Oh, Fine Arts Festival, you fill my heart with anticipation and dread, you clog my mind with lists, you cripple my feet and damn near break my back with your unending labor, and yet you always manage to be the coolest thing Unity High School does all year.
The FAF (which I often mistype as FAG) was Thursday and Thursnight, and even though I hummed "No Surprises" by Radiohead on my way to school, the morning set-up was fraught with many spills and chills as usual.
Here's what I learned from the FAF this year: never assume that anyone can put things where they're supposed to go. Over the past couple of years, the fine students in Coach Bass's woods classes (that rhymes) and a kindly Eagle Scout (long story) have constructed eight of the handsome display units seen above. These, in my opinion, have taken the FAF to the next level in terms of presentation. They're so much more attractive than what we were forced to deal with in previous years, i.e., oversized pieces of cardboard attached to each other with duct tape and clamps and covered with craft paper. Since our school can't afford and/or won't buy proper, outrageously priced display units, we decided to make our own. And we had eight of them.
Except on the day of the show, we could only find seven. Where is D.U.#8? NOBODY KNOWS. It is in another dimension.
So, even though I had the gym situation mapped out months ahead of time, suddenly I had to scramble kids around in the most diplomatic way possible. Because everybody wants to be on a display unit. Nobody wants to be on the bleacher end of the gym with Art 1, because let's face it, as a whole Art 1 is weak this year. I'm sorry, Art 1, some of you are fabulous, but deep in your heart you know that many of you are bush league at best. Just ask Art 2.
I rooted around backstage in the auditorium and dug up some flats from last weekend's musical. I covered those big pieces of plywood with black craft paper, set them up on tables, and my students with artwork that didn't weigh very much taped their pictures to it. It actually worked, looked nice, and carried a bit more prestige than the tri-fold cardboard things that Art 1 uses.
(Ashlee's work, above, is representative of fabulous Art 1, not bush league Art 1.)
Anyway, that was just one of four big problems I had to solve immediately. I was on my feet all day, answering questions, carrying things everywhere, picking up trash, sweating and looking awful in my work clothes, writing passes, adjusting crooked things, not drinking enough water, and never getting a chance to go to the bathroom. But I've got to hand it to my students, especially the advanced kids: by the end of the school day, the show was up and looking...pretty damned great.
I ducked into a bathroom (finally!), changed into something that was more art teacher than construction worker, and met my sweet husband as he made an after-work cameo appearance. One of my students, the delightful and gorgeous Suegee, reportedly spotted Jeff while I was changing and gushed over him like he was a rock star. "You're...YOU'RE HIM!! OMG [squeeeeee!]!!!" And Jeff was like, "Yes, I'm him."
Soon enough, it was time for our big fashion show. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I gave my students an optional assignment to create a fantasy prom dress using unwanted formal dresses. Which they did! We spent about 45 minutes getting ready in the foods lab.
Each designer found a model and styled her to match her fill-in-the-blank prom theme. I donated a few dresses to this cause, and I made one as well.
I gave everyone an impromptu Tim Gunn pep talk, and they got their game faces on. These girls were awesome this year. Everybody smiled, nobody was shy, and even if a dress didn't fit, they sold these looks.
I made a mix CD of suitable fashion show songs, including "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga and "Head On" by the Pixies, and that played while the models and designers prowled our little catwalk on the auditorium's stage. Big crowd, lots of cheering, girls totally working it, celebrity faculty judges handing out medals--I've got to say it was our best show ever. A triumph, even!
I encouraged our designers to get crazy with the themes, as our lone male participant did with his Black Widow Prom. I turned a 23 year-old red dress that I wore to a college dance into Lady Gaga Prom. I covered it with rhinestone stickers, added a belt that was too big but we still decided to go with it, and lifted the left side a bit. The adorable Maridy, who is about as close to the all-American girl ideal as you can get, was my totally game model. Years ago I bought Poof a blond wig because she wanted to see what life was like on the other side of the fence, and Maridy wore that under a crazy-ass headdress. I customized some super-cheap, 6-inch platform heels that, incredibly, my girl could walk in. Unity grad and one of my favorite people Laura applied Maridy's makeup. We tossed on some Purple Rain sunglasses, and boom, a girl who had stopped by her farm to feed her horse not even an hour earlier was transformed into the little monster you see above. She adored the craziness of it all, and believe me, that girl shut it down. Later she gleefully reported that she had scared small children, and I said, "Mission. Accomplished."
I rounded up as many of the designers and models as I could after the show for the obligatory group photo.
At this point I could barely walk. I went backstage in the auditorium, where band director and music god Bill Jean was putting on a five-hour variety show. I opened a door to get some air circulating back there (Bill: "YES PLEASE OPEN IT!"), and listened to Miranda (left) sing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen as the sun set. My work at the show was essentially over, and as the cool breeze soothed me, I enjoyed my first moment of relief and serenity.
Then I spent the rest of the night watching Bill (and new choir director Ashley) work their magic in the auditorium, such a pleasure. Laura joined me for a while and we had lots of laughs between acts, including the guitar-laden jazz rock band. Jazz rock is always a show highlight with its crew of gangly axe men and Laura's sister Chloe, Unity's answer to Keith Moon, minus the alcoholism. I couldn't get a decent shot of her drumming, but she's the model above in the red dress and black leather jacket.
After the show was over, I limped out to my car, exhaled, and said, "Flush." All of the things that had occupied the bulk of my brain for weeks slipped away, leaving a most welcome, black void. I drove home, jumped in the shower to wash the FAF off my skin, ate a chocolate brioche that Jeff was kind enough to buy for me, and promptly slipped into a coma. And then it was back to school the next morning to tear it all down.