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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gowin to begin as Montgomery Fellow

Emmet Gowin’s black and white landscapes — photos of wheat fields, strip mines and nuclear testing sites in places ranging from Japan to the Czech Republic — tell stories of man’s impact on land, capturing the precarious balance between beauty and destruction. The fall’s first Montgomery Fellow, Gowin arrives Oct. 5 for a weeklong residency, during which he will speak about his work and meet with photography classes and other small groups of students.

Gowin, a recipient of a Guggenheim and National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships, was selected for his work in portrait photography and aerial landscapes, said program director Christianne Wohlforth. While there are no specific qualifications, Gowin’s selection was part of a thematic focus on the arts. Five of seven fellows hosted in the past year were artists.

Gowin’s residency follows a series of focus group sessions held earlier this year to collect student feedback on the program.

Five sessions were held in February, during which 25 students — roughly five per session — met over lunch to discuss the Montgomery program. The 119 students who were initially invited were leaders of campus student organizations, Wohlforth said.

Focus groups discussed allowing students to nominate fellows. While students can make suggestions, only faculty can make formal nominations.

Gowin was nominated in 2012 by studio art professor Virginia Beahan, a former mentee of his. The Hood Museum of Art, which has a number of Gowin’s works in its permanent collection, endorsed the nomination.

Gavin Huang ’14, a focus group participant, said that he wanted to see not only faculty but also students and College staff involved in the nomination process.

Wohlforth said that although students in the focus groups were interested in the nomination process, no major concerns were raised regarding the openness of the selection process.

“They asked about it, and they were curious about it, but no one commented to me, ‘I think this is a closed or a stacked process,’” she said.

The program’s schedule makes it difficult to cater to student interest, Wohlforth said, as it often takes two years from nomination to residency.

Students said in the groups that they wanted to see greater diversity among fellows.

Participant Arianna Vailas ’14 said her focus group felt passionately about boosting diversity in the gender and race of fellows.

Although there are no specific plans at the moment, Wohlforth said she hopes to hold more focus groups.

The program was created in 1977 by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth F. Montgomery ’25 to enrich learning by bringing fellows to campus.

During their residence, fellows stay at Montgomery House anywhere from two days to a full year, during which they deliver lectures, put on performances and exhibitions or teach a course in their field of expertise.

Past fellows have included Kurt Vonnegut, Michel Foucault and former U.S. president Gerald Ford. More recently, the Montgomery program has played host to German filmmaker Werner Herzog, musician and activist Johnny Clegg and artist Enrique Martínez Celaya.

Future fellows will include Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of England’s National Health Service, and Bernardine Evaristo, a poet. The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg will come to campus next fall to cover the 2016 presidential debates and New Hampshire primaries.

Huang is a former member of The Dartmouth senior staff.