By Jim McCloskey
I’ve recently returned from four days of celebrating the 20th anniversary of Genesis with friends and colleagues in Paso Robles, Calif. – about 35 miles away from where it all started for them at Morro Bay on the state’s Central Coast. The weather wasn’t as brilliant as it might have been, but everything else about the event was top notch and entirely befitting the occasion.
In the days leading up to the gathering, my mind kept wandering back to the first Genesis schools I attended at the Inn at Morro Bay. The programs then were ambitious but relatively loose, with course leaders finding paths through vast heaps of fresh material. There were often variations in scheduling and structure – and more than a few on-the-fly adjustments when it came to determining just how things should go.
Happily, the curriculum-related issues all sorted themselves out within the first several editions of what was then known as the Level I Design School. New balances were struck, new instructors appeared, lots of subject material was tried and refined; gradually, things settled down to a point where the system became workable and familiar.
As for the original closing banquets, one quick decision was made that, no matter how important the pig-based theming of the organization might be, it would never again be a good idea to march a 600-pound porker into the room. Long story short, the pig made a mess of the place and wasn’t invited back. The associated costume party came and went as well: Before long, a certain dignity caught hold as the three gents who ran the show began to appreciate the fact that Genesis had real influence and staying power.
What most caught my attention during the recent celebration is the reality of a changing of the guard. Only two of the founders are still associated with the group, and both Skip Phillips and Brian Van Bower seem to be settling comfortably into roles as the program’s good-will ambassadors. This transition has created higher-profile roles for (among others) Dave Peterson, Bill Drakeley and Mike Nantz.
Alone among those three, Mike has ties that stretch all the way back to the group’s earliest days, and I think it’s great that someone with awareness of the organization’s history and evolution is so involved in shaping its future. He came up through the design/drawing portion of the program – where it all really started – and I’m guessing that one of his de facto roles is to represent the artistic side of the curriculum as a balance to the more-technical inclinations of his two colleagues.
For their parts, Dave and Bill have brought engineers’ attitudes about structure and discipline to the group – a practical change I discussed in this space about a year ago, when I commented on the fact that current Genesis classes come off like clockwork compared to the more free-form, improvised approaches that were so much a part of the package 20 years ago.
Back in 1998, when we were all a lot younger, the Genesis movement and its philosophical compatriots at WaterShapes were brash experimenters: We threw all sorts of things at the walls to see what would stick. While some elements of both entities faded quickly (porkers at parties, for one thing), the important point is that what has endured has, to this day, been subjected to constant pressure, refinement and polishing. Components that make it through this process keep on advancing and being improved – and any added elements have to make sense.
But getting back to the fun, it was great seeing so many familiar faces and meeting so many spouses: It made the whole event seem like a grand family reunion.
Here’s a tip of the cap to good times – and another 20 years!
I do wish that two gentlemen in particular could have joined us, including my dear friend and former colleague at WaterShapes, Eric Herman – hale and hearty but unable to attend. His absence left an emotional gap for me that was hard to overcome.
Even more so, the fact that Vance Gillette is ailing and was unable to attend left a huge hole in the proceedings for me. His role in encouraging the formation of both Genesis and WaterShapes has been well documented, and the value of his support, encouragement and friendship cannot be captured in mere words.
My hat is fully off now, for both of you!