the exhibition at Pedvale

Ojar's installation "Stone in the Snowdrift"
Ojars sees Pedvale from the snails point of view
Mallory and Zack's valley of stones
Paulis and Ojars in front of "Urban Stones"
Ken receives a stone to plant from Ojars
Jason standing inside "Shadow of my Father"
Grace and Cole with Ojars
Austin standing next to his "Red Room"

Andy and Ojars