It’s no secret that Geneseo’s art community has been put on the back burner ever since the termination of the college’s studio art department in the fall of 2014. But one student is actively working to keep artistic creativity alive on campus. English creative writing major senior Evan Goldstein works to promote and to publish student artistic efforts across campus, emphasizing Geneseo’s raw talent and creative capabilities, in addition to his own. It all started when poet Erika Meitner came to campus two years ago to discuss her documentary poetry. Goldstein, along with other Geneseo students, sat down to have lunch with her and were inspired by Meitner’s attitude toward the social responsibility of artists.
From there they hatched the idea to begin Guerrilla—an on-campus literary organization that focuses on making student’s visual art, poetry and short fiction accessible to wider audiences by publishing it in public spaces.
As one of this group’s cofounders, Goldstein strives to make student art on campus not only appreciated, but also visible.
“[In Guerrilla] we’ve been trying to get poetry and other student art out into the public so people can see it and know it’s there,” Goldstein said. It’s about letting the college community know “that the arts didn’t die with the art program,” according to Goldstein.
Goldstein also promotes student creative work through Gandy Dancer—Geneseo’s literary journal—where he acts as managing editor along with English and French double major senior Oliver Diaz. In the past, Goldstein has published his own poetry in the journal and participated as its poetry editor, leading a group of peers who select the poems to be published. The journal is run by a different group of students each semester as a part of professor of English Rachel Hall’s English 426: Editing and Production Workshop.
“The school needs to support the arts more and a lot of students want that,” Goldstein said. “People are still sad about the death of the arts department, and angry about it too. Students generally want a place where we can gather and make art.”
Goldstein joined the creative writing track during his freshman year after realizing he had enjoyed writing since middle school. Almost immediately, he took a particular interest in poetry workshops and from there decided to focus on refining his skills in the genre.
“I used poetry to hone down each individual word and learn the craft on a small level,” he said. “I like the actual act of making a small intricate thing that works perfectly. [In a poem] everything has to be right; there’s pressures on your words,” he continued. “You can almost chisel out of the page this small beautiful thing that expresses something true.”
When writing, Goldstein tends to focus on the relationship between human beings and political events. In fact, Goldstein was able to further develop this artistic goal when he obtained an ambassadorship through Geneseo’s Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development during the summer of 2015.
After studying photographer Robert Frank—who, in the 1950s, traveled across the United States over a period of nine months while taking photographs and documenting them in his book The Americans—Goldstein decided to do something similar. He drove around the country, recording people and places in snapshots of poetry.
Over about eight weeks, Goldstein traveled to a handful of states, documenting what he could, which included landscapes, conversations, how people live and the social tensions present in our country.
While he had some ideas of where to go, he never had a concrete schedule or plan. As he was rather out of his comfort zone and far from home, Goldstein talked to and learned from local residents, finding that most people really enjoyed talking about their own lives.
From the ambassadorship, Goldstein hopes to compile his work into a poetic collection that examines the American landscape and the social conditions of our time. He hopes to publish the collection at some point, but for right now he’s just focused on getting all of his writing out on the table.
As for the future, Goldstein is not so sure. He knows that careers in the creative writing track are “limited,” but it still “brings him a lot of joy just to write.”
Hopefully he’ll be doing just that as he attempts to promote his own work and the work of others in the coming years.