The arts in jeopardy at Stony Brook University as Craft Center and Art Gallery close

In the wake of announcements that Stony Brook’s Student Union would be vacated by January 2016 to make way for renovations, questions arose on the fate of the many clubs and organizations that occupy offices throughout the building.

Rooms 081 and 049 in the basement currently house the Craft Center, which holds frequent events that according to Andri Achilleos, 21, a double-major in studio art and art history, allow students to “relax and get away from the stress of work and classes,” and the Ceramics Center, where students, faculty and members of the local community gather to mold everything from sculptures to dishware.

The plans to relocate the two spaces, according to employees and frequenters of the Craft Center and its services are non-existent.

Also being lost to the Union reconstruction is the Student Activities Center Art Gallery.

According to Samantha Tracy, president of Stony Brook’s Fine Arts Organization, the space is being vacated to make way for the offices of the religious organizations that are currently housed on the second floor of the Union.

“I had to tell the future president and the future members that I’m not sure if you’re going to have a gallery space and be prepared to not have one,” said Tracy. “A huge learning tool in the art world is being able to look at your fellow students’ artwork and to share ideas. So now you have this matrix of ideas from other cultures, from other artists, from people of different ages and different skill levels, and you can walk around and you can talk about it and discuss concepts. Just that visual stimulation is a huge process in learning. That sharing of ideas really benefits Stony Brook and the Stony Brook community.”

This has raised concern amongst students and employees of the Craft Center and Art Gallery, who argue the value of having organizations and events like the Craft Night and student galleries on campus.

Along with Samantha Tracy and Emily Brownawell, a senior studio art major and avid user of the Ceramics Center, Achilleos began two petitions for the Craft Center and Art Gallery to raise awareness of the situation among the student body, reaching 1,200 signatures and earning the Craft Center administration a meeting with Dean of Students and Assistant VP of Student Affairs Tim Ecklund, who heard the case for maintaining outlets like theirs on campus.

“We didn’t start the petition as craft center employees, but as students,” said Achilleos. “We can actually show that students care.”

The case Achilleos and other advocates for finding a new place for these outlets is the necessity for stress relief provided by artistic endeavors.

“I definitely know that a lot of students, especially with the Craft Nights, come here to destress and to relax,” said Mikaela Batista, a graduate student in the Art History program who recently started working in the Craft Center.

According to Kate Valerio from Stony Brook’s Health Education office, the stress relief afforded by art is very real.

“There are definite health benefits to finding ways to distract yourself and use your hands” said Valerio. “[Health Education] has utilized the Art Gallery in several ways to support destressing of students. We’ve hosted poetry night in the Art Gallery among other events. Finding ways to utilize your hands has a definite stress-relieving effect.”

Batista said, “[The Craft Center] is just a great place to come and be creative. You don’t have to be an artist to enroll in a class here or learn or to meet new friends. I think that should be something that’s valued here, especially for students.”

The New York Times’ “Snow Fall” is still stellar.

Though I read it when it was initially published, I chose to revisit Snow Fall, as it was one of the first instances of interactive data journalism that I’d seen and recognized as something distinct from just a numbers-driven story. This distinction comes primarily from its unique layout and interactivity, as well as the fact that while data-driven, it did not rely wholly on numbers and statistics, but also on facts and details about the geographic area the story takes place in..Reported by The New York Times’ John Branch, the Pulitzer-winning article recounts the struggles of 16 men and women after they fell victim to an avalanche while on a skiing and snowboarding trip at Tunnel Creek in Washington State. The event left some injured and three dead.

Another aspect of the story which really rang out to me the first time I read it and again this time, was how Branch manages to intersperse concrete numbers and statistics into the story while still providing a — narrative. One might think that any emphasis on numbers in a piece of narrative storytelling like this might detract from the strength of the narrative, but in this case it does just the opposite by doubling the impact by incorporating the numbers in sentences like: “Within seconds, the avalanche was the size of more than a thousand cas barreling down the mountain and weighed millions of pounds. Moving 70 miles per hour, it crashed through the sturdy old-growth trees, snapping their limbs and shedding bark from their trunks.”

