By Ishaan Jajodia ’20
Since its inception in 1769, Dartmouth has been inextricably connected with the arts. The Founder of the College, Eleazar Wheelock, wanted to use the arts and humanities to help educate Native Americans, the original mission of the College as written into the Royal Charter issued by the Governor of New Hampshire, John Wentworth, in the name of King George III, in December of 1769. Dartmouth has a proud tradition of fostering creativity and extolling artistic talent. This has culminated in the vast array of programs the college now offers to promote and appreciate arts, both to the students of the college and to the members of the surrounding community.
Evidence of the college’s strong relationship with the arts comes can be found by observing campus architecture. The most significant of surviving early buildings is Dartmouth Hall, which was designed in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It has the distinction of being the oldest designed building on Dartmouth’s campus. The first iteration of Dartmouth Hall was built between 1784 and 1792, to replace College Hall, which was dilapidated and beyond repair. The style is distinctly different from the Georgian style that marked the massive campus expansion heralded by College presidents in the early half of the 20th century. Some prime examples of this can be found in the Sherman Art Library in Carpenter, one of the few locations through the college to have a true-to-original interior. Recent additions to the college have been added in this same style, with the originally temporary Choates, and the now-temporary House clusters, in a modernist and contemporary style.
The Sherman Art Library was one of the first signs of recognition by the College that art had a different set of literature, and needed a unique viewing space. Set in the confines of the new academic art building, Carpenter, and connected to the library later through the addition of a second-floor corridor, Sherman still retains the rustic charm that was present when the library began. Books dating from the time of Dartmouth’s founding, as well as contemporary art journals, give us unique insights into the function of art at the College. Complementing Sherman is Sanborn House, built in memory of the college’s first Professor of English Literature, Edwin David Sanborn, Class of 1832, by his son. Home to the collections of poets, of the written word, Sanborn is Dartmouth’s time capsule of literature. Most recently, it was the site of an impromptu poetry recital led by Professor Colleen Boggs, where more than a dozen students, faculty, and staff read—some from their own works, others from work by a range of poets, incuding Ocean Vuong, Richard Blanco, Naomi Nye, Langston Hughes, William Butler Yeats and Elizabeth Bishop.
The Hood Museum of Art is one of Dartmouth’s longest running continuous ties to art. Starting in 1772, the College began collecting art objects, culminating in an ever-growing collection of over 65,000 pieces. Before the construction of a single building, this collection was spread across campus, in five buildings. College trustee Harvey P. Hood’18 helped to raise funds for Charles Moore and Chad Floyd of Centerbrook Architects to design a museum and for the construction of this magnificent postmodernist edifice (completed in 1985, currently undergoing overhauls and extensive renovations). The Hood, while currently closed, houses a collection that spans centuries of art, and most interestingly, is home to the negatives and collection of acclaimed war photographer, James Nachtwey ’70. The Hood is a teaching museum, which gives students the opportunity to learn and interact with art that would otherwise be confined to the screens of projectors in Carson and Carpenter.
The center stage of Dartmouth’s association with the arts for the last 55 years, however, is neither of the illustrious buildings above. It is the Hopkins Center for the Arts, that represents art to the current batch of students studying at Dartmouth. Very few students currently studying at the college would have had the privilege of accessing the Hood while it was open—I did not. The Hop, as it is often abbreviated, is where ‘20s interact with art through performance, music, dance, theater and a wide array of activities. Therefore, it is only fitting that it is the cornerstone of Dartmouth’s engagement with the larger community, and with the arts. The Hop was designed, largely at the insistence of Nelson A. Rockefeller ’30, by the then-New York governor’s favorite modernist architect, Wallace K. Harrison.
Inspired by Warner Bentley, the first faculty director of the ‘non-department’ theater program, the Hop was conceptualized and named after the 11th President of Dartmouth, Ernest Martin Hopkins. The first director of the Hop’s programming, therefore, was Warner Bentley, after whom the Bentley Theater in the Hop is named. For a large part of the Hop’s early history, it hosted a summer spectacle, the Congregation of the Arts, for members of the College community and for audiences throughout the nation. Home to an ensemble of various performing artists and cinema, the 1960s and 1970s were the emergence of a new relationship with the arts, for Dartmouth. Among other notable developments, the Hop hosted Bruce Springsteen and Luciano Pavarotti, a renowned tenor, on the cusp of their respective breakthroughs.
Professor James Loehlin was a Professor in the Department of Theater. He says, “I had a great time teaching in the department in the late 1990s, and it was a privilege to get to direct several plays in the Hopkins Center. It was a wonderful facility, and I was very lucky to get to work with professional designers of the caliber of Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili, Dan Kotlowitz, Judy Gailen and Fred Kolo. One of the things that made living in Hanover so enjoyable was the volume of high-quality art that was available in such a small community. It was an honor to be part of that, as a member of the theater department, producing work in the Hopkins Center.”
Professor Loehlin was also responsible for the production of a wide array of plays during his time at Dartmouth. He says, “Probably my favorite experience doing theater at Dartmouth was directing Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. Samuel West, a friend of mine who acted in the original production at Britain’s Royal National Theatre, came over to play the lead along with a student cast. I am grateful to everyone who helped to make that possible. It was a remarkable experience, and I’m not sure it could have happened anywhere but at Dartmouth.”
Colleen Randall, a professor of studio art says, “The Hop is really the cultural heartbeat of the campus. When it was built, the architecture was very forward looking and a significant addition to the campus. Putting all the arts in one building was a very good idea, especially at the time when the arts were just beginning to flourish on campus. In the last decade, especially, I’ve been impressed by how the disciplines have been supportive of each others’ growth and success. That’s been the key to the success of arts on campus.”
Art has always been integral to the Dartmouth experience. From the founding of the first collection at Dartmouth three years after the college was chartered, to the magnificent art district that currently consists of the Hood, the Hop and the Black Family Visual Arts Center, Dartmouth’s relationship with the arts has been an ever-changing and evolving one. Art is the cornerstone of the Dartmouth experience and education.
About the contributor
Art keeps us sane, as a species. As an active photographer myself, I try my best to bring the arts to center stage. I also run my own arts not-for-profit, The Mumbai Art Collective. I’ve been fortunate to be an Arts Ambassador, especially because it gives me an opportunity to continue to connect with art at Dartmouth.