Reflections for a New School Year

Editor’s Note: The Pioneer gathered a range of responses to questions about their experiences in their respective fields with varying amounts of time at Cooper.

Art

How do I present three-dimensional work online?

“While remote learning in an art school comes with many problems, the necessity for documentation can lead to ideas for projects that you might never have come up with if you could only physically present your work. I did collages with materials on fire that would have been impossibly unsafe to present in person, a friend showed us an installation by a river in the middle of nowhere. There can be a bit of a learning curve in letting go of the reality of the physical object you made and present the reality of the digital representation on the share screen on Zoom. How you document your work becomes an essential part of both your process and the way you present your work for critique. How you position your piece, what light it is in, what’s in the background– it all has to be chosen with intention (or a specific lack of attention). You may want your piece to look out of place or on display or blending in with the surroundings. The way something is presented cannot help but dictate the way people interpret the work. What helped me the most was pretending I was seeing my work for the first time with whatever form of documentation I was presenting.”

“There are many ways to do this, the most common being a collection of photos that show different angles of your work. For my sculpture class last semester, most students would share their screen and run through a slide show of sorts. There is also the option of a short video that encircles your piece to show different perspectives, or you might get creative; write a poem about it, present a diagram or blueprint, give a detailed description, send a copy of one in the mail to every one of your classmates…. If you are interested in thinking critically about documentation, or what it means that we are experiencing every aspect of Cooper (art/ student culture/ interpersonal relations) through a two-dimensional medium, now’s the time to experiment.”

How do grades work in art school?

“I don’t know. So much depends upon the professor and their personal teaching values. But in the end grades aren’t really mentioned and you don’t even know them until the end of the semester. Your creative growth is far more impacted by the 5–20 minute critiques in each class every week than a single letter. And more significantly, you may learn more from a “bad” critique than a “good” critique. That being said, if you are struggling in a class, speak with your professor and/or advisor about it. They are there to guide your learning and creative process and grades should never get in the way of either your art-making or financial stability”

“Show up to class, participate in discussion, complete your assignments and your report card should return high marks. However, the last report card I actually read was for first semester of my first year. That is to say, the art school isn’t particularly grade minded  and generally the critiques and the works are considered more important than grades. But if grades are important to you, for scholarship or personal reasons, the main thing is to attend class and be in conversation with your professors. They are very reasonable and accommodating people who can work things out with you if you are struggling. If you are having problems attending class, don’t feel comfortable speaking up in discussion, or are finding it difficult to complete work, email them. It is also important to know that a “bad critique” does not prompt a bad grade. Your professor will not grade you based on their feelings about or your classmate’s assessment of your work but rather on your effort. As the access students have to materials, time, and space is especially variable right now, your professors will likely be extra considerate and flexible. ”

Architecture

Name your favorite coffee shop and share a memory about it.

“When we had long lectures for classes like history, and the professors gave us a break midway through the class my favorite is Mud. I don’t really drink the coffee from there but their muffins are pretty great.”

“Porto Rico Coffee on St. Marks is pretty great. Delicious coffee and they don’t upcharge for oat milk, plus you get every fifth coffee free. If you go often enough they might even give you free coffee so be careful.”

“My favorite coffee shop would have to be the Astor Plate hut with the Mud Coffee. I love their coffee and their chai tea latte is the perfect pairing for a long lecture. During my first year, Martina and I would meet at the coffee hut every Friday before our Architectural History class.”

What is your favorite window at Cooper?

“My favorite window at Cooper has to be the one in the Arch Media Lab on the 7th floor. In the final week of the Fall 2019 semester a lot of people stayed at Cooper overnight to finish working. I got to school at around 6am and went upstairs to the computer lab to print- 7 or 8 people from my year were already there. The sun was coming up and the entire computer lab was covered in burnt orange light. Even though we were practically collapsing from exhaustion it was such a sweet and quiet moment to share with my friends.”

“The row of windows in the 7th floor computer lab, facing east. You can see almost all of the East Village, and on Friday afternoons the weekend crowds start gathering on 3rd Ave.”

“My favorite window is the one on the 4th floor where the pottery room is. Last year, Gus and I joined the Clay Club and got to hang out there a couple times a month. It was always so bright and had pretty plants!”

What is the best spot to nap at Cooper?

“Room 315 at the end of the hall on the third floor is ideal for napping. It’s warm, the seats are cushioned, and when the curtains are pulled down its dark. It’s honestly hard to not doze off in that room and when we have longer lectures or workshops in there it can get brutal to remain focused.”

“In our first year, Julia brought an Eno hammock to school and tied it to the diagonal column in studio. I always liked napping there because you could curl up and people knew not to disturb you.”

Have you ever spent the night in one of the buildings?

“I’ve never done it, but I’m sure I’m going to have to at some point in my time at Cooper.”

“No”

“Yes. The night before my Descriptive Geometry final, Gus and I worked in the back of studio and watched six movies to keep us awake. We slept for maybe two hours on a bean bag chair in the corner of studio. It was excruciating.”

What is your favorite tool in the shop?

“Usually when I go to the shop I’m just stressed out and constantly asking questions so I feel like I need more experience on my own with some of the machines to really pick a favorite. But yeah during shop tech in first year I loved the wood section and a lot of the machines like the planar are fun to learn about and watch it being used.”

“The metal belt sanders because they’re super powerful and scary.”

“I like the router because it’s very dangerous and loud. Last year, Gus and I started to build drafting tables for our desks, and we had to ask the shop technicians to help us do it. I also really like the planar machine because it makes the board of wood super soft and the machine is also really loud.”

