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Fall 2003

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Centennial spotlight

On campus

Faculty focus

Arts on view



Class notes


people & projects

Art of all ages
Trust in the land
Display art
Living the wildlife
Night[club] fever
Positively entertaining
Performance revue
Words and music

Art of all ages

Art must have a purpose,” says lifelong artist and teacher Pauline Lutz Hopkins ’30, who oversaw the growth and development of the art department at the Dennis-Yarmouth (Massachusetts) Regional High School during nearly two decades of teaching there. “The department just grew under me,” says Hopkins, explaining that her goal was to see it operate “more like an art school. We wanted the students to really work at their art and to do what they felt. I think we were successful.”
     In recognition of her efforts, the school renamed its gallery in her honor following a recent renovation. Last spring the gallery was the site of a special exhibition showcasing paintings by the student artists alongside works painted by residents of the Thirwood Place Retirement Community in South Yarmouth, including Hopkins herself. Titled Generations Not So Far Apart, the unusual exhibition featured forty works that underscored similar approaches to artistic expression by artists spanning the age spectrum.
     Hopkins, 94, has maintained a post-retirement connection to the school in several ways, including acting as a juror for student art shows and maintaining contact with former students—many of whom have attended prestigious art schools. And she’s continued to create art, working primarily with watercolors. “I paint whatever still challenges me,” she says, describing her smaller-scale works as “representational—with a twist!”
     While today’s artists may feel an obligation to express their feelings, Hopkins believes “it’s important to be careful. You can wander so far afield that people may not know what you’re getting at.” —AW


Betty Dornheim ’44 made a rule a long time ago, and she still sticks to it: She only takes a job if it’s fun.
     A textiles and clothing major, the New York City resident first worked in B. Altman’s department store, selling everything from furs to silverware and being a personal shopper for some well-to-do clients. Then she was editor of Curtain and Drapery magazine. After that she was a black-and-white photo editor at Rapho-Guillumette, working with famous photographers including Yousuf Karsh, Bill Brandt, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, and Robert Doisneau. And now she’s quite delighted to be a librarian at the Princeton Club’s library.
     Dornheim started working part-time at the 10,000-volume library—located on the fifth floor of the Princeton Club—in the 1980s. Four years ago, a search was conducted for a new full-time librarian (Dornheim herself scribed the ad for the New York Times). “Late one Friday night the chair of the board dropped by to say that if I knew anyone interested I should have them forward a résumé directly to him,” she recalls. She quickly “whipped up a one-pager,” which included suggestions for improving the library, and turned it in. The following Monday, Dornheim had barely arrived in the morning when her phone rang. She was offered the job and accepted.
     At eighty-one, Dornheim is happy to have full-time work with health benefits and a pension plan. And the best part, she says, is interacting with club members. Every weekday, she takes Metro North a couple of blocks from her home to the Princeton Club. During the August power-grid failure, she was stuck there overnight, but she hardly minded. “I curled up in a chair in one of the club’s lounges, took my shoes off, put my feet up, and slept by candlelight.” The lights came back on around 10:30 the next morning, and she and her associates got right back to work. “Necessity keeps me working,” Dornheim says. “Who knows when I’ll retire!” —MTS

