Remarks by Blythe Bickel Edwards at the Dedication of the Edwards Center for Art and Dance

More than 120 people gathered in Main Lounge on Friday, October 11, as the College officially dedicated the new Robert H. and Blythe Bickel Edwards Center for Art and Dance, located on South Street in the former Longfellow Elementary School. President Emeritus Robert H. Edwards and Blythe Bickel Edwards—introduced by Board of Trustees Chair Deborah Jensen Barker ’80—were greeted with a sustained standing ovation by the gathered trustees, faculty, staff, and honored guests. 

BBE

Debbie, thank you for your very kind words.  And thank you everyone for standing.  I’m a little overwhelmed about the whole situation.

I shall never forget my first full day at Bowdoin, 23 years ago. Mers took me on a tour of the campus, at my request, to see it all from top to bottom—and I did. For someone interested in the arts there were some pretty remarkable sights. The scene and paint shop for the theater in the attic above the auditorium reached by ladder-like stairs. I won’t even describe how the students managed to lower the flies and change the sets. Some of you here may remember those scary maneuvers. Costume storage in the dank basement of Getchell House (now Pols House) smelling grim. Photography darkrooms under the rusting ribs of the old Curtis Pool. Dance in the Sargent Gym with basketball hoops and fluorescent lights. Concerts and recitals in a myriad of spaces depending on availability.  As to where all the art studios were located I can’t begin to recall, as they were scattered all over town and as far away as Fort Andros. I do, however, know that the studio of Bowdoin’s first artist, Tom Cornell, whom I remember with great fondness, was on the far side of Maine Street.

To see today the artistic re-creation of the old, historic Longfellow School into a place with specific spaces for the visual arts and dance rejoices my heart. And to have my name attached to a building with so many fond and deep associations for people in Brunswick is an added joy.

By dinner of that first day I had a pronouncement ready for the new president.  I think it went like this: “You can’t have a real educational community without a cultural life and you can’t have a cultural community without the arts in the heart of a college, in spaces designed specifically for the needs of artists and their arts. And that is not happening here!

His response: “First, the sciences.”

And so went the antiphony of our years at Bowdoin.  “Art,” I would say as we greeted the day in the Cleaveland House; “Science” he would respond, although we made a compromise on the need for a student center and as time went on for the interior restoration of the Chapel, a place well-suited for choral music, and then, at last, for the renovation of Pickard with the addition of Wish Theater.

To see today the artistic re-creation of the old, historic Longfellow School into a place with specific spaces for the visual arts and dance rejoices my heart. And to have my name attached to a building with so many fond and deep associations for people in Brunswick is an added joy.

I cannot end without saying a brief word about this campus which I love. I believe that living in its community of historic buildings and in this landscape of quadrangles and vistas, rooted in the Federal Period of our country, is one of Bowdoin’s greatest assets in strengthening artistic understanding in its students. And it is critical to the kind of judgments these students as alums will bring to bear on the environments—the buildings, spaces and vistas—of their personal, professional and communal lives. Barry, you’ve reinforced this ancient fabric so wonderfully with Studzinski and the expanded and renovated Art Museum—and though not glamorous work—the rebuilding of the towers on the Chapel.

Last and most important of all were the people in our lives who helped, encouraged and soothed us: Claire, Don, Cindy, Ray, Lou, Bill and Bill, Mary Lou, Scott, and even Chuck.

Barry and members of the Board, I feel deeply honored to have my name placed beside Bob’s on this important addition to Bowdoin’s life. Thank you very much.