A recent front-page story in The Dartmouth raised issues that the Hopkins Center and Dartmouth take very seriously: student needs for rehearsal and performance space, and the role of visiting performing artists ("Hopkins Center fails to address student needs," Oct. 25). The article specifically focused on the Hop Performance Ensembles the nine Hop-based student performing groups that offer students the chance to work with outstanding professional directors in a variety of artistic genres, as well as with acclaimed guest artists, sometimes in lengthy residencies.
Unfortunately, the article painted an inaccurate picture of how the Hop supports its ensembles and the planning process for the use of Hop spaces, so let's look at some of the facts that were not part of the story.
The majority of the money the Hop spends on programs, including performances, supports student creative activities including Hop ensembles, student workshops in metal, wood and ceramics and the Dartmouth Film Society.
The Hop's Visiting Performing Artists Program, which brings internationally known performing artists to campus, is self-supporting through ticket sales, endowments, grants from regional and national organizations and donations. It does not impact the budgets for Hop ensembles, and, in fact, the number of performances by visiting performing artists during this 50th anniversary season is not any larger than in recent years.
We know from years of student input that the Visiting Performing Artists Program enhances learning for student artists and Dartmouth students in general. While visiting artists are here to perform in Hanover, the Hop also arranges for them to engage with students and Hop ensembles through class visits, workshops, master classes and collaborative projects. The just-concluded music department Hop residency by beatboxer Adam Matta is a great example. Matta conducted a beatboxing workshop that included students from throughout campus, including many a cappella groups; created and performed a collaborative project with digital musics graduate students; and he visited classes and met with students in many different groupings.
The Hop's 50th anniversary programming includes increased and heightened student performance opportunities, including a second fall concert by the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, commissioned works and world premieres for the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble and Handel Society and such ambitious projects as a full-scale production of the musical "Candide" this winter by the Dartmouth College Glee Club. In addition, the landmark "Igniting Imagination" production during the Hop's 50th anniversary weekend involved some 250 students, representing the College's a cappella groups, dance groups, theater students, Hop ensembles and more. The Dartmouth Dance Ensemble, now under the direction of guest choreographer John Heginbotham, performed three times this fall, and there are plans for more ambitious student ensemble touring this spring, as well as other initiatives that increase performance opportunities for our fantastically talented students and performing groups.
Is there enough space under the Hop's multiple roofs for all these activities? Frankly, no. The article was correct both in pointing that out and in quoting me as saying that increased space is a long-standing need. I also told the reporter that 10 years ago, the College set out a plan for improvements to Dartmouth's arts facilities, for which the building of a visual arts center would be the first step. Once that was completed, and studio art and film and media studies spaces in the Hop were vacated, the College could then begin addressing other arts needs, including those of the performing arts.
At the Hop, we're about to start working with an architect who will assist us with the planning processes through which the building can better accommodate the many demands for space. We are also developing near-term usage plans for the newly vacated upper-level studio spaces along the Courtyard Cafe corridor, and we intend to iron out some of the acoustical limitations of the space through long-term plans.
We are dedicated to working closely with Hop ensembles and other student performers to ensure that they have the rehearsal space and performance opportunities that they need and richly deserve. We are committed to continuing clear and open communication about space needs at the Hop, as well as any other important issues, and I encourage you to send me your thoughts and feedback.
Jeff James is the director of the Hopkins Center.