Trust in the land

Living on the St. Lawrence River in northern New York inspires Sissy Beadel Danforth ’62, director of the Thousand Islands Land Trust in Clayton. “The islands are like sparkling jewels, and the river connects all of us in a very special way,” she says. “Living on isolated land, dependent on boats and ourselves, makes for a way of life that’s unique in the world today—and it’s worth preserving.”
     Her work for the nonprofit organization includes grant-writing and fundraising, “but the real fun,” Danforth says, “is pursuing protection projects”—everything from the shoreline to the small rocks and shoals in the St. Lawrence River to wetlands, farm fields, and woods. “As rural sprawl gathers steam in this part of New York, we are trying to build partnerships with local governments and planning boards to control development.”
     Danforth enjoys working with a mix of people, whether they’re conservation neophytes, local politicians, or “skeptics who think we ruin the tax base. The reality is, we are helping the local economy by protecting the assets that makes this area so desirable,” she points out. Still, it often takes some convincing.
     So far, the land trust has preserved about 8,000 acres through purchases, gifts, and conservation easements. Of the properties she’s helped save, one of Danforth’s favorites is a bathing beach that was on the brink of being carved into four private home sites before the land trust raised enough money to buy it. Another is an old dairy farm with run-down barns that were becoming an eyesore. “We convinced the owners to give us the property, and then raised the money to paint the barns,” Danforth says. The land trust also bought a twenty-five-mile abandoned railbed and converted it to a recreational trail.
     In addition to saving open spaces, Danforth and her husband also help preserve historic waterfront properties in downtown Clayton. Currently they are restoring the village opera house. Danforth is pleased that their work has inspired others to follow suit. “We’ve created a historic district that has permeated the entire community,” she notes, “and we’re still going strong.” —MTS

Display art

When Madison, Wis., artist Grace Chosy opted to sell her popular gallery earlier this year, Karin Beyerstedt Ketarkus ’68—who’s exhibited her prints and paintings there for nearly fifteen years—decided she would buy it. Recognized statewide by artists and art buyers, the gallery has a reputation that Ketarkus knew was worth preserving. “It would be a shame to have a venue of this caliber disappear from the art scene,” she claims.
     For the last eight years, Ketarkus assisted Chosy, doing archival framing for artists’ exhibits and retail customers, completing installations, designing publications, making corporate presentations, and promoting sales.
     The gallery’s success is due to the previous owner’s “hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and professionalism,” Ketarkus says. “She carefully selected artists for the quality of their work and their work ethic,” and the Skidmore art major plans to keep it that way. Representing contemporary artists—most from the upper Midwest and many nationally known—the gallery features landscapes, still-lifes, and figurative and abstract images in a variety of styles and media.
     For three decades Ketarkus has taught part-time at Madison Area Technical College, averaging two or three classes a semester in drawing, design, commercial art, color media, and comprehensive rendering; she’s also taught continuing ed classes in serigraphy and printmaking. While she’s reduced her teaching load since taking over the gallery, Ketarkus still finds time to make her own etchings, monotypes, and watercolors; her art has been represented in galleries in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, and in corporate collections.
     Multi-tasking, as required to run her business, apparently doesn’t deter Ketarkus. “It’s wonderful to be surrounded by professional-level art,” she says, “and I love working with the artists and clients. I enjoy matching a customer with art, making a sale, and feeling that the client’s life will be enhanced by the artwork. I also enjoy promoting an artist, seeing him grow and mature in his art, and seeing his audience expand.” —MTS

Living the wildlife

Where in the world is Michael Messick ’85? It could be any one of 170 countries—about the number he’s visited in the past eighteen years. And many of them are not your typical destinations. He recently returned, for example, from the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East, where he led tours of the Kuril Islands, Kamchatka Peninsula, and Bering Island.
     In 1990 Messick—pictured in New Guinea with the father of a family who “adopted” him after he’d visited their village for several years—founded Zegrahm Expeditions, based in Seattle, Wash., with six others. The firm takes adventurous travelers to some of the world’s least-visited spots, where they can meet indigenous peoples and observe rare flora, fauna, and geologic phenomena in pristine environments.
     Messick spends about half the year leading expeditions, often from small, 100-passenger ships. On board, he handles all the details, determining landing sites for their inflatable Zodiac boats, setting up lectures, and generally “making sure participants are getting more than they were expecting.”
     His own share of the unexpected has included sixty-foot waves, ships run aground, and a sudden, perilous 180-foot descent while scuba diving. A curious walrus once punctured his Zodiak with its tusk. In Borneo, as guest of honor at a feast, he had to kill a pig with a spear. On a scouting trip to Madagascar, he picked up a bug that landed him in a coma. But nothing seems to hold him back. “As long as I stay healthy,” he says, “I really can’t imagine having a better job.”
     There have been countless highlights, Messick adds, extolling the beauty of the Marquesas, the cultural diversity of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, the wildlife of the Galápagos Islands and Botswana. Yemen is a favorite destination, and Antarctica, he says, is “the closest you can get to visiting another planet without leaving Earth.”
     When he’s not touring, Messick enjoys the red rock and wide-open spaces of Utah, where he and his girlfriend are building a straw-bale house near Arches National Park. In September Messick was off to the South Pacific for two months, touring French Polynesia, Pitcairn Island, Easter Island, Cook Islands, Tonga, and Fiji. Curious? Check out www.zeco.com.KG

