Some thoughts I had while commuting home from Purchase
By Theo Boguszewski
September 30, 2013 at 12:55am
I was feeling pretty sentimental on my commute home from Purchase after our big “Homecoming” show, so I wrote down some of my musings and formulated them into something (somewhat) cohesive.
It feels appropriate that one gets from Brooklyn to Purchase by way of Grand Central.
The feeling of walking out of the train and finding oneself under the majestic arch of high ceilings, floating like a speck of dust among an unimaginable variety of strangers, each one embarking on a unique journey, is truly incomparable.
I can’t help but quote Billy Collins (I won’t lie, I stole this from the 2 train).
“Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling
under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.”
Grand Central is a perfect representation of the duality of New York City- it is at once magnificently exciting and terribly isolating. At times it feels spectacular- the constant energy and movement is invigorating and I feel part of this vast community infinitely bigger and grander than myself- and at times being there feels totally overwhelming, intimidating, I find myself rushing through herds of indifferent strangers desperately trying to make a train or sitting on the cold marble at 5am waiting for the first train upstate and thinking “how can a city this big give a shit about one person?” How can anything that we do as lowly art school graduates make a difference in someplace so grand?
The dance program at Purchase navigated us onto a very specific career path- and after all, isn’t that the point of a conservatory? One chooses to sacrifice one’s academic education (and many of us had the option of attending fairly prestigious academic schools) for the sake of practicing one’s art 80 hours a week for 4 years. So it undoubtably feels like a failure to not be able to make a career of it after all that time and effort. I remember graduating from school and feeling so scared- there came a point when I realized that the joy that came from practicing my art was no longer worth the dissatisfaction and pain of constantly not being good enough to fulfill my 16 year old self’s idea of what my career should look like. Being an artist in NYC can feel like constantly chasing something just beyond reach, forever on the brink of achieving something big that’s just around the corner. We all come to New York City after school because it seems like the obvious move to make, but there’s a reason why some of us choose to stay here, and often times we find that reason is nothing close to what we initially imagined it to be. In the last three years, my life has taken shape in a way that I could have never envisioned- at some point a decision had to be made to abandon the fantasy of bright lights and tiaras and re-evaluate what’s really important. The only way to survive the unique challenges presented by this city is to roll with the punches, go with the flow, or as Richard Cook always used to say, “follow your bliss.”
The Hoover Dam Collective is something that a group of Purchase 2010 alumni started as we faced the reality of trying to make a career in the arts in NYC in the midst of this economic recession. What really mattered is that we wanted to stay close to one another as friends and collaborators, and we wanted a safe place to continue to practice our art.
As we Purchase alumni know all too well, life at a Purchase has it’s own unique challenges; the shitty food, the lack of straight boys, the goose shit everywhere, the sub-par academic classes, the incessant white noise of planes flying overhead, I’m sure that all of you Purchase folk can add to this list… But, when it comes down to it, what a truly amazing place Purchase is! The HDC would have never come about had it not been for the bizarre, frustrating and incredible school that is Purchase College, and Purchase College could have never been what it was without all of us.
There are many reasons why we find ourselves connected to certain people, but many times what keeps us together is a shared experience. We shared this experience of being Purchase students, and we share the experience of going out into the big scary city and swimming against the current and trying to survive and make art and stay true to ourselves. This is an amazing fight, and we have to remind ourselves that not everyone can do this; in fact, most of the country isn’t doing it. Making art is truly the most vulnerable thing we can do- we constantly must expose ourselves at the risk of being rejected. I think about this a lot when I’m at work, serving some cocky Wall Street suit-wearing seltzer-drinking assholes who talk to me like I’m the dirt on the bottom of their shoe.
But there’s a reason why we make art; it’s because we have to. Otherwise we would have all given up by now, this city is just too hard.
I guess the point of this rambling note is just to express gratitude, gratitude to the unique experience provided to me by my alma mater, to my community and to the HDC.
The “Homecoming” show we did at Purchase last night was truly magical. There were glow sticks, there was a girl in fairy wings, there were 50 plus people that shut up and paid attention to a poetry set that took place at 1030pm on a Saturday night. Fellow HDC member Breegan Kearney and I performed a dance improvisation totally spur of the moment and it was the most fun I’ve had performing in a long, long time. It was Purchase students, it was alumni, it was people that we’ve picked up along the way and people that we’ve never seen before, but the common thread was this willingness to be vulnerable, this scrappy desire to make art and share art and be together in spite of everything else.
The show yesterday was also the three month anniversary of my brother’s passing. Dante was someone who understood more than anyone else that life doesn’t owe us anything, there’s no such thing as unfair, we have to take the gifts we are given and make the most of them, share them with one other. At his memorial service my mother shared a reading from James Baldwin about the value of community. I think about this quote all the time; I think that it speaks very poignantly to why the HDC is important.
“For nothing is fixed, forever and ever and ever; it is not fixed. The earth is always turning, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them for we are the only witnesses they have.”
“The sea rises, the light fails; lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”