So, I grew up on this tiny liberal arts college campus that was on an old 18th century farm in almost-rural New Hampshire. There was a legendary ghost, Emma, that would stalk about the place, showing up naked at odd hours of the night asking for shelter; plus, the house had also been a stop on the Underground Railroad, and so of course I always imagined that the souls of nearly-free runaway slaves were trapped in the basement. It was a terrifying, albeit somewhat lyrical place to mature.
Every Halloween, there would be a big party down in the old barn-cum-cafeteria of the school and all the students would dress up as figures from the great epics they’d been reading — a blinded Oedipus; a mangy, ferocious Siren; a foxy Circe or a tear-sodden Dido, as well as the odd Southern Lit. character reference like O’Connor’s Misfit or a staggeringly drunk Faulkner. Back in the 80s, the room would be thick with cigarette smoke, increasing the confusion in my child-brain as I tried to decode all the literary get-ups I had no canonical compass for at the time. I recall feeling deep shame at the utter uncoolness of that small bastion of nerdy, Classical academia, but took a modicum of solace in the fact that no one but my siblings was there to affiliate me with such lame dorkiness.
Now, of course, I think otherwise about the whole experience, and savor the rich oddity of being reared-up among Medusas and Antigones. It was really Something. We talk a lot about starting a good art school in Dallas, and I’m not entirely sure what a good art school actually is, but I can’t help but hope that it’d be something like that school where I grew up — a place that fosters whip-smart, incredibly dynamic people of the world with their hands in everything, making lucid and necessary messes. If that imaginary art school had a Halloween party, maybe the nerds that went there would dress up like some of these art characters, hopefully to the witness of impressionable youth.