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“Kirkland Is Everywhere . . .”

June 13, 2014

. . . according to Jill Maynard (K’74), who made this insightful comment when Jo Pitkin (K’78) and Constance Stellas (K’72) turned up at the New Baltimore rest stop along the New York State Thruway. It definitely seemed true when Jo and Constance then bumped into Fran Dunwell (K’74) in the parking lot. We four were on the way home from Clinton after Reunions 2014, where Kirkland lived, breathed, and inspired despite an ever changing and expanding Hamilton College and despite the rolling of the years.

Nancy Avery Dafoe (K'74), Bill Rosenfeld, Billie Jean Stratton (K'74), and Jo Pitkin (K'78) in McEwen's Cafe Opus

Nancy Avery Dafoe (K’74), Bill Rosenfeld, Billie Jean Stratton (K’74), and Jo Pitkin (K’78) in McEwen’s Cafe Opus

Some Kirkland highlights of the weekend:
Kirkland Echoes: Short Plays Inspired by the Kirkland Experience conceived and directed by Melanie Sutherland (K’79) and curated by Liz Horwitt (K’73). Hamilton and Kirkland alumni read plays by Susan Shopmaker (K’78); Constance Stellas (K’72); Zan Tewksbury (K’80); Lars Nielsen (H’77); Liz Horwitt (K’73); and Gwynn O’Gara (K’73), Nancy Avery Dafoe (K’74), and Nicole Dafoe (’04). For Kirkland alumnae of a certain vintage, it was a rare treat to see Ham/Kirk Class of 1975 actors Trevor Drake, Ray Dooley, and Maggie Klenck on stage again.

Abstract, an alumni art exhibit curated by Kate Faison (K’79), which included artwork by Kate, Laura Broaddus Hexner (K’79) and Valentine Merriman (K’73).

Minor Theater Festival organized by alumni (Liz Horwitt, K’73, and others) and Kirkland’s theater professor Carole Bellini-Sharp. Audiences enjoyed four plays written, directed, and acted by alumni, including Melanie Sutherland (K’79) and Margaret Klenck (K’75).

• “Our Graduates Protect the Commons,” an Alumni College discussion including K’74 graduates Frances Dunwell and Sharon Dropkin.

Bill Rosenfeld, Kirkland and then Hamilton creative writing professor, at the Lost Orchard reading

Bill Rosenfeld, Kirkland’s creative writing professor, at the Lost Orchard reading

Lost Orchard: Prose and Poetry from the Kirkland College Community reading and book signing with Jo Pitkin (K’78); Liz Horwitt (K’73); Isabel Weinger Nielsen (K’76); K’74 classmates Joanne Papenek Orlando, Billie Jean Stratton, and Nancy Avery Dafoe; and a very special appearance by our Kirkland creative writing professor Bill Rosenfeld.

Whenever Kirkland alumnae gather together, there’s a synergy of ideas, inspiration, insights, and innovation. I feel like I just took a huge gulp of pure oxygen. I learned new things about Kirkland, and I heard some great suggestions for future reunions.

Did you know that Kirkland was known as the Waffle Brothel? That incoming members of the Charter Class were shown a 3D model of their as-yet-unbuilt dorm rooms?

Kirkland’s influences are everywhere at today’s Hamilton. A recent issue of The Spectator, for example, had a cover story about the newly approved concentration of Cinema and New Media Studies. Concentration? Media Studies? Kirkland students concentrated in Media Studies in the early ’70s; now current Hamilton students can too.

Lost Orchard contributor Nancy Avery Dafoe (K'73) and editor Jo Pitkin (K'78)

Lost Orchard contributor Nancy Avery Dafoe (K’73) and editor Jo Pitkin (K’78)

Before the last production at Minor Theater, a recent Hamilton alumna introduced the alumni plays. As she tearfully bid adieu to the theater that will soon be dorms, she lamented the loss of the place where generations have performed—after the costume glitter is swept away and the stage succumbs to the wrecking ball. As a Kirkland graduate, I wanted to share with her that it’s not the physical space that matters. That theater is only a container, a vehicle. The intrinsic magic of making theater, or of making a college, can happen again wherever talented, like-minded folks gather together.

