Only a few months ago, there was a brief window of time when many New Yorkers, among others, watched as the numbers of the vaccinated climbed and dared to hope that the year-long pandemic was finally coming to an end. Vacations were booked, weddings were scheduled, and parents began looking forward to getting their children out of the living room and back to attending school in person. But, as Barry Blitt captures in his new cover, the pandemic has not gone away, and, for students and their parents, the usual anxieties around returning to the classroom have been compounded by an increasing incidence of coronavirus infections in children, many of whom are too young to be vaccinated, and other related uncertainties. We recently spoke to Blitt about back-to-school blues and presenting his work at elementary schools.
Were you a good student? What are your best memories from school?
I was not a good student. I liked horsing around and drawing sadistic caricatures of my teachers—which certainly didn’t help at report-card time. I’d probably need to be hypnotized to try and recover my best memories from school. I can’t think of anything.
What about your worst memory?
I remember losing a very public arm-wrestling match to a girl who was younger than me. Oh, also, I got cast as understudy to the dog in a class production of “Rip Van Winkle”—that was tough. How much space do you have?
Was there anything you looked forward to at the beginning of the school year?
I looked forward to snow days.
Do you ever visit schools to talk about your work?
I have done presentations at a couple elementary schools in the past few years (pre-pandemic, of course). I don’t think my caricatures of Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi held much interest for the kids, but they did perk up when they saw drawings of Trump. There would be a sudden buzz in the room when his face appeared on the screen. A couple third graders rolled their eyes and accused me of liberal bias—I’m not even kidding.
Is there a class you’d want to take if it was offered somewhere close to you? What if it was available virtually?
I’m much more likely to take a class virtually than in person, even at the best of times. I’ve been tempted to enroll in those online MasterClass tutorials: Herbie Hancock teaches jazz; David Mamet, David Lynch, David Sedaris all teach classes. But, every day, I manage not to sign up.
See below for covers about school:
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