An overview: Hidden gems of the Hopkins Center for the Arts
The Hopkins Center for the Arts offers opportunities ranging from student workshops to music, dance and theater programming.
This article is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.
The arts at Dartmouth expand beyond the scope of a traditional high school curriculum. For those incoming members of the Class of 2025 and those in the Class of 2024 who may be experiencing their first in-person term in Hanover this fall, the Hopkins Center for the Arts — or as it’s colloquially known, “the Hop” — serves as the campus hub for all things arts-related, hosting a wide variety of performances over the course of a typical term and offering students of every skill level the chance to get involved in music, dance, theater and other artistic endeavors.
During Orientation Week, the Hop’s first major event for first-year students, “Explore the Arts,” a invites incoming students to walk through booths and meet members and directors of student groups, clubs and ensembles, as well as directors of student workshops and professors from academic art departments such as music, studio art and film and media studies.
The open-house style event, slated to take place on Sept. 9, will serve as an introduction to the Arts at Dartmouth, and will give students the opportunity to translate their personal interests to groups at the Hop. Additionally, students will be able to learn about the woodworking, jewelry making and ceramics studios as well as the variety of student employment opportunities in the Center.
Live Performances: Film, Music, Theater & Dance
Several dance and musical performances, varying from small chamber works to larger ensembles, are currently on the docket for this fall. On Oct. 30, Mali Obomsawin ’18 will be performing with the Coast Jazz Orchestra, a Hop-sponsored student ensemble, for a show titled ‘Sweet Tooth,’ which showcases themes of love, indigenous identity and the blood politics of colonized land.
The Ragamala Dance Company, a mother-daughter-run Indian-American dance company, will perform “Fires of Varanasi” on Sept. 17-18. The show has been developed over the past few years while the artists were in residency, according to Hop curator of academic programming Samantha Lazar.
This fall, the Ragamala Dance Company will be paired with religion professor Sara Swenson in a Hop initiative titled Big Move. This program, which began last spring, matches choreographers from visiting dance companies with scholars and professors from a discipline that is seemingly unrelated to dance. Professor Swenson will work closely with the Dance Company throughout the term, blending the rituals of dance and religion together to demonstrate the intersection of the arts and humanities — a project which will culminate in a joint workshop and conversation, according to the Hop website.
Starting in November, a New York-based performance ensemble called Urban Bush Women will begin their residency at the Hop. The 37-year-old group aims to project the voices of underrepresented minorities and people of color in dance, shed light on issues of inequity in dance and provide an outlet for artistic experimentation in their craft.
“They are rooted in African American tradition and culture in the modern contemporary sense,” said Lazar. “They’re really devoted to telling undertold, underrepresented stories.”
Urban Bush Women will be developing their show, which is based on African American rituals, especially from the South, this fall. Lazar said that there will be “a cool insider track opportunity” for students to give feedback at various stages of the work’s development and become a part of the creative process. The group will then return to campus in January to premiere their finished project.
The Hop Film program offers students screenings of films for free and reduced ticket prices. Additionally, during the first week of classes in September, the Hop sponsors a miniature version of the Colorado classic Telluride Film Festival dubbed “Telluride at Dartmouth,” in which the Hop premieres advanced screenings of six films that have not yet been released to the public.
Lazar said that students should “keep [their] eyes and ears open for events,” as fall programming is still in the works and new opportunities may crop up.
The student workshops — including woodworking, jewelry and ceramics — are located in the basement of the Hopkins Center. These spaces both provide a creative outlet and offer students the opportunity to learn a new skill, continue a passion or de-stress with friends in whichever realm of hands-on art interests them most.
The Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio will be open this fall for students to design their own unique jewelry pieces or experiment with precious metals. All students are invited to explore the studio at any point in their Dartmouth career, and are welcomed by peer instructors as well as studio director Jeffrey Georgantes, who brings years of work as a goldsmith and fifteen years of college and workshop teaching experience to the classes.
Ceramics studio director Jennifer Swanson said that she does not know the precise details of fall programming yet, but that the studio will be open to students in the fall and will offer general instruction as well as skill-specific classes such as hand building and wheel throwing.
“We don’t require any experience at all,” Swanson said. “I think we specialize in starting out novices. The classes are loosely structured and particularly encourage creativity and exploring what you can do with the ceramic medium. We take students through all parts of the process.”
In addition to the extrinsic reward of being able to make your own gifts or kitchen items, Swanson describes the process as “relaxing and fun” and encourages students to explore ceramics in their free time. Since most classes are run in small groups, she has high hopes that things will continue normally despite any reinstated pandemic restrictions.
“One of the things we really enjoy is when people are gathered around the table from different years, [including] grad students, [getting] to know each other in a different way when they are working on something,” Swanson said.
The woodworking studio is the third of the Hop student workshops and offers opportunities for students curious about furniture design, cabinetmaking, wood turning, carving or any other aspects of woodworking. Students receive personalized, hands-on instruction while in the studio, according to studio director Greg Elder. Elder noted that during a regular term, the studio sees between 400 and 500 students — most of whom come into the workshop with no prior experience.
After taking a brief orientation class, students can start working on a project of their own or get guidance from instructors by simply walking in — no appointment necessary. For those seeking more structured learning experiences, classes offered throughout the term usually include bowl turning, cutting board making and chip and letter woodcarving.
The workshop is open to any and all ideas, though “traditionally, the shop has been for students’ independent creative works,” according to Elder. Students can garner inspiration for personal use or course projects from the idea books in the studio library or through exploring previous student works on the Hop website — including handmade guitars, custom signs and hand-carved stamps.
“It’s a fairly rare opportunity at any college to have open studios, to have a student be able to walk in and do creative work,” said Elder.
The shop provides students a wide range of tools and machinery — including a computer-controlled router that cuts digitally designed images — in addition to holding a variety of different species, types and sizes of lumber fit for any project. The studio also offers a diamond-tip tool for etching and a fully furnished finishing room where students can finish their projects with paint or varnish.
Employment and Other Opportunities
The Hop hopes to establish an Arts-based mentorship program called Hop Connections this year. Launching in the fall, the program will connect freshmen and sophomores interested in the arts with an upperclassman mentor. Other goals of the program include facilitating connections between students and faculty and professionals in the Arts and providing underclassmen with guidance and advisors.
There are other opportunities to get involved with the Hop besides organized arts programs. The Hop houses a variety of rehearsal and collaboration spaces and practice rooms for students to use, which can be reserved in advance. These are used frequently by student musicians and bands who wish to practice on their own schedule, as well as for those members of Hop ensembles seeking to rehearse outside of their dorm.
Additionally, students looking to make some extra money can get involved with the Hop through their variety of student employment opportunities. Hop assistant director of strategic initiatives Brandea Turner said that the Hop usually employs 200 or more students each term in jobs ranging from monitoring the various arts galleries in the Center to “ushering for events, selling tickets in the box office and assisting in the workshops.”