Individual Statements

James Surls, Local Artist

“There is a reality in the train of the future, and it has left the station. Those of us left on the platform know and feel that the line has been crossed and what got us to “now” is for all practical purposes, gone.

In most Universities, the film department is now a digital department or a “Design School.” There are no dark rooms, because they do not use film. Cursive is no longer being taught in public schools, it has given way to the key board. I was asked just last week to do a massive stone sculpture, but using a “robot digital stone cutter.” I can make a large or small stone sculpture and never touch it. I now have sculptor friends who do not even have studio’s […].

I was asked about a year ago by an MFA student from a high powered art school in Providence, RI: “Mr. Surls, do you touch your art?” To me, that question is as absurd as not having libraries, but as a question it is relevant to students at this time in history.


My friend Thomas McEvilly tried to give one of the world’s greatest slide collections to a university just before he died, and they would not take them because they were “obsolete.” I ask the question, “is my conjuring from the Creative Caldron, then standing at my work table and bringing a concept from intangible into the world of tangible worth doing in an age where “touch and feel and hold in you hand” is actually considered obsolete?

There is no reason to kill a book, just because it can be bypassed. There is no reason to not embrace the future just because we are not willing to see its path. We do need to have both – a library can have both, for nothing can replace the human touch. Your university can play a unique roll in a monumental transition. For God’s sake, keep the books, give the world something they can hold in their hand, open to wonder, turn pages in time and feel the rush of knowing in a tangible sense.”

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