Letter from the Director: Summer 2003

Posted on June 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan

Hood Quarterly, summer 2003
Derrick R. Cartwright, Director

Charles W. Moore, the principal architect of the Hood Museum of Art, wrote often and passionately about a prominent role for the arts in contemporary life. In a youthful essay entitled "New Hope for Local Art" (1952), he critiqued the concept of the art museum as an "artistic Fort Knox"—an intimidating edifice focused narrowly upon its custodial role as protector of valuable objects. In the place of that notion, Moore advocated for a contrasting ideal, one where the museum stood out as "a living thing, with a local validity that can make the arts exciting again." Later, when he was commissioned to create distinctive museums throughout the United States, he brought that expectation for lively, relevant cultural spaces to bear on his finished designs. The Hood, completed in 1985, is certainly one of the finest of Moore's public buildings. Through its ongoing commitment to the surrounding campus community and through this summer's celebration of both regional artists and the institutions that support them, the Hood aims to live up to the civic-spirited vision of its architect.

As the academic year comes to an end, this community can certainly take pride in reviewing the contributions that talented undergraduates have brought to the cultural life of Dartmouth College. Clear proof of this can be seen in the projects that the Hood's senior interns have created as part of the highly visible "Space for Dialogue" program. To date, a pool of fourteen exceptionally bright young people has brought dozens of compelling works of art out of storage spaces and placed them before our eyes. Curatorial projects developed by these students are given prime space and serious attention by the professional staff of this institution. The interpretations that these undergraduates have produced for the works they select have been challenging, engaging, and revelatory for visitors and colleagues alike. Confronting such fresh perspectives reminds us of all the insights that can be discovered in the Hood's growing permanent collection. We need always to inspect these works with the originality and courage modeled by these students.

Similarly, the thirtieth birthday of Dartmouth's popular "Regional Selections" exhibition provides a welcome occasion for recognition of our wider civic role. For more than a year, the staff of this museum has been involved in an intense collaboration with arts administrators and artists from throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. We are honored to host this event, and to document it with a handsome new publication, and I personally look forward to many lively conversations about the nature of artistic practice in this part of the world. Hanover's geographical centrality within the region, the vibrancy of its local arts scene, and the Hood's high museological standards have combined to create an ideal situation for a sustained reflection on the state(s) of visual arts at a critical moment in our history.

The responsibility of having works of uncommon beauty and diverse cultural significance close at hand seems more urgent these days. In both joyous and difficult times, it is comforting to have access to a place like the Hood that presents and promotes the best that creative minds have produced. Know that we look forward to sharing our space—a living thing, with a local validity—as widely and generously as we can.

In This Issue


Written June 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan