"The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” said Columbia professor Wallace Stanley Sayre. In Professor Bill Ritchie’s case—a black suitcase of videotapes—you see, for him, that the stakes were very high, indeed. As a printmaking professor, he taught that video is the descendant of printing and that video art was the Next Big Thing; and new art forms in electronic media are of global importance. To prove his claim he risked everything. He mortgaged his family home, sold his car, his etching press, and closed his art studio. He bought a state-of-the-art video system and plane tickets. He was a professor of art in 1982, with tenure; and with a sabbatical in hand, what did he have to lose? In this book you will find out. For six months he and his family—and a tutor for their daughters—jetted, bused, ferried and drove around the globe taping over thirty-five hours of video. He recorded interviews of a range of creative and academic types in fifteen countries, all artists, museum officials, crafts people, and printmakers—plus taping occasional family fun. This book is a catalog of the travel tapes. They are still packed tightly in his scarred, black suitcase; the case itself is plastered with stickers showing it had traveled and hints at what sights and sounds are on the tapes inside—and still playable after thirty years. What did the professor gain in his big gamble? What did he lose? Read Travel Tapes and find out.
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Bill Ritchie lives in Seattle with his wife, Lynda. Educated in state colleges in Washington State and California in the 1960s, he then taught printmaking at the University of Washington from 1966 to 1985. A year after his last sabbatical, Bill left the university to invent a new printmaking teaching method for blended distance learning. Using technologies such as video and computers, he would restore the unique personal aspects of art professors’ offerings that he thought were being lost. The experience of circling the globe, for example, was never related to students in the art school at the UW. Bill taught that printmaking is greater than the sum of handcraft and techniques in the manner of drawing and painting. His own printmaking blended video, film, and computer graphics. “Everything in art is printmaking in one form or another,” he told his students. “When I opened my eyes to art, I was looking at a print.” Creative writing is another way to teach. After the turn of the century, video games and distance learning offer a balance of creativity, personal invention and story-telling by which printmaking experience can be shared. Bill’s book, Travel Tapes, is a belated but important step toward his goal as a teacher.
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