Modern Renaissance man Hauth keeps School of Art shipshape

Katie McLean | Staff Photographer
Paul Hauth has been the general assistant for the School of Art since 2007. His jobs include giving safety demos, running errands and maintaining equipment. He also produces his own artwork such as jewelry and sculpture.

Paul Hauth is the guy you call when you need a wasps’ nest removed from the corner of the drawing studio. He’s also the guy you call when you want to learn your way around the welding pad out back.

Hauth, who has worked as the general assistant at the School of Art since 2007, also spends Tuesday and Friday evenings in the back of the Hultquist Center; he mans the audio visual equipment the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution uses to put on its Visual Arts Lecture Series. Hauth jokes he likes his A/V duties best because it’s one of the few times he gets to sit in one place for 45 minutes at a time.

“The idea of [Hauth] working in any one room is laughable,” said Brian Giniewski, a co-coordinator of the school’s ceramics program. “He’s like a vapor. He gets here in the morning and just disseminates through the campus.”

Hauth describes his work as a reactionary kind of job. He carries a black spiral notebook in his back pocket and creates a list every other day of things that need to be taken care of around the school: everything from welding a new handle to the miter saw in the woodshop to hanging VACI banners around the grounds. New tasks are always popping up for the general assistant, such as emergency errands to The Home Depot in Lakewood, N.Y. Hauth said he has to be ready to roll with whatever happens.

“I would like to think of myself as very organized and disciplined,” Hauth said, “but I’m a big believer in chaos theory — and this place can be very chaotic.”

Around the School of Art, students and faculty often see Hauth running at full tilt from task to task. He’s developed an unofficial uniform: fraying jean shorts, a cut-off T-shirt with sayings such as “Chautauqua Black Out” or “School of Art 100th Anniversary” on them and a brown leather rancher’s hat. Hauth said he would never be caught without his knife, a notebook or a pen.

Hauth earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in jewelry-making from Buffalo State University, followed by his master’s in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He often makes jewelry by heating up metal and twisting it into interesting shapes. He likes working with metal for its chameleon-like qualities; for example, metal can look very light or very heavy.

As part of his job with the School of Art, Hauth has access to a studio space, where he sneaks away to craft metal jewelry and some sculpture. (Since the early days of his career, he said, he has thought of jewelry pieces as miniature sculptures.) He tries to log at least 10 hours a week of studio time, but it depends how hectic things become at the school.

“There are plenty of things I could leave off to another time,” Hauth said, “but I kind of like the idea of, ‘Oh, that’ll only take me a few minutes.’ And then it’s done. I’m as much to blame for my schedule as anything else. But I love it. I love the work.”

Last week he had to think on his feet to make sure the annual “Sponsor an Art Student” picnic would go off without a hitch. Lois Jubeck, VACI’s managing director, and Hauth usually set up the tables and chairs outside, but the forecast called for rain all day.

“He knew come five o’clock we had to be ready to go,” Jubeck said. “He took it upon himself to clean out a studio and managed to get something like 10 tables and 100 chairs in there. He puts his heart and soul into what he’s doing.”

Hauth has a great sense of humor about his job. He spends the off-season teaching sculpture and three-dimensional design at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. Although the general assistant position is normally filled by a young guy straight out of grad school, Hauth turned 40 this year.

“I was already a bit older coming in,” Hauth said. “I thought, ‘You know, maybe three or four years is going to be the end.’ But Lois [Jubeck] and Don [Kimes, VACI’s artistic director] said, ‘No, no, come back please.’ ”

Nathan Trevino, one of the galleries’ interns, said it’s the little things that make Hauth such a great guy to have around. The Strohl and Fowler-Kellogg art centers have developed an unofficial system: “You need help, I’ll help you. I need help, you help me.”

It has become a routine for Trevino, Hauth and Giniewski to wake up early the week before students arrive and work together on the initial setup of the school and galleries.

Trevino, who studies studio art and human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, wants to create a “Life of Paul” video this summer. With a GoPro camera attached to the back of Hauth’s signature hat or his golf cart, Trevino wants to create a time lapse composition of all the things Hauth does in a day.

“I would put in on the Internet,” Trevino said, “so everyone can see: This is what this man does, and we couldn’t do anything without him.”