What is your favorite thing to use in the media lab?

“I really like working with the plotters during my shift at the media lab, sending people’s plots to print, and changing the type of paper.”

“Idk”

“I really like the laser cutter. Last year, our studio heavily relied on building paper models, and so many of us spent crucial hours in the laser cutter room and waiting on the queue. Also, the machine always needed special care and attention which meant it was always a good day whenever it cooperated with me.”

What is your favorite museum?

“Am I basic if I say the Met? Going alone is so nice, if you pick the right spot to sit and sketch. I used to go with friends a lot and sometimes I still do, but when I’m alone I’m more observant and I really take my time.”

“The Neue Galerie, in the UES between the Met and the Guggenheim. It’s in an old mansion and has 20th century German and Austrian art from people like Klimt and Schiele. There’s a fancy Viennese café and the museum doesn’t allow pictures; very classy.”

“I don’t know if this counts, but one time Professor Gerri Davis requested for our class to see a private showing of the Robert Irwin exhibit at the Pace Gallery. It was a super cool experience and our entire class traveled there together from Cooper on a cold and early Saturday morning.”

What is the best thing you have eaten for free at Cooper?

“A lot of lunches the school caters after the afternoon lecture series are pretty good but for me it was the popcorn and candy they brought in for the screenings of the films the March students made in the Fall 2019 semester. I took a lot of chocolate to get me through my shift at the computer lab one night, I basically swiped the tray clear.”

“The scraps of catered Le Pain Quotidien that EOD once brought into studio. Or the Veniero’s biscottis that Nader interrupted a pin-up to pass out. ”

“Free Thursday Breakfast was always my favorite thing although I always forgot about it. They had eggs, granola bars, fruit, bagels, coffee, and oatmeal. Definitely something I will miss this year :( ”

Engineering

Name your favorite coffee shop and share a memory about it.

“In all honesty, I don’t really go out for coffee. I’ll stop by Dunkin’ in a pinch, but for the most part, I brew my own coffee in the morning. It’s cheaper, and there’s nothing like the smell of freshly-brewed coffee on a busy morning. My preferred method of brewing is pour-over, but that’s mostly because it’s the most straightforward and easy to clean up. As for the beans, I like getting them from Porto Rico Importing Co. The original store is on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, but there’s a branch a block away from Cooper Square on St. Mark’s. I like Porto Rico because they have a huge selection of beans from all over the world (not that I can taste the difference between half of them), and you can buy the beans whole or they can grind them for you. Also, if you’re not in the mood for making your own coffee, they’ll brew you a cup as well.”

“I like to make my own coffee with a pour-over, so my favorite place to get tea is Physical Graffitea on St. Marks. They’re open for business still during the pandemic and have the most wonderful selection of loose leaf teas. Their clerks always amaze me with their knowledge of their stock and make the spot feel so welcoming. The space itself is sub-level with a few small tables with most of the floor space dedicated to the beautifully full tea counter. I love bringing people over and having long conversations over tea.”

How has your perception of engineering changed over time?

“When I was just about to start Cooper, I expected engineering to be self-expression through technology. I thought everyone picked their own corners of interest (bridges, electric cars, AI, renewable energy, etc.), and just passionately learned how to make it their own. Now, I figured there was going to be hard work, but I didn’t really care. I guess that’s the problem when you’re looking at a career from the outside; you know that there’s work involved, but you can’t help but ignore it and only picture the cool things you get to do. Try as I might, that mentality still had the better of me when I started at Cooper. One year later, I no longer ignore the work involved, because if I do, I fail a class. I realized that I was looking at engineering too simply, and that to learn how a load distributes itself on a bridge, you need to first know how a force affects a simple beam. The road in between is very long. There are so many smaller elements that are learned one step at a time, and it’s a process that can’t be rushed. More than anything though, I learned that engineering is not just a career of passion, it’s a career of service. That self-expression through technology I admired early on was too narrow a view; yes, passion for an industry is important, but it does not outrank passion for helping others.”

“I initially chose the profession of engineering out of pragmatism. I wanted to help others and serve people with engineering being one of the easiest paths to affect the lives of millions of people per project. Service always permeated my engineering career, but as I learned more about engineering and specifically my field civil engineering, disillusionment both sprouted and grew. I had chosen civil engineering based on a coin flip and catching a glimpse of the bridges in Structures Lab on a tour. I slowly learned that the projects in the industry could thoroughly improve the lives of people in all economic classes. Everyone uses the same streets, everyone interacts with buildings, everyone needs water — the work that civil engineering creates can vastly change and empower the community and the people. I loved it; the field I had chosen on a whim completely fit my ideals and seemed to shine as the right path for a couple of years. However, company presentation after company presentation the shine dulled. The most generous companies still reeked of corporatism and despite the beautifully imaginative projects, they were beholden more to clients than to the communities around their projects. This culture does not come solely from the engineering industry, but I began to question my desires to be complicit with it. Nowadays I try to get as much input, advice, and inspiration from people of all different fields specifically aimed towards changing the Architecture-Engineering-Construction industry to one I can be proud of calling my own. It should never call itself a service-minded field without truly serving the people.”

What’s your favorite strong acid?

“Without a doubt, my favorite strong acid is hydroiodic acid. Not only does it eat through metal, but it’s also the most polite strong acid. All the other strong acids just sit around being fake, while hydroiodic acid has the decency to at least tell you ‘HI’.”

“HCl because it’s easy to remember”

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