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Arts on view
People and Projects
Honorary degreee for librarian
Day camp has it all
Opportunity begets loyalty
Deconstruction and renewal
On, and in, the deep blue sea
For Lucille Ravener Roland ’38 the gardens surrounding her home in Rydal, Pa., have been a forty-year labor of love. “I just like plants,” she told a writer from the (Doylestown) Daily Intelligencer, who was touring Roland’s two-and-one-half-acre property last spring when trout lilies, wild ginger, and jack-in-the-pulpits were breaking ground. Modest as she may be, Roland’s shaded woodland gardens, where she has combined native wildflowers and plants of Eastern North America with their Asian counterparts, are touted by horticulturalists as the best in the area. Lest the word “wildflower” raise a red flag, Roland, who graduated from the Barnes Foundation Arboretum School and is a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, reminds us that “it’s unethical to take wildflowers out of their natural habitat without permission,” and suggests seeking out plant sales at wildflower preserves.
Roland’s contributions to the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, where she serves on its horticulture committee and is an emerita member of its advisory board, were recognized recently. Paul Meyer, director of the arboretum and frequent garden visitor, said the only way they felt they could honor a woman who doesn’t want any special attention was to dedicate a woodland garden in her honor. “We figured she couldn’t say no to a garden.” —ACH
Honorary degreee for librarian
Like many who graduate with B.A. degrees, French major Anna Bessarab Turner ’44 went on to acquire skills for a career. After earning an M.L.S. from Columbia, she then did what many another Skidmore woman has done: she married a Dartmouth man, and they had a son and two daughters. While raising her family, Turner put her graduate degree to good use, first at the public library of Walden, N.Y., and then as a reference librarian at Dartmouth.
From 1965 to 1990 she assumed a role at Norwich University that would define her professional life as a librarian as anything but usual. This May the university accorded her the ultimate academic tribute: it awarded her the honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
The citation reads, in part: “Ms. Turner became Norwich’s head librarian in 1974 and established herself as an authority in her field. Chosen by the American Library Association to represent small college libraries in testimony before the Congressional Subcommittee on Post-secondary Education, her expertise and well-grounded testimony won national acclaim. Even though Ms. Turner became Librarian Emerita in 1990, she has continued to provide valuable service to the library and the Norwich community.” Turner was also cited as a founder of Norwich’s friends of the library organization, in which she remains active, serving as secretary.
Norwich University today combines a 200-year-old military tradition, several nonresidential programs for adult students, and traditional undergraduate programs. The emphasis was on the military mission when the Turners arrived in 1959, and in recalling those days librarian emerita Turner says with fondness, “We raised a lot of boys.” —ACH
Everyone sang,” says Teresina Huxtable ’70, recalling her freshman year in Foley House across from Congress Park. In fact, with class song leaders, song-writing contests, and Singspiration weekend, Skidmore has long been known as “a singing college.”
But aside from impromptu song-making, Huxtable, Carol Christensen ’70, and Liz Hood ’70, all Foley dormmates, didn’t get together to perform as a trio until years later. And even then, says Huxtable, “It just happened.” Huxtable had moved back to Saratoga, Christensen had stayed, and Hood ran a local bookstore called Montana. Together again and talking about music, they realized that unaccompanied traditional a cappella was what they’d all been listening to and loved. Then, “it just happened.” Huxtable, Christensen & Hood first publicly performed their three-part harmonies at the Surrey Inn in 1974.
They became a regular feature at Saratoga’s Caffè Lena, “a magnet for college students, would-be and real Bohemians, actors, poets, and folksingers,” says Michael Jerling, a folksinger himself and Huxtable’s husband. In the eighties, Huxtable, Christensen & Hood had seven or eight performing dates a year, and they cut two records, Wallflowers and Melancholy Babies. Huxtable describes what they sing as “500 years of pop music,” sometimes to the accompaniment of piano, little accordions, or a missionary-model reed organ.
Lately families and careers—Huxtable is a special ed teacher in Hudson Falls, Hood a VP and public radio station manager in Albany, and Christensen a conservator at the National Gallery in Washington—have limited their performances to once a year, most recently this summer at Caffè Lena, where the publicist described the trio as “Lovely women who make it all fun with flashy parodies of doo-wop singers, warm stage banter, and real enjoyment of the great music they make.” —ACH
Auditons followed by rehearsals will eventually culminate in a fully staged dramatic production. That’s all, right? Perhaps that’s all it takes to mount dusted-off classics by Shakespeare, Chekov, and Tennessee Williams. But the process for a new play by a living playwright is another story. The script has to be nurtured and developed, critiqued and rewritten, and maybe, just maybe it will make it to a theater near you. An expert on this process is Peter Hays ’83, a Skidmore theater major with an M.F.A. from New York University’s dramatic writing program, who is on both the giving and receiving end of the collaborative process known as new play development.
Recently, Hays’s script about a successful stockbroker and his Japanese-American protégé who confront a clash of cultures went through the developmental phases. Frst came the “roundtable reading” ––a private sit-down reading after four hours of rehearsal. Next came the “concert reading”––a public reading with twenty hours of rehearsal. Then in January, the play, Foreign Exchange, was one of six new plays chosen for two public “staged readings” at the Showcase of New Plays at InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia. Even after rewrites, not all scripts progress from roundtable to staged reading. According to the artistic director at InterAct, only “promising plays that have the potential to be produced at other theatres” are showcased. So far, so good for Hays and Foreign Exchange!
