Over the past two years, as COVID-19 temporarily shuttered studios and darkened stages, Dartmouth’s student artists pushed through the pandemic to create new work in many mediums, drawing kudos at the Hopkins Center’s annual Arts at Dartmouth Awards Ceremony on May 31 in Spaulding Auditorium.
They hail from all over the world, including China, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.
“They’ve really been at the center of our community-building, our empathy-building, and they’ve kept us connected during these challenging years,” said Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard L. Gilman ’44 Executive Director of the Hopkins Center. “To share this day with all of you is a tremendous honor, especially as we prepare to reimagine and expand this Hopkins Center and plan for the arts district of the future.”
An $88 million project is underway to expand and renovate the 60-year-old Hop building, creating approximately 15,000 square feet of new space and transforming 55,000 square feet of existing space. Congratulating the awardees, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 said the redesigned Hop will “showcase the remarkable talent that’s on our campus and actively engage every member of our community.”
Hanlon said that he and his wife, Gail Gentes, happily attended several Hop events after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“Last fall, we saw the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra return to the stage and welcomed back to campus the astounding talent of MOMIX, founded by Dartmouth alum Moses Pendleton. We also got to see the incredible adaptation of Rent on the main stage, the first live musical production in three years. The talent that exists in our student body is extraordinary.”
In her keynote address, Board of Trustees Chair Emerita Laurel Richie ’81, who chairs the Hopkins Center Board of Advisors and co-chairs the Campaign Executive Committee, said, “I discovered my love for theater at Dartmouth 45 years ago.”
That’s when, coaxed by a close friend, she mustered the courage to audition for a play.
“I had no monologue, and instead recited the only poem I knew by heart, which happened to be my father’s favorite poem, Casey at the Bat. I poured my heart and soul into my rendering of Casey at the Bat. I suspect the director showed a little bit of sympathy because of my choice of material and my over-the-top delivery, and I got a small part,” said Richie.
Much bigger roles, in the corporate world, lay ahead. As president of the WNBA, Richie was the first person of color to lead a national sports league, and during her 20-year tenure at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, she developed award-winning campaigns.
“The skills, experiences, and personal growth from my time in theater have had the most profound impact on my career,” Richie said.
For the awardees, Richie had “an ask, a wish, and a hope.”
She asked that they take time to reflect on what they have gained from experiencing the arts: “The self-knowledge and self-awareness that fuels your creativity. The discipline and dedication required to master the technical aspects of your craft. The ability to make emotional connections, to provoke, to delight, to reassure, to challenge, to make people think, to take their breath away and to ease their pain.”
Her wish: “That your love of the arts will remain front and center in your life as your journey unfolds, continuing to nourish your soul, to bring you peace, and to strengthen your connection to the world around you.”
Her hope, recalling the 2019 commencement speech given by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, is that creative students with extraordinary talent never abuse their power.
“It’s a gift,” said Richie, quoting Ma. “Use it with great care and great intention. Listen to the voices crying in the wilderness. Become one of those voices.”
For Anaise Boucher-Browning ’22, who won the Sudler Prize in the Arts, the only award that is not announced in advance, recognition came as a surprise.
“The Hopkins Center has been a wonderful source of community and inspiration in the arts,” she said following the ceremony. “I’ve been there most evenings, whether it’s working as senior house manager for events, playing viola in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, taking piano lessons, or playing in music ensembles.”
Boucher-Browning also coordinated and performed in a Black Lives Matter concert in her hometown of Boise, Idaho, where, after graduation, she plans to remain active in the arts community.