Night[club] fever

A dozen years ago, Natalia Fox Hogan ’91 and her husband, Jim, began converting a portion of a Broadway building in Saratoga Springs into a nightclub. “One of the most attractive aspects of the property,” Hogan says, “was that it had a large cellar, formerly the ‘bargain basement’ for J.J. Newberry’s department store.” The space provided a certain “mystique,” she says, and could accommodate a huge dance floor.
     They spent two years gutting and reconstructing the room, which was no small task and cost them a bundle—three times their original budget. The doors finally opened in August 1993, and ten years later the Newberry Dance Club is going strong.
     While it has a solid local base, the Newberry draws diverse clientele from Albany and Saratoga’s outlying areas. Most patrons are in their mid-twenties. Describing the club, which holds a maximum of 400 people, Hogan notes the neon-lit stairs, the central dance floor with stadium-style seating around the perimeter, the horseshoe-shaped bar, the huge speakers and high-tech light show. Live music is a rarity at the Newberry, but the house DJ plays hip-hop, techno, R&B, and Latin music.
     The club is open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Hogan splits her time between tending the bar, the door, the DJ, and the customers. In any free moments (they’re rare), she whips out her camera (see photos at www.newberryclub.com). She also takes care of the books. Her husband, meanwhile, oversees club security and gets the place clean and ready for the next weekend.
     Hogan, who juggles her club work with a weekday job as an English teacher at Saratoga High School, says she sometimes feels “in a perpetual state of jet lag.” But the couple’s goal of creating “a successful and lucrative business in an atmosphere where customers can let loose, bust a few moves on the dance floor, and meet new people” has been realized, she believes. —MTS

Positively entertaining

Thais Sherell McGhaney Jackson ’93 (known as “Peaches” to her classmates) is tuned in to the powerful healing potential of art and entertainment. Six years ago, in the Bronx, N.Y., the composer, choreographer, actress, and singer formed MAC Creations out of her desire to remedy a society she saw retreating from “sound morals” and to re-engage people with the more positive aspects of life.
     MAC Creations, a “business ministry” that has drawn the attention of community leaders, politicians, and entertainers, has a three-part focus. Its literary division—at www.maccreations.com, in performances, and in newsletters—features the “spiritually invigorating” poetry and prose of writers young and old who feel they can help motivate and uplift others who may be “incarcerated, wayward, discouraged, or shut-in” and offer them “a creative way out.” Following the notion that “what we allow to entertain us affects our future, whether we want to believe it or not,” the entertainment division offers alternatives to the widespread promotion of “a way of life that leaves us with broken homes, unplanned pregnancies, and hidden aggressions that society cannot control. [It] sets in motion positive messages through powerful workshops, plays, musicals, and concerts that minister to the heart, mind, body, and soul.” Finally, acting as the monetary cornerstone necessary to get the business up and running, MAC Creations’ merchandise division offers customized shirts and accessories to disperse its messages.
     Jackson draws inspiration from Jesus, who, she says, demonstrated “the true meaning of ‘agape love’—love that encompasses mankind in whole and wants nothing but the best for us.” She’s also been inspired by her mother and her “group of prayer warriors, who taught me all things are possible regardless of what hardships are thrown my way,” and by “every woman who has been knocked down yet found the courage to get back up again.”
     Besides running MAC Creations full-time, Jackson is also raising two girls, ages 5 and 7, and pursuing a master’s degree. For her, it’s rewarding to know that she’s having a positive influence. She’s seen people turn away from drugs and prostitution after experiencing the ministry of MAC Creations. “I can’t change the whole world,” she says, “but I’ll try to make a difference in as many lives as possible.” —MTS

Performance revue

At the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., art major Aran Winterbottom ’99 plays to the museum’s mission, part of which is to be “a vital cultural resource for the community.”
     Winterbottom started working at the Aldrich soon after graduation, and before long was named curator of cultural programs there. Three years ago, he founded Stage A, a nationally recognized music, literary arts, and performing arts series at the museum. In that capacity, he selects and books performers; negotiates contracts; and handles marketing, budgeting, and logistics such as lodging and catering.
     A particularly appealing aspect of his job is having carte blanche in selecting artists who perform at the museum. They’ve included best-selling author and humorist David Sedaris; Ira Glass, host and producer of the documentary radio program This American Life; poets laureate Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky; novelists Michael Cunningham and Michael Chabon; and musicians Aimee Mann, Brad Mehldau, and the Kronos Quartet.
     “Picking a favorite would be near impossible,” Winterbottom contends, “but some of the more rewarding events for me were Laurie Anderson’s solo performance of Happiness, in which she reflected on the events of 9/11 and her own life; a dialogue between composer Philip Glass and photorealist Chuck Close (the first time these two artists, both at the forefront of their respective genres, sat down for a public discussion of their work); and a solo performance by musician Rufus Wainwright, during which he exclusively previewed the release of his latest recording, Want One.
     Gearing his eclectic programs to different audiences is a conscious decision, Winterbottom says. “I like to keep things fresh. If you do just a jazz series, as many museums do, then you are only bringing in one audience.”
     In handling all aspects of Aldrich performances, Winterbottom says he’s “gained invaluable professional experience that will serve me well in the future”—and he enjoys “keeping abreast of current trends in the performing arts.” But the real thrill, he admits, is meeting and maintaining relationships with the artists. —MTS

Words and music

Music major Sarah Nicholson ’01 has won a Fulbright grant and is spending the academic year in Leipzig, Germany, as a Fremdsprachenassistentin—or foreign language assistant—in high-school English classrooms at the Humboldtschule Gymnasium.
     Before she headed overseas in late summer, Nicholson, a resident of Maine, was eager to immerse herself in German culture and join some community music ensembles. “Leipzig is so rich with music and history that I couldn’t have asked for a better placement,” she said. A flutist, she was introduced to Germany’s musical heritage in her college music-history classes and voice lessons. Intrigued by German culture and art, she began studying the language and decided to spend a semester in Vienna. Her preparations including taking an intensive language class, learning two semesters of college German in three months.
     Nicholson did an internship with the Austrian Business Committee for the Arts, which gave her further insight into the Viennese culture and practice with her language skills. She later went to Hammelburg, Germany, where she attended a flute master class with students from all over the country. Impressed, she was determined to return to Germany for an extended time.
     “Teaching in Germany is a way of repaying a debt to a country that’s enriched my life,” Nicholson stated in her grant application. She was also looking forward to being something of a cultural ambassador of the U.S., introducing her German students to the customs, geography, history, and literature of New England and New York, where she’s spent most of her life.
     Teaching is nothing new to Nicholson, whose experience includes giving music lessons and guest lecturing as well as tutoring immigrants at the International Center in New York City. But she believes her in-depth study of music and her goal of becoming bilingual will help make her an effective teacher of the language and culture of Germany when she returns to the U.S.—if she returns. All the Fulbright grant recipients she’s spoken to have stayed on for a second year in Germany to continue their studies, Nicholson says, and she acknowledges that she may do the same. —MTS


© 2003 Skidmore College