Screen capture of one of Snow Fall's visual components
Screen capture of one of Snow Fall’s visual components

Neither do the animated infographics and backgrounds detract from the piece. They once again do the opposite by giving readers a very firm image of the ambience and tone intended by the narrative. They also provide valuable visualizations of what it’s like to be on the mountainside, and where the group’s travels up and down the mountain took them.

I was blown away by how tightly constructed and well-planned this piece was the first time I read it in 2012, and it still has the same chilling impact nearly three years later. It’s not any surprise whatsoever that it won the 2013 Pulitzer for feature writing.

SPJ Region Conference informs and entertains

This year, I was able to attend the first day of the Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 Conference. This opportunity allowed me to sit in on panels where industry experts shared their insight into what it takes to succeed in journalism from a variety of different angles.

Though my time at the convention was limited, I was able to sit in on panels like “Specialty Reporting,” which addressed those who prefer to specialize in what type of reporting they like to do and a lot of advice was thrown around, both from the professionals on the pulpit and from those who happened to be in the audience. This panel was very informative and inspiring. It gave me something of a good idea of how newsroom relationships between editors and reporters on a particular beat like science, technology or sports, is managed.

I also attended “Art Criticism in the Social Media Age,” which saw Newsday’s Rafer Guzman, amNewYork’s Scott Rosenberg and Sarah Montague, and veteran critic Peter Goodman talking about how the times have changed since their beginnings as culture reporters and critics. This panel, unfortunately was something of a waste. I discussed it with journalism students from other schools after leaving the talk, and we came to the consensus that those chosen to speak were unfortunately out of touch with the amount of effort that is now required to keep up a prominent social media presence. Though their personal anecdotes were actually pretty great, I didn’t take much away from this panel.

On the first day of the conference, we were given a tour of Hofstra’s radio station, WRHU, 88.7 FM, which is an impressive facility and makes it seem like radio might have a future.

Social media mayhem before and after JRN 320

Prior to the start of JRN 320, I had attempted to increase my social media presence by starting a Tumblr, where I’d post mostly game and comic reviews and blog posts about whatever nerdy thing I was into at the moment.

I realized that it’s really hard to get Tumblr followers if I’m not posting porn or Doctor Who.

But during the class, I tried something else. I had never live-tweeted an event before taking this class and doing the first assignment, though I was sure I had a solid grasp of what needed to be done for it to work.

Inspired by that assignment, and by what I had seen major gaming sites do in the past, I decided that a weekend trip up to Boston for PAX East 2015, one of the largest video-gaming conventions in the world, would be a prime time for some live-action journalism.

I performed the majority of my live tweets from The Stony Brook Press’s account, as I was trying to boost our social media presence and truth be told, we managed to grab a few followers from outside of Stony Brook.

I did my best to relay a solid amount of all the cool things I saw, including panels from industry insiders providing tips on everything from how to break into the industry, to what makes video game music so great.

By the end of the first day, I realized how exhausting live coverage is, especially when it’s being done entirely from a cell-phone.

By far the worst part was using the WordPress app to upload updates to my article on sbpress.com and having to navigate to Twitter with my phone’s browser to get the embed codes for my tweets.

It was a wonderful experience though, one I hope to do again and relatively often.

Since then, a few other reporters have live-tweeted events from the @SBPress Twitter account, somewhat inspired by my efforts, including the Oscars and Wrestlemania and the NCAA finals, and every time it has garnered the account a few more new followers.

Podcast – Freedom through unstructured time with Marc Fasanella

Dr. Marc Fasanella is a professor with Stony Brook’s sustainability department.

In his classes, his students learn to design buildings and structures with an eye towards environmental friendliness.

The son of activists, who grew up near a heavily wooded tract of land that is now suburbs, Fasanella thoroughly appreciates the freedom that comes from unadulterated time with nature. He finds this appreciation has only grown stronger, but harder to satisfy, as his career as a college professor works against his desire to avoid a style of life typical to the modern age.