Kirkland no longer exists as a functioning institution, but our gatherings on and off the Hill prove that, as Sam Babbitt said in 1978: “What is good about Kirkland, what is lasting, is a separate thing from these buildings in which they have had their start, and it has a life quite independent of this place, beautiful as the place has been in which to nourish us . . . it is those intangibles which all of us will take from Kirkland as we leave, and as we go, there, finally, will ‘Kirkland’ also go.”

Kirkland is not gone. Lost Orchard, Limited Engagement by Sam Babbitt, Fruits of Victory by Elaine Weiss, Falconer on the Edge by Rachel Dickinson, and an array of Kirkland green sweats and T-shirts were prominently displayed in the snazzy new bookstore by the old ELS. (By the way, the manager will create a shelf of “Kirkland Alumnae Books” if she gets more titles by Kirkland authors.)

Display of Lost Orchard and Natalie Babbitt's books beside the Hamilton Bicentennial book On the Hill

Display of Lost Orchard and Natalie Babbitt’s books beside the Hamilton Bicentennial book On the Hill

 

We met a lively, curious Hamilton alumnus who had graduated well before Kirkland was a gleam in Robert McEwen’s eye. He didn’t know much about our college and was eager to talk to Kirkland graduates. He asked us about our curriculum, our seal, Sam, the merger. By the end of the weekend, he sported a green Kirkland button and was carrying a copy of Lost Orchard and one of Jo’s poetry books that he’d bought in the bookstore. A fan!

 

Jo Pitkin (K'78) and Joanne Papenek Orlando (K'74) at the Kirkland Reception

Jo Pitkin (K’78) and Joanne Papanek Orlando (K’74) at the Kirkland Reception

It’s our job to tell our story so that other interested alumni might learn about—and help us celebrate—Kirkland. If we don’t, who will? Thirty-six years after the merger, the various contributions that Kirkland made to the culture and curriculum of the Hill are part of the fabric of today’s Hamilton. Let’s make sure that pre- and post-merger generations of Hamilton students understand from whence these threads have come.

The upcoming all-Kirkland reunion in 2015 will be a good time to keep the conversation going. What kinds of activities do you want? Panel discussions about how Kirkland has influenced the Hamilton of today? Feminist documentary films? More play readings and performances? Formal recognition of our living professors? Let us know what you think. And, if you attended Reunions 2014, what were your favorite moments?

Jo Pitkin, K’78

 

Photos supplied by Liz Horwitt and Nancy Avery Dafoe

Just a piece of paper?

June 2, 2014

Diplomas have become the butt of many jokes.  And unless made of genuine sheepskin, most don’t seem to hold any intrinsic value at this point.  Rarely, unless issued by a medical or dental school, do they even end up hanging on a wall.  More likely, they are packed away in a closet (probably a parent’s).

But a Kirkland College diploma feels like a unique work of art.  Sam Babbitt tells us, in fact, that the class of 1971 chose an image by lithographer Don Cortese (see Limited Engagement, p.194) who taught printmaking at Syracuse University for many years.   Only 27 of these were issued, but where are they now?

We’d like to copy a diploma from every class, but here are a couple of designs that illustrate the inventive approaches that made even this most traditional of documents become another testament to the inventive spirit at Kirkland.  Where is yours?

72-Diploma

A Charter Class diploma (the first “vintage”)

Kirkland College 1976 diploma of Jean McGavin

A 1976 diploma with artwork by Emily Paine

Party On

May 9, 2014

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Leaf, Blossom, Fruit: Lost Orchard Blooms

April 3, 2014

Harvest time is sweet. A book of our own! Our compilation of extraordinary writers, Lost Orchard: Prose and Poetry from the Kirkland Community, was released by SUNY Press in January 2014. Since then, we’ve had some amazing once-in-a-lifetime gatherings.

