Hopkins Center, Hood Museum strive to increase awareness: As the arts play a greater role in student life, the College responds with diverse, unique programming

by Aditya K. Dutt | 6/11/95 5:00am

The adage "things ain't what they used to be" is perhaps the most appropriate description of the arts at Dartmouth today.

A consequence primarily of changing attitudes and a concerted effort by the administration to provide consistent programming, the arts have gradually appeared on the priority lists of Dartmouth students. The Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts reports a marked increase in ticket sales, and the Hood Museum of Art recorded a two-fold increase in class and individual use of facilities in the past four years.

"The quality of the work that has been produced is truly amazing," said Lewis Crickard, Director of the Hop. "The progress has been a part of the continuum, but it's going in right direction and it's getting stronger."

The Hopkins Center is Dartmouth's primary cultural resource, sponsoring a diverse range of programming aimed at broadening and enriching cultural perspectives. The current philosophy of programming at the Hop is to increase interaction between artists and students, a process which allows students to experience art more intimately.

"The most significant change in the past few years is the integration of the visiting artist program with the curriculum," Crickard said. "Residents do activities such as master-classes and workshops built in as a type of visit. It has become standard fare. We're looking for partnerships we can create not only with the academic departments at the Hop, but we work with several other academic departments, so there are a lot of ways we can reach out to the community."

While increasing student attendance to Hop events has always been a priority, there is less pressure to stage "popular" performances this year, which consequently allows greater flexibility in programming.

Georgia Croft, the Media Relations Coordinator of the Hop attributes this trend to an influx of "well-rounded" students. "Students who come to Dartmouth now are more exposed to the arts, and we see our role as continuing their education in that area."

Croft, who also served as a reporter for the Valley News covering arts at Dartmouth, cited two interesting historical reasons to explain the integration of the arts into Dartmouth life. "Before coeducation, the general feeling was that the arts weren't really 'macho.' When women entered, they created an audience that wasn't there before and allowed students to cross gender lines. Students became more comfortable with themselves, and this general openness allowed the arts to flourish," Croft said.

The Hop has brought several unique performances to Dartmouth this academic year, dispelling any notion that the arts scene at Dartmouth today resembles the arts scene at Dartmouth five or ten years ago. These performances included a concert by Ani DiFranco, "Confessor," a play written and directed by senior fellow Pavol Liska '95, a concert by an innovative jazz-rock band, Fat Bag and a tribute to film director James Ivory.

"I see us as having a cultural, intellectual and social responsibility to the College. Supporting the arts and their relation to academics is crucial," Crickard said.

The Hood Museum of Art, one of Dartmouth's hidden treasures, has also seen a greater involvement on the students' part. "Over the past four years at the Hood Museum, there has been an almost 200 percent increase in class and individual student use of the collection in our study storage area, where objects are brought out of storage for students and faculty to study," said Adrienne Hand, Public Relations Coordinator of the Hood Museum.

The museum has also received two Mellon grants which give faculty the time and the funds needed to study objects in the collection closely, allowing them to later incorporate them into their curricula.

The Hood's most recent traveling exhibit titled "Shaping an American Landscape" was a display of American artist Charles Platt's works. The exhibit, which included architectural drawings, paintings, photography and etchings, has been critically acclaimed nationally and is now being transported to Washington, D.C.

During the Winter term, the Hood organized two exhibits which reflected the same spirit of diversity as the Hop: "Looking for America" and "Imaging West Africa in Mask and Costume." The Hood Museum, however, serves a much different purpose than the Hop. The museum has consistently been an invaluable resource for art history and studio art classes. Simon Tang '97, a student in art history 3 during the Winter, commented, "The [Hood] Museum provides a great source of visual art to the College. Their exhibits are well organized and you don't even have to leave Hanover to see some amazing artwork."

"There has recently been a new emphasis on creating social events at the museum to draw students in who might not otherwise see the museum and all it has to offer," Hand said. As the number of students involved in the arts increases, both academically and non-academically, more and more students are getting exposed to the wealth of resources available at the Hood Museum. Along with the displays, the museum also sponsores gallery talks and workshops for the College community.

Important decisions face both the Hop and the Hood Museum in the future. The Hop, amidst a capital campaign, is vying for more space for its events. The loss of Webster Hall will cause yet another gridlock for events space on campus. The Hood Museum will also undoubtedly need extra space as interest in the museum increases in the future.

The role of the arts on the Dartmouth campus is bound to increase as the emphasis shifts from strictly academic to a "well rounded" one. As cultural stereotypes are shed and a general feeling of acceptance prevades the campus, the arts flourish alongside. As Crickard said, "What we have to be supporting is quality and excitement in our events. Those are the artists who are going to shape our students' work."

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