The Space: Some Metaphors for How We Inhabit the Middle Classroom in the CW Wing @ ASFA

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We’re really lucky. We all have daily(ish) access to a creative studio space, and we get to share it with a group of talented, ambitious, curious, like-minded folks. The energy that’s produced in a setting like that can be really profound and sustaining. It’s important to remember that different people need different things from a space for it to be conducive to making cool stuff. To that end, here are some metaphors for what I think our space is…

Playground!

Notice the exclamation point. Playgrounds are colorful, enthusiastic places where imagination runs rampant and where energy is abundant. It’s fun to be in a playground. You play in a playground. (FYI/411: I went to another cool playground this summer. You can check it out here. FYI/411²: If you want. You don’t have to.)

Workspace.

Notice the period. Workspaces don’t have to be glum. They’re just places where stuff gets done. There’s a sense of decorum and maturity in a workspace.  You respect your colleagues’ boundaries and you try to put your best foot forward in all situations. There’s also a sense of shared purpose.

Family Room!

More exclaiming! A family room is a place of close connection and, well, familiarity. The best family rooms are comfy places where you can let your hair down and relax because you know everybody and everybody knows you. There’s a sense of shared recreation — and I really like the linguistic implications of that word: (re)create.

Library.

One of the great tragedies of human history was the burning of the library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. Libraries are storehouses of knowledge, and that particular one was full of irreplaceable artifacts of human genius that we now know only obliquely — if we know of them at all. This room isn’t the library at Alexandria, but it is its own kind of storehouse of knowledge, history, culture, and tradition. There are some books in it, to be sure, but it also stores something less tangible. It’s a place of silent contemplation, a place of study, a place where reading, writing, and thinking are cherished activities. The walls are steeped in the residue of that earnest, rigorous enterprise.

Coffee House!

There’s a literal and figurative buzz surrounding a coffee house. The whir of the espresso machine. The ambient noise of people milling around. Maybe even there’s some Radiohead or some John Coltrane (or something) playing in the background. And yet somehow, all this white noise and sensory stimulation serves not as a distraction but as a creative spark. Like a shot of espresso itself, the place offers a spike of energy and focus, which is a powerful combination. People are out and about and engaged in the world, and that serves as an invitation for all kinds of good creative impulses.

Sacred Space.

I have to admit this is probably my favorite metaphor of the bunch, and that’s saying something because I love the other ones too. This room really is somewhat sacred to me. This is my tenth year of sharing it with students. It’s not my room. It belongs to past, present, and future ASFAns. A lot of wonderful work (and play) has been done here, and a lot of learning has happened. I’ve learned everything I know about teaching here. I’ve also learned a great deal of what I know about writing/creativity here too. I certainly hope you do (or will) feel the same way that I do about this room, the CW wing, and ASFA as a whole. Even if you don’t share that feeling — serious? you don’t?! — you now know that this place is sacred to at least one of the people in your community. (Me.) As a place, it deserves that kind of respect — the kind of respect you would offer someone else’s sacred space, if not your own.

What you may notice about all those metaphorical spaces is that some go together better than others. A coffee house and a family room are pretty complementary but a playground and a library? Not so much.

It’s our job to balance those metaphors and make sure we’re not infringing on any of our peers creative processes along the way.

Just as important, it’s our job to take advantage of the incredible flexibility of this space to make it everything we need it to be.

What else do you need from this space? What else do you think it can be?

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