Dartmouth attracts performers and artists from far and wide

by Erin Loback | 8/12/97 5:00am

Hanover, N.H.: population 10,000. Artists who have performed in the area: tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Artists whose work is exhibited in the area: Rembrandt van Rijn, Winslow Homer, Pablo Picasso.

One might not expect a rural New Hampshire town to be a cultural mecca. But as the home of Dartmouth College, Hanover is the site for numerous performances and the home or guest cottage for artwork from around the world.

Admissions tour guides often cite the myth that Dartmouth's location between Montreal and Boston makes it a midway point for touring performers to stop. But according to Hop Program Director Margaret Lawrence, the College's geographical location is not usually the reason performers come here -- "more often, they just come here because we ask," she said.

From the College's artist-in-residence program to the Hood Museum, from the Programming Board's popular music concerts to the Hopkins Center's worldly performers, the College showcases the work of a variety of artists.

Portraits of the artists

According to Lawrence, the Hop has a history of bringing some of the most recognized performing artists in the world to the College -- "often before they became huge names," she said.

"We feature performers at the top of their field, and also ones who are just emerging," Lawrence said.

She said Luciano Pavarotti, the famous tenor, performed at Dartmouth in the early 1970s when he was still a rising star.

Lawrence said artists come to the College for several reasons, including the sophisticated Hanover audience, Dartmouth's commitment to the arts and the opportunities the Hop can offer artists.

But what may be the most attractive aspect of Dartmouth for visiting performers is the Hop's reputation for being a place for artists to finish their work, she said.

"The reason Baryshnikov came here was because we provided a place for him and his company to finish rehearsing for two weeks," Lawrence said, referring to the dancer's stay at the College in February. "If we had been a big institute only interested in performing, he might not have come."

The Hop also enables artists to create new works by commissioning or co-commissioning a few works each year, she said. Then the College has the chance to showcase the world primiere, she added.

The Hop is not the only place famous artists perform at the College -- Leede Arena and Webster Hall have seen their share of performances by groups brought by the Programming Board.

Barrett Shaver '98, who will chair the Programming Board next year, said musicians the Programming Board has brought to campus in the last few years include George Clinton, Indigo Girls, G Love and Special Sauce, Dave Matthews, Pharcyde, The Roots, Rusted Root, The Temptations and the Violent Femmes.

Studio artists also come to Dartmouth through the studio art department's artist-in-residence program.

The artist-in-residence program was established in the spring of 1932 when artist Jose Clemente Orozco came to the College for a two-week demonstration and lecture about murals. Orozco ended up staying for two years and became an assistant professor, but his stay at the College began a legacy of bringing artists to the Dartmouth.

The program, which is funded through various endowments, seeks to offer students exposure to artists at various stages in their careers.

Deborah Donovan, administrative assistant to the studio art exhibition program, said artists-in-residence get an exhibition in the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries, a studio, a stipend and a catalog, and they lecture to students.

"It's a really good program," Donovan said. "Not many exist in the country with that freedom."

She said the only paid artists who have work displayed at the College are the artists-in-residence, but local artists, students and faculty members have work displayed at the Hop.

The Hopkins Center has five display facilities -- Barrow's Rotunda for special exhibits; the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries for faculty shows, artists-in-residence and the Senior Majors Exhibition every June; the Darling Courtyard for stone and metal sculptures; the Upper Jewett Exhibition Corridor, which holds seven to 10 exhibitions each year for local and visiting artists and students; and the Lower Jewett Exhibition Corridor for photo and print exhibitions by outside and student artists.

"The five spaces are really unique," Donovan said. "A lot of people get to see the artwork."

Of course, the Hood Museum is another place on campus where art exhibitions abound.

Director of the Hood Museum Timothy Rub said the Hood not only has a vast collection of permanent works, but it also receives loans from major museums around the world.

Rub said that although museums at other institutions, such as Yale and Harvard Universities, have finer collections than the Hood, they have been in development longer than the Hood's 12 years.

