In 2019, inspired by a visit to CalArts after many years, alumnus Steve Weir unearthed the photos he had taken of the campus when it had just opened. Weir, who received his BFA in photography in 1973 and his MFA in 1978, hadn’t looked at them in years, and somewhat to his surprise, he says, “They still seemed interesting.” Later that year, Weir learned of the passing of John Bache, the much loved CalArts administrator and photography teacher, who had taught and mentored Weir. When he learned that Bache’s children were starting a scholarship in their dad’s memory, his photographs suddenly gained a new purpose.
Weir just published a book of 37 of his black-and-white photographs from those early CalArts days, printing a limited edition of 50 copies to commemorate the Institute’s 50th anniversary. In tribute to Bache, he is dedicating the book to him and plans to donate all profits from the sales of the book to the R. John Bache Memorial Scholarship, supporting students who demonstrate talent, passion, and need, with a preference for those studying photography.
“I worked with John in the photo equipment checkout cage, took his classes, and was a teaching assistant for him when I was a graduate student, so I really got to know him,” says Weir, a member of the CalArts Alumnx Council. “I saw what a great teacher he was, patiently giving guidance but never telling anyone what to do. John was very influential for me and supportive of what I was doing, and so when I looked at my photos, including some I had taken of John, I thought, ‘Maybe I can make a book, sell it, and donate the profits to the scholarship.’ It’s taken about a year, but it’s finally come together.”
Besides photographs of students and faculty, including two photos of Bache, the book includes haunting photos of CalArts interiors, taken the first year that it opened to students in late 1971. Using his Minolta and Leica, Weir says, “I’d go out wandering, sometimes late at night, getting into places I probably shouldn’t have gone, and would take photos of some of these things. The building itself was so interesting to me. With its white empty walls, there was a love/hate relationship. It was clear that CalArts was not a typical arts school. It motivated us to do something special, and I think we all did. I only regret that I didn’t photograph more.”
After graduating, Weir began working as a counselor in the CalArts Office of Admissions, beginning a long career in university administration for several institutions, including Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He is selling his book, A View of CalArts, through his website. Each copy is numbered and signed. The price of the book is $25, plus shipping costs.
“I’m hoping people will be moved to purchase the book and contribute to John’s scholarship fund,” says Weir, who is excited that the scholarship will enable future photography students to attend CalArts. “John touched so many people—students, faculty, and staff. When I heard that there was a new scholarship in John’s memory, I realized that this is what I needed to do. I could not have attended CalArts without scholarships.”
Ryan Bache, who established the scholarship with his sister, Rachel Falk, says he is moved and excited by Weir’s book project. “When I learned of Steve’s project, I was overwhelmingly honored by his tribute to our father and his celebration of CalArts. The fact that Steve is tapping into his MFA experience, the influence of our father, and the lasting impression that the institution has left on him and scores of alumni is so moving. It’s a testament.
“When we established the R. John Bache Memorial Scholarship Fund, we had every intention of honoring his legacy at CalArts—the lives he touched as an educator and administrator,” Bache says. “Now, Steve has affirmed that legacy with a tangible tribute. His work and offer to support the memorial fund is evidence that this fund is well-intended and well-aimed. John Bache impacted Steve’s personal and professional lives and his generous support of the memorial fund will help to touch the lives of future young artists and world changers.”
Learn more about John Bache and the R. John Bache Memorial Scholarship.
— by Michael Rogers