Back on his home turf, Hays is in his fourth season as the literary manager of Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, “a community of professional playwrights, theatre artists, and art educators that provides opportunities for writers to develop their works in a supportive environment and connect with new audiences.” In addition to nurturing other playwrights and developing their plays, Hays participates in PTNJ’s education program, which introduces students to the possibilities of communicating creatively. —ACH
Day camp has it all
Believe me, they are nothing like what they were in the old days: bare-bones operations held out of doors where nature activities and games were conducted by laid-back high school kids. They—summer day camps—have been reinvented. In fact, Club Med better take note if Ivy League Day Camp on Long Island is the norm.
According to Ivy League’s Web site, “While our four pools, amphiteater, tennis cours, hockey arenas and buildings have been around for years, the past decade has witnessed the construction of three go-kart tracks, the Tower of Power, the rollerblading-rollerhockey rink, mountain bike trail, and our gymnasium which houses a computer room, science lab, full stage, health center and locker rooms.”
The camp’s owner-director Noah Cooper ’86, who has a B.S. in business and an M.B.A. from Rensselaer, told a Newsday interviewer that to stay competitive, camps have to be more sophisticated and “cater to the individual needs of the children. That's why we have a program called Explore, which is for gifted children. With Explore, the children spend half a day off campus, where we provide teachers in areas like Web design, sculpture, and improvisation.” To keep up with the ever-escalating needs of the campers, off-season interviews and surveys are conducted with families. The biggest issue, he says, is staffing. “We’re having to do a lot more professional training. It is harder to get staffers than it is campers.” Cooper, who has been working in camps since his early twenties, had a previous career in sales.
Ah, whatever happened to summertime when the livin’ was easy? —ACH
Opportunity begets loyalty
A former assistant director in Skidmore’s admissions office, Angel Perez ’98 is still at heart a booster for his alma mater. Never mind that his employer has changed. Directing the Upward Bound Program for high school students at Pace University is a job that excites him on several fronts—one being the program’s success rate, “with 98 percent of all our graduates attending college and 97 percent retained in college,” and another being the opportunity to steer some of his students toward Skidmore. While several of his students have been accepted, to date none have enrolled. “We’re working on it,” he says. “I hope to see many of my students attend the institution that has given me so much!”
Upward Bound at Pace counsels seventy economically and educationally disadvantaged high school students from throughout New York City. “We bring them to our center for extra academic preparation, personal and college counseling, recreation, and tutoring,” says Perez, who is filled with pride that several tutors—who take time after their day jobs to work with these students—are, like Perez himself, graduates of the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Skidmore. “Isn’t that fantastic?,” he crows, ticking off the names of tutors Cleyvis Natera ’99, Damion Mannings ’98, Phillip Ammonds ’97, and Malaika Wilson ’97. This summer two more Skidmore HEOP students, Orlando Brenes ’01 and Antonio Capellan ’02, worked with the program. Explaining that Upward Bound and HEOP offer similar services, Perez is pleased that his fellow alums want to give back to such programs “because they understand the value of what HEOP has done for them.” —ACH
Deconstruction and renewal
With the opening of the Tang Museum on the Skidmore campus last fall, a retrospective of the work of New York-based photographer Vik Muniz caught the attention of many upstaters, who were amazed (and delighted) by his transformation of nonconventional materials––dirt, chocolate syrup, wire, pasta and marinara sauce—into what he calls “photographic delusions.”
In case they missed the Tang opening, downstate Skidmoreans living near the Leubsdorf Art Gallery at Hunter College had the opportunity to sample Muniz’s work this past spring. In an exhibit titled “Remnant,” Hunter curator Tracy Adler ’90 included two of his photographs along with works of seven other contemporary artists, each of whom had taken existing objects or elements and reconfigured them until new ideas and constructs emerged. Muniz, for example, arranged gray thread in a complex linear pattern to create an extremely detailed Corot-like landscape, photographed it, and called it 16,000 Yards (After Corot).
In the catalog’s introductory essay “Remnant: Garbage and Icon,” Adler defines the remnant as “what remains and that which is left behind,” adding that “the inability to fully recreate or conceive of its whole provides the Remnant with a certain authority, autonomy, and mystery.” For Grace Glueck, art critic for the New York Times, “a wackily transformative spirit” pervaded the show, imbuing it with “freshness and humor.” —ACH
On, and in, the deep blue sea
To say you’ve heard from someone “out of the blue” takes on additional meaning when that long-silent someone writes from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “I’ve not reported a thing about what I have been up to since I graduated,” wrote Chris Courcier ’86 in July, “and as I type this I’m a few hundred miles south of the Azores on the research vessel Atlantis.”
Courcier has been employed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the past three years, most recently as a marine science technician. Her communiqué from the Atlantis came during a research trip by biologists from the College of William and Mary, who were studying the organisms that dwell around hydrothermal vent sites. These scientists particularly like the Atlantis because its manned submersible Alvin can take three of them down 15,000 feet to observe the creatures that live in this extremely hot environment on the sea floor.
As you might imagine, spending ten months of the year at sea translates into the mother of all ocean cruises. For Courcier it means not only the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, but also the Panama Canal, Gulf of Aden, Suez Canal, the Straits of Bosphoros, and the Red, Black, and Mediterranean Seas.
Only people who love oceans and beaches will understand what Courcier does when she has a few free months at her home on Martha’s Vineyard. “Believe it or not,” she writes, “my time at home will be spent right back out there on the water, sailing this time.” —ACH