Rub said the Hood has accumulated over 4,000 works since the it opened in 1985, and it currently boasts extensive collections of European and American art and contemporary art.

Although the Hood is closed for renovations this summer, Rub said the museum will display an exhibition of Greek vases from throughout the United States and Europe next year. The Hood will also host an exhibit of 18th-century French genre paintings of everyday images from major American museums, the National Museum of Stockholm in Sweden and the Louvre in Paris.

Search and employ

Lawrence said it is her job to program the Hop's Visiting Artists Series each year, and she takes four main criteria into account -- the faculty, the curriculum, the community and the students.

She said she receives information about performers in many ways. Often she obtains packets of information including videos and copies of favorable reviews from agents who represent artists.

Another way Lawrence learns about performers is through other presenters -- people who program performances -- around the country.

"What often narrows it down is logistics," Lawrence said about actually choosing who is invited to perform at the College.

Lawrence said many performers who come Dartmouth are on international tours, so she must find the few weeks they are in the eastern U.S. and try to book them at the College.

But placing performers in the Hop's theaters is difficult because so many student groups also need to use the space, she said. To book a performer, Lawrence must coordinate available space at the Hop with the artist's touring schedule.

Although corporate ions occasionally help pay for a performer, The Hop has a set budget and a few grants annually to pay for performers and a technician staff. The Hop receives about $40,000 a year in state, regional and national grants, Lawrence said.

She said figuring out how many tickets will sell for a show "is like scientific guesswork," but the Hop has not had a deficit in years.

Students comprise about 25 percent of each audience, and their tickets are sold at about half-price and must be figured into the budget, Lawrence said. She said when Baryshnikov performed, the Hop put one-quarter of the tickets on sale at half-price in advance to ensure the shows did not sell out before students had a chance to get tickets.

Choosing artists-in residence is different. Donovan said prospective artists-in-residence submit slides to the College and the studio art department faculty reviews them each October, keeping in mind the curriculum for the coming year.

The Programming Board books acts through an agency in Boston, Shaver said.

"Booking is difficult," Shaver said. "Leede is really the only place to have performances now, and it is rarely available."

Because Webster Hall is being converted into the Rauner Special Collections Library, the College is currently without a medium-sized programming venue.

Twice in the past year-and-a-half, acts have canceled after committing to perform at the College.

The Fugees were scheduled to perform at the College in May of 1996 but backed out a week beforehand, due to "exhaustion," according to the band's agent. Pharcyde replaced them.

In February of 1997, Grammy-award-winner Sheryl Crow decided to attend an awards ceremony in England instead of performing at the College. She was available to perform on other dates, but Leede Arena was not available any other time than the scheduled date. The Wallflowers would have performed with Crow.

Historically, the Hood Museum's collection has grown because the museum keeps in contact with collectors, although the Hood also now purchases some pieces.

The advantage of purchasing art, Rub said, is that the Hood can "shape the collection to make it more useful for the College."

He said the museum works with a set of acquisition guidelines to ensure it is "collecting ethically and in compliance with federal regulations and international treaties."

Whichever method the artistic facilities on campus use to bring performers, artists and their works to the College, the purpose of doing so is to serve Dartmouth students.

Interactive presentations

Lawrence said many of the performances at the Hop are related to the curriculum of the four arts departments -- film studies, studio art, drama and music.

Playwright Richard Foreman, whom Lawrence described as "experimental, avant-garde ... and one of the most important modern playwrights in the world," will visit next year to present his play "Pearls for Pigs."

Classes in the drama department study Foreman, so his visit is related to College academics, and he will interact with students while he is here.

Another way Hop artists are beneficial to students is when they are creating work at the College. For example, Lawrence said students learned about choreography by watching Baryshnikov and the White Oaks Dance Project practice.

"Students benefit from contact with working career artists," Donovan said. She said artists-in-residence are expected to evaluate student work, and many hold studio hours.

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