Actually seeing it disappear, transform into kindling and rubble, feels surreal. To see the inside of Ms. Metz’s ceramics studio piled chest high with debris, the roof gone, the windows gaping open like a mouth caught in the middle of a gasp, is difficult to take in. Those familiar hallways, now made strange by engines of destruction, are melting into the earth. In a few days all of the original CE Mason Elementary building will be down, our familiar campus living on only in memories (and a pretty cool virtual walkthrough).
For an emotional school, as we confessedly are, saying goodbye is like watching an old friend walk out of our life. It is hard not to turn away from the images of demolition, and just as hard not to watch. Some of the most artistic spectators seemed to bring the most positive perspective to the enterprise, Ms. Metz saying (upon seeing her studio falling under heavy machinery) “Hey, that’s the ceramics room! Well, it was for many years …but it’s time to knock it down and start over again.”
Knowing that ACMA will be back on Center Street in the fall of 2021 helps, and knowing that the new campus, built for ACMA and meant to be an art school helps too. And as hard as it is to see the old campus going away, when I was able to visit last week my heart bounced when I turned a corner in the PAC and saw wood from the original wainscoting stacked up, ready to be used to make the circulation desk in the new library.
That visit reminded me of one of Emily Dickinson’s poems, a bit of 1866 verse ostensibly about spring.
When they come back — if Blossoms do —
I always feel a doubt
If Blossoms can be born again
When once the Art is out —
When they begin, if Robins may,
I always had a fear
I did not tell, it was their last Experiment
When it is May, if May return,
Had nobody a pang
Lest in a Face so beautiful
He might not look again?
If I am there — One does not know
What Party — One may be
Tomorrow, but if I am there
I take back all I say —
Right now, today, “Art is out” on Center Street. Sure, it has really just migrated eleven minutes up the road to where it’s hiding as robins do in winter, but those of us prone to sentimentality feel the collective pang.
Will ACMA, like Dickinson’s May flowers, return? Will we be there after all, not knowing what one’s party may be tomorrow?
Like spring, and robins, and the blossoms that brighten the world, artists and actors, musicians and poets, creative spirits and our always experimenting ACMA community will be back home soon.
When we do, in a building designed to celebrate and encourage that ACMA spirit, those feelings (our autumn rain and winter chill) can disappear, kindling and rubble replaced by the blossoms of art.