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>  News Releases >   2002 >   November

The Hopkins Center turns 40

Posted 11/04/02, by Tamara Steinert

The Hop: then and now

It might be the Hopkins Center's 40th birthday on Nov. 8, but don't expect any black balloons or suggestions that the center is 'over the hill.' To the contrary, four decades after opening, the center continues to live up to the description given it by former Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey as "a modern Agora" —"a place where academic work, creative art, cultural activity and fellowship" meet.

"The Hop fulfills a lot of needs for our various constituents," says Lewis Crickard, Director of the Hopkins Center. "We're home to four academic arts departments, as well as the student workshops, the vocal and instrumental ensembles, a dance program, a distinguished film exhibition program and a visiting performing artist series — all of which contribute immensely to the texture of campus life. Beyond that, we're also rumored to have the best french fries on campus, and, even in the days of e-mail, there's hardly a student who doesn't check his or her Hinman Box regularly."

When the Hopkins Center opened its doors in 1962, the fine arts facility had been nearly 35 years in the making. Three previous plans for theater, arts and social buildings had been scrapped, each time in the face of a national crisis — first the Great Depression, then World War II, and finally, in the early 1950s, the Korean War.

In the meantime, Dartmouth artists did their best in less than adequate facilities. Warner Bentley, the first director of Dartmouth's drama program, first lobbied for a theater upon arriving on campus in the late 1920s. Students who worked in the woodshop had to carry every piece of lumber up a spiral staircase in Bissel Hall, then lower finished pieces through a window, remembers Erling Heistad, the current Director of the Hop's Claflin Jewelry Workshop who also grew up near Dartmouth.

When finally completed, the Hop was the first fine arts facility in the nation to combine multi-disciplinary academic, extracurricular, visual and performing arts under one roof. Designed by Wallace Harrison, the architect renowned for creating the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, the Hop encompassed 4.5 acres of floor space. The building immediately became a landmark in northern New England.

"The Hop is really the cultural heartbeat of the campus," said Colleen Randall, Chair of the Studio Arts Department. "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."

The Hopkins Center is perhaps best known in the region for its performing arts programming, which brings nationally and internationally famous singers, dancers, actors and others to Hanover. However, the facility's central mission continues to be academic. Every performer who comes to the Hop interacts with students through classroom visits, master classes or other means. And for faculty in the arts, the Hop offers an environment that fosters creativity among all the disciplines.

"When the opportunity for synergy between departments arises, it's fantastic," said Mark Williams, Film and Television Studies Department Chair. As examples, he cited several interdisciplinary courses that have been cotaught by faculty in the arts and other departments across campus (English, DAMELL, religion, etc.) Other classes merge faculty across the arts departments, including a course on animation and sound, taught by David Ehrlich of Film and Television Studies and Music Department Chair Larry Polansky; a digital imaging class Williams cotaught with Brian Miller of the Studio Art Department; and a course on directing for the camera taught by Theater Professor Mara Sabinson and Jim Brown, Lecturer in Film and Television Studies.

Randall appreciates the supportive atmosphere that the Hop promotes between departments. "In the last decade especially, I've been impressed by how the disciplines have been supportive of each other's growth and success. That's been the key to the success of arts on campus," she said.

Looking to the future, Randall said there is talk of creating a fine arts computing center to supplement the Hop's current offerings. Williams believes that, with the ongoing evolution of technology and culture, it's only a matter of time before old perceptions of the arts as separate from other disciplines will fade, and that the Hop's role as a scholarly center will become even more inclusive.

"It's sometimes difficult for people to transcend the more traditional way of thinking of the arts as just a flourish or as decoration. The arts have always been central to how we conceptualize the world, and our place in it. I think the significance of the arts is only going to grow with the rise of digital culture, and we'll see even more interaction between disciplines, both within the humanities and aross the other divisions," he said.

- Tamara Steinert

Did you know...

  • The Hopkins Center has commissioned more than 60 works of music, dance and theater over the years.
  • The three student workshops run by the Hopkins Center — the Claflin Jewelry Studio, the Woodshop, and the Davidson Pottery Studio — are open to all students, regardless of their majors, as well as to all grading faculty.
  • Luminaries Lillian Gish, Louis Malle, Liv Ullmann, Robert Redford, Chuck Jones, Meryl Streep, and Oliver Stone are among the film icons who have been honored at the Hopkins Center.
  • Three distinguished dance troupes, Pilobolus, Momix and BodyVox, all got their starts at the Hopkins Center.
  • The Studio Arts Department hosts three artists-in-residence every year, each of whom is on campus for a full term. In addition to public talks and exhibitions, the nationally and internationally known artists interact closely with students.

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