Invisibilia Keeps me Warm on those Long Night Drives

I love podcasts. As someone who likes to keep up a steady stream of media intake, whether it’s a video, comic, song, news article, book, etc., podcasts have proven to be one of my favorite ways to multitask or keep myself entertained on long commutes. To me, it’s like story time while I’m driving, running or working.

Invisibilia hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller. Photo courtesy of John W. Poole/NPR.
Invisibilia hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller. Photo courtesy of John W. Poole/NPR.

As it so happens, one of the assigned podcasts is also one of my favorites. Invisibilia is a show on NPR about “the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” The content, is something of specific interest to me because, while verging on pop science, the hosts take into account very academic approaches to the subject matter. Anything that helps humans better understand themselves and thus the world, is pretty great in my book. The only criticism I might have of the show is the specific cadence NPR has apparently trained all of its podcasters to use. They all sound like Captain Kirk, stopping for seemingly no reason and emphasizing odd parts of the sentence.

My personal favorite episode of Invisibilia is “How to Become Batman.” I genuinely learned something new. While I already knew that some blind people were able to perform a certain level of echolocation, the extent to which the subjects of the episode are apparently able to “see” with their ears blew my mind. According to a researcher interviewed for the episode, Daniel Kish, a master of the technique, his brain lights up in the same place while echolocating that sighted peoples’ do when seeing something.

Another that struck me in particular was “Fearless,” about a woman who had totally lost her ability to feel fear due to calcification in her brain. Her rare condition had lead to more than one thwarted mugging after she basically showed indifference in the face of being mugged.

Studies in the spotlight in Jimin and Janelle’s photo essay

Of all of the photo essay subjects selected for this project, Jimin and Janelle’s, in my opinion presented the biggest challenge. Finding a worthwhile story in the mundane is one the key tests of journalism, and overall, I think the duo managed to catch just the right moments to compellingly depict the feeling of midterms week in the campus library.

 

For example, this picture:

Rebecca Geller, sitting Indian style with a reference packet in hand and grey boots beneath her, double checked her answer before moving onto the next inquiry. Photo by Jimin Kim (Feb. 28, 2015).
Rebecca Geller, sitting Indian style with a reference packet in hand and grey boots beneath her, double checked her answer before moving onto the next inquiry. Photo by Jimin Kim (Feb. 28, 2015).

which shows how comfortable the girl has gotten in preparation for her review session. Already she’s wearing a loose fitting shirt and sweatpants, but in her quest for total comfort while preparing for the discomfort of a midterm, not even her already comfortable shoes survive, kicked off to the side.

This photo:

Andrew Ki, a 22-year-old senior applied math and statistics (AMS) and economics double major, and Martin DeGuzman, a 25-year-old AMS senior, are a well-oiled studying machine. Although there are scores of other students in their department they could work with, they relate to one another’s desire to excel in their class. “It’s a world of difference when you have a person who’s just as committed as you are to your academics when you’re preparing for tests,” said Ki, sitting in the library’s Central Reading Room. Photo by Janelle Clausen (Feb. 27, 2015).

is notable for its layering. Not only are we given a vivid image of two students hard at work supporting each other’s study habits, we see that they’re representative when two more students can be seen studying in the back.

The last photo in their spread also gives some insight with its composition.

Rebecca Geller removed her grey ugg boots, leaving them about a foot away from her on the multicolored library carpet, in an effort to make studying more comfortable. Photo by Jimin Kim (Feb. 28, 2015).
Rebecca Geller removed her grey ugg boots, leaving them about a foot away from her on the multicolored library carpet, in an effort to make studying more comfortable. Photo by Jimin Kim (Feb. 28, 2015).

The tight shot of her gripping a pen tightly with both hands speaks to potential frustrations she’s facing in her studies.


Compared to the rest of the gallery, the other three photos in Starbucks are weak, with lighting diminishing otherwise serviceable shot, but in the ended, Jimin and Janelle succeeded in telling their story.