Arts Alive And Thriving At Bowdoin


Most summer days, the Bowdoin Quad is the picture of tranquility. Locals and visitors stroll unhurriedly along shady walkways as the Chapel Bells sing out their hourly refrain.

But don’t be fooled: The campus is actually abuzz with high-profile arts venues, events and programming that bring tens of thousands of visitors to the College from around the globe.

Bowdoin’s dorms are resounding with music as 273 student-participants from 24 countries congregate on campus for the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which wraps on Aug. 4. The six-week residency has included 80 concerts attracting roughly 15,000 audience members, with performances by the likes of Midori and The Shanghai Quartet.

Nearby, at Pickard Theater, some 50,000 attendees will have turned out for performances at the Maine State Music Theater by the time their season wraps.

“Arts-related foot traffic has definitely picked up in recent years,” notes Bowdoin Director of Events and Summer Programs Tony Sprague. “Visitors aren’t just coming for an isolated visit – they’ll take in two or more of these types of performances or check out the wonderfully diverse exhibits at our two museums.”

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art took in 1,500 visitors for the first weekend of the new William Wegman show, which even topped opening attendance for last summer’s blockbuster Edward Hopper exhibition.

Visitors to the Peary-Arctic Museum are enjoying three new exhibitions, including Inuit art and artifacts, in addition to a rarely seen core sample from the Greenland ice cap. Attendance is up nearly 25 percent from last summer.

“You can enjoy a very full day of arts programming on Bowdoin’s campus,” observes Sprague, “from afternoon student concerts at the recital hall, thought-provoking exhibits at our museums, and a range of theatrical and musical performances at night.”

The vitality of Bowdoin’s arts scene reflects a decade-long commitment to expand programming and infrastructure, including renovation of Pickard Theater, an award-winning expansion and renovation of The Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and the creation of an intimate, world-class concert stage – Studzinski Recital Hall and Kanbar Auditorium – at the site of the former Curtis Swimming Pool.

“As an alum, I take great pride in bringing an international cadre of classical musicians at the very top of the profession to Bowdoin each summer to teach, study, and perform in these wonderful spaces,” observes BIMF Executive Director Peter Simmons ‘78. “Bowdoin’s reputation as a high-caliber arts institution is truly worldwide.”


  1. Tim Buchman '72 says:

    Sorry to be an old curmudgeon, but I do remember when the summer theater in Pickard (back when it wasn’t a Not-For-Profit) caused, let’s say, excess wear and tear. I admit that there was bad blood from before my arrival. But it’s important to note that tenants may have different short-term interests than owners.

    To put it bluntly, Bowdoin College, during the academic year, has the luxury (thank goodness …) not to have to view the two theaters as “revenue centers”. But the income budget of a summer theater is a life-and-death matter. I don’t mean to disparage temporary workers I don’t even know this summer. I just wanted to raise the issue.

  2. Bob Delaney '55 says:

    The Wegman show is fantastic and “The Hardly Boys” video (by William Wegman) is worth a trip all on its’ own and the entire show is every bit as interesting as the Edward Hopper exhibit last summer
    The Hardy Boys books were my favorites as a 10? year old.

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