Building Narratives: Wk 1 & 2

The Building Narratives: Installations for Transitional Space course at California College of the Arts just finished up its second week! In just two short weeks, great conversations are already starting between the students. We are very excited for the coming weeks of research and the opportunity for the students to connect with the Esparto community.

The first week consisted of introductions, a general overview of the course (if you are unfamiliar with the course you can view the course description here) and some background information on Esparto, the station and community. We also introduced the companion book for the course, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler.

This week, the students presented some of their initial research on Esparto, the station and ideas for their particular areas of interest. We also were lucky enough to have Randy Ruiz, Architect and CCA Professor give a fantastically engaging presentation on the history of Southern Pacific Railroad development and train depot architecture. For homework, students will continue their independent research and will be preparing to discuss the assigned readings and a refined idea of interest areas. To wrap up the update, I’d like to introduce our 10 graduate students.

MArch = Architecture

Mike Atherton, MArch

Casey Carroll, MA Visual & Critical Studies

Aubrey Davidson, MArch

Tre Hurst, MFA Design

Jordan Karnes, MFA Writing

Tammy LePham, MArch

Kenneth Lin, MArch

Susan Lin, MFA Writing

Nastaran Mousavi, MArch

Sonia Otalvaro, MA Visual & Critical Studies

We’ll be posting weekly updates to keep the community informed of activity and upcoming dates.

Until next time!

Tours of the Old Train Station – This Saturday

This Saturday, November 5, I’ll be leading short tours of the inside of the Esparto Train Station in conjunction with the Grand Opening of Esparto’s downtown. The tours will begin every half hour on the half hour, starting at 11 a.m. and continuing until 2 p.m. We’ll meet outside the back entrance, near the fence on County Road 87. If you get there after a tour has started, just wait outside and I’ll be back to start another tour very soon. Bring your stories, questions, insights and speculations – and any photos that show the station in its previous incarnations. It’s free.

Thanks for helping!

Many thanks to all of you who came out on Saturday morning to help clean up the grounds of the station. We got a lot done! It was a beautiful day and it was nice to meet and talk with you, each. Special thanks to Melissa Jordan for bringing home-made sticky buns, and to Ray Burton, Jim Durst and Mark Harrington for bringing their equipment and machines for the big stuff. Also to Bonnie, Pat, Anthony, Dixie, Dan, Julie, Alice, Fred and Thomas, for your hours of careful raking, hoing, trimming, brick-stacking and cleaning.

Come to Clean Up Day – This Saturday!

Please join me and your neighbors in a community-wide clean up of the train station grounds. We’ll be there this Saturday, October 29, from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Bring your rakes and hoes, pruning shears and weed wackers, if you have them – or just bring your self. Our first step toward beautifying the site, now that the soil is cleaned up! I hope to see you there.

More Information About the Class and Signing Up

You can sign up for as much or as little involvement with the class as you like. If you already know something about your time constraints or are only interested in one part of the class (a course description for which can be found by scrolling down on this page), you can note that in the Comment portion of the sign up form.

Generally, the students will want to meet with community members once toward the beginning of the semester (in January) to gather information and ideas. This will probably take place on a weekend in Esparto. They will use the information and ideas they get from interviews with Esparto and Capay residents as a basis for further research (following up on leads or stories through archival research, for example). Ultimately, what is shared with them by community participants – in the form of anecdotes, memories, histories, and hopes – will provide points of departure, at a minimum, and help the students give shape and form to their proposals for the train station.

While they are working, the students will benefit from additional input from community members. There will be at least one mid-term (work-in-progress) review of the students’ projects at which community feedback will be much appreciated. There will also be a final presentation and exhibit of finished work at the train station property at the end of the semester (early May) when all community members are invited to respond, ask questions, make suggestions, etc.

If you want to participate in the class but aren’t sure if you’ll be available, say, on one or more of these three milestone meetings (the exact dates of which have yet to be determined, after all), you should sign up anyway. You can be part of the information and idea gathering effort, for example, without needing to attend a review later. Or you can give the students feedback on their projects without having been their original informant.

Working with art and design students by providing knowledge and guidance in this way can be tremendously rewarding. When there is good communication and exchange, you will be able to see how your contributions evolve in a visible or material form. Another benefit to signing up is that it will enable you to attend special class-related events, like a walking tour of Esparto’s hidden histories (lost traces of the train system, for example) that we are in the process of organizing.

Signing up now does not obligate you to ANY level of participation, really, if it doesn’t end up working in your schedule. It just allows us to get in touch with you when we know more about how many students we’ll have and what the meeting and review times will be.

Sign Up!

If you’d like to participate in this spring’s ENGAGE class (course description below), just click on the ‘Sign Up to Participate in the ENGAGE Class‘ link in the masthead above. I’m also providing a link in the sidebar, for easy access. Comments or questions about the class can also be posted there using a built-in form. When you submit a form, it will be sent directly to the class instructors, Melissa Martin and Alexis Petty. Maria McVarish will also be copied.

Poster for ENGAGE Class

Location for Next Tuesday’s ECAC Meeting – please come!

I think the train station project will be somewhere in the middle of the agenda for this meeting. Please come and introduce yourself to me. I’ll have at least one of the two instructors for the upcoming class on hand as well. We’ll make a short presentation and field any questions:

ESPARTO CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE 

Tuesday

October 18, 2011

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Esparto Regional Library

17065 Yolo Avenue, Esparto, CA

Course Description – Building Narratives: installations for a transitional space

Instructors: Melissa Martin and Alexis Petty

What role, beyond aesthetic applications, can artists and designers serve in the resurrection of rural abandoned spaces and the long forgotten narratives embedded within them? What value do these narratives add to the revitalization of a space? What mediums, materials and tactics can designers and artists deploy to engage a community in conversation about the possibilities for the space and ways it might serve their current and future goals? These and other questions will be explored as we partner with architect Maria McVarish and the New Season Community Development Corporation in Esparto, CA to design a series of installations in and around the historic Esparto Train Station.

The station was part of the Vaca Valley and Clear Lake railroad and transported passengers, as well as agricultural goods. The line connected towns throughout the Valley until 1957 when the last train left the Esparto station. Today, the building stands in disrepair, its history and role within the community faded into the background. The elongated windows are boarded up but inside remain some remnants of the activity that once took place; a large, cast iron floor scale and a small, bright apartment where the station agent lived. Remnants of train tracks scatter the landscape. In 2011, the building was purchased by Maria McVarish and is scheduled for redevelopment in 2012.

By reintroducing latent narratives, we may illuminate various frames in which to view the space and reconnect to the building and its site. As a starting point, students will conduct a series of ethnographic type interviews with Esparto residents, representatives of the Capay Valley farming community and other community stakeholders to gain understanding of their relationship with the station and their visions for its revitalization. Aggregating their research, students will design and implement a considered, site-specific installation in order to, as a class, provide a series of moves on-site that will begin a conversation towards larger community awareness for the train station’s planned future.

You’re Invited!

This spring, beginning in mid-January of 2012 and continuing through early May, California College of the Arts (CCA) will be sponsoring an exciting class which pairs art and design students with Esparto community members to give voice and form to the history of this area, and of the Esparto train station in particular, and to envision together the future of this place. The class is part of a special program called ENGAGE at CCA which “places students at the center of project-based learning with a focus on community engagement.” An exhibition of student/community partner work will take place in early May of 2012 – hopefully at the train station.

If you are interested in hearing more about this project – and/or would like to participate – please come to the October 18 meeting of the Esparto Citizens Advisory Committee. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. (location to be announced). I will be there, along with Alexis Petty and Melissa Martin, the instructors. See the Course Description above for more details.

Welcome!

Image

Thanks for checking in – and thanks for your patience to those of you who’ve been waiting since we got the sign up last week. I’ll be using this site to post information about my plans and process for developing the Esparto Train Station. This will include – eventually – architectural drawings, progress photos and scheduling goals. I’ve set it up with the specific hope of eliciting input (stories, images, comments and questions) from you, especially if you’re from the area and would like to contribute or get involved in the project in some way. You can post a comment by typing a message below, or at the bottom of the ‘About Mnemic Train’ page (a link for which is in the masthead above). I’ll check the comments here regularly and respond to questions as my time permits.

Thanks much – I look forward to hearing from you.

Maria McVarish