HI! I’m KT DUFFY!!!
On the information super highway @ Ktduffyprojects.com OR insta @ktduffyincorporated
In August of 2016 I moved to Chicago from Baltimore to start a Professorship at Northeastern Illinois University. My teaching load at this new job is a 2/2, or that I teach two classes a semester. My other main responsibility is to maintain my area of the Art Department, Art + Tech, which mainly consists of our maker space called the MAKE SPACE.
I’m on campus four days a week, teaching Monday’s and Wednesday’s and doing office hours/program upkeep on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I try to spend Fridays and Saturdays in my studio or in the MAKE SPACE on campus fabricating for my own work. Below is a snapshot of what a given day might look like in my week.
8:00 am I usually wake up around 7:30 – 8:00 am. First thing I do is throw on more presentable pajama like clothing and take my dog Frank out for a walk. On days where I’m pooped from a hard night of teaching, my partner Ali will take Frank out and I’ll sleep in a bit 😛
In the nicer Chicago months I adore these morning walks with my dog, who is hilarious and pretty much an animatronic teddy bear. This morning ritual helps me ease into my day and gives me much needed perspective especially on days that are going to be really hectic.
Over Breakfast I usually answer emails and read a bit of news on my phone. On the weekends or during semester breaks I love to spend my morning reading. I’m an avid Science Fiction fan and there is nothing I love more than curling up on the couch drinking coffee and reading an Ursula Le Guin book. This is one of my favorite nerd self care practices.
I jump in the shower and then start getting ready for work. I keep my hair super short so I don’t have to fuck with it beyond it drying after the shower. On days I teach I have a “uniform” I adhere to, which consists of slacks, a collared shirt and/or a sweater. My rules for my uniform are that at least one of these thing has to be patterned. I usually pair this uniform with funny little stud earrings, my favorites right now are tiny brontosauruses and enamel grumpy cats. It’s the little things y’all. I have two pairs of shoes I wear to teach: these cheetah print slip ons that I wear on days where I know we will be doing mostly computer stuff, and these purple tims that I wear if I know it will be a heavy shop or installation day. Proper footwear is so important for my teaching stamina. Another thing I’ve learned the hard way.
On days I have important meetings or presentations I’ll pair my uniform with a tie and a blazer. On days I’m doing office hours I mix up the look a bit and go with a fashion sweat suit, which I believe is categorized as Athleisure these days.
I have a lot of students that are older than me so I find that my choice of clothing in the classroom helps to set up expectations and help navigate my relationships with my students; For example: today I’m serious KT bc my shirt has a collar and we are getting down to business, and today I’m here to help you out one on one if office hours because I’m wearing a fashion hoodie and a hat. If I show up in studio clothes covered in paint my students know that I will be taking apart the robots in the MAKESPACE all day and that I might not be super available.
I’m in the car and heading to work. Ali and I bought a house in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood in Chicago and my school is about a 20-30 minute commute from there. Traffic in Chicago is real so I purposely scheduled my on campus time around the worst of the traffic times. On the way to work I usually listen to whatever podcast I am currently binging on.
I get to my office-studio and tidy up from the night before as a “warmup” for my day. There is a weird satisfaction in having everything in its place. With my job it’s sometimes hard to feel like I got anything checked off the to do list. I usually describe it as stomping out spontaneous small fires while trying to get to the larger fire that has been burning for some time, so organizing my space and, for example, having all the wifi shields we were using in class the night before in a little drawer marked wifi shields helps me feel like I have accomplished something even though it’s small and seemingly insignificant.
On days I am teaching I primarily use this time to class prep. In the two semesters I have been teaching at NEIU I have taught mainly creative coding and digital fabrication courses. Because I was hired to spearhead the area of Art + Tech there isn’t much existing within the Art Dept for me to draw on in terms of course materials; everything has to be made from scratch. Class prep is what takes up the majority of my work days. During this time I am usually running and validating code samples, creating project mockups in our MAKE SPACE or creating worksheets to go along with the day’s workshops. I also watch an innumerable amount of tutorials and online courses. In the vast area of Art + Tech by no means do I know everything (not even close) but one of the reasons I love teaching is that I am constantly learning new things to share with my students and fold into my own work. There are a lot of times where I am maybe two steps ahead of the students in terms of coding or program knowledge. When I was adjuncting I had this notion that you had to be an expert in a subject to teach it. However I have found that this “expert approach” does not lead to fluidity and collaboration in the classroom. My main goal for my students is to demystify code and tech. I don’t want to only facilitate workshop and coding sessions but I also want to set and example for my students by show them that their growth as artists and technologists is a long game that is always evolving and changing. Gotta give them the keys!
On days I’m not teaching I use this time as my help hours for students. In these sessions I do a lot of pair programming with students and help them debug code. We also spend a lot of time in the make space running prints. During this time I also meet with my Independent study students. This semester my colleague Vida Sacic and I ran two overlapping independent studies with the same student. On my side of this dual course called Design + Dev we mostly use this time to do code research and build prototypes together in Code Pen.
My first class then starts at 2:00 and runs until 5:30. I used to stick around in the classroom to help students finish up or address any code issues, however I have learned that the best thing to do is to hide in my office and shove food into my face before my next class starts at 6pm. If I don’t do this then I crash midway through my next class and no one has time for that.
Robot drawing performance with my Art + Tech Students
On Days I am not teaching I use this time for class prep and for maintaining the MAKE SPACE. I’d say 30% of my job is fighting with robots. Sometimes there is the rare week where everything is working and I have gotten ahead with my lessons. In these magical moments I get to devote this time to my own research and fabrication for my own studio practice.
Robot whyyy?!??! Z printer innards
As I am in charge of the MAKE SPACE I schedule trainings and demos for the larger Art Department during this time.
My second class begins and runs until 8:30pm. After class I usually stick around helping students finish up prints in the MAKE SPACE or helping students debug code from the day’s activities. I then tidy up the classroom and shut down the MAKE SPACE.
There have been more than a few nights I have stayed after class until midnight or later working on proposals, finishing up fabricating pieces for shows, or panicking finishing up my Tenure writing to submit it by the 12 am deadline.
However, nights I teach I usually leave school at 9:30 and get home at 10pm. When I get home I immediately change into soft clothes and then have some type of light second dinner. I like to wind down my day either by reading or watching an episode of whatever show Ali and I are currently binging.
On Days I am not teaching I leave school around 6pm. First thing I do when I get home is put my running clothes on. This is how I trick myself into exercising. There are definitely days when I procrastinate in these running clothes, but on a good day I’m running by 6:45. I usually run and do some jumpy exercises on the 606, which is an elevated green space build on an old L train line cutting through 3.5 miles near my neighborhood. This is one of my favorite spaces in the city and as a Chicago native I am thrilled that it exists.
After the run Ali and I make dinner. We try to cook healthy ish and usually end up eating some type of inventive veggie based taco situations. If have a show coming up I’ll head to the studio to get in a few hours of studio time before bed. If I have an application or proposal with a looming deadline I’ll use this time to work on that. On nights where I have to do a workshop the next day or have a big lesson planned I will dedicate this time class prep as well.
I pop a melatonin and usually fall asleep right way. After I teach I’m still pretty wired by bedtime, so I’ll pick up a book to wind down and try not to waste too much time on instagram.