Maria Theresa Stadtmueller, Jo Pitkin, Jane Summer, Nancy Avery Dafoe, and Gwynn O'Gara presenting Women's Voices Matter: A Reading from Lost Orchard at AWP on March 1, 2014

Maria Theresa Stadtmueller, Jo Pitkin, Jane Summer, Nancy Avery Dafoe, and Gwynn O’Gara presenting Women’s Voices Matter: A Reading from Lost Orchard at AWP

On March 1 (appropriately, the start of Women’s History Month), contributors Maria Stadtmueller (K’77), Gwynn O’Gara (K’73), Nancy Avery Dafoe (K’74), and Jane Summer (K’76) joined editor Jo Pitkin (K’78) at the 2014 Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Seattle. This massive conference was attended by 13,000 writers. Our Kirkland group presented a reading from Lost Orchard and did a book signing hosted by SUNY Press. Our panel was one of 1,200 proposed and 550 accepted—not bad for a small women’s college that closed in 1978!

Jo Pitkin, Gwynn O'Gara, and Nancy Avery Dafoe at the SUNY Press booth for the Lost Orchard signing

Jo Pitkin, Gwynn O’Gara, and Nancy Avery Dafoe at the SUNY Press booth for the Lost Orchard signing

 

 

In addition to reading our own work at AWP, we talked about Kirkland’s innovative creative writing program and its emphasis on women’s education, something that was sorely needed in the 1970s. To our surprise, one young audience member commented in the q&a portion of our presentation that her generation craves women’s colleges like Kirkland. It was a moving experience, with more than a few attendees in tears.

 

Isabel Weinger Nielsen (K'76) reading from her story "She Might Break" at the Arlington Center for the Arts.

Isabel Weinger Nielsen (K’76) reading from her story “She Might Break” at the Arlington Center for the Arts.

 

Just weeks after AWP, Lost Orchard launched at the Arlington Center for the Arts near Boston on March 23. Isabel Weinger Nielsen (K’76), Donna French McArdle (K’76), Liz Horwitt (K’73), Alice Hildebrand (K’73), and  Jo Pitkin (K’78) shared their work with Kirkland and Hamilton alumni. Sharon Rippey, Hamilton’s Director of Alumni Relations, celebrated with us, and Jennie Morris (K’72) created a slideshow of archival photos and a woodsy stage centerpiece with fabric and branches.

Let them eat cake! Arlington Center for the Arts, March 23, 2014

Let them eat cake! Arlington Center for the Arts, 3/23/14

A magical afternoon concluded with a cake cutting by Lost Orchard‘s cover artist Linda Branch Dunn (K’77). Kirkland writers and artists—it was Senior Projects 2014. (For a video of the Arlington readings, click here.)

 

Kathryn Livingston (K'75), Constance Stellas (K'72), Sandy Stiassni (H'78), and Judy Gray Silverstein (K'78) reading an excerpt from Constance's one-act play "Building"

Kathryn Livingston (K’75), Constance Stellas (K’72), Sandy Stiassni (H’78), and Judy Gray Silverstein (K’78) reading an excerpt from Constance’s one-act play “Building”

Next, our crop of literary seeds scattered south of Boston. On March 29, Lost Orchard contributors Constance Stellas (K’72), Carol Durst-Wertheim (K’74), Susan Hartman (K’74), Kathryn Livingston (K’75), Julie Weinstein (K’75), Ilene Moskin (K’76), Stephanie Feuer (K’77), Abigail Wender (K’77), Judy Silverstein Gray (K’78),  Jo Pitkin (K’78), Amy Schiffman (K’78), and Victoria Kohn Michels (K’80) read their work in the Dweck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library.  This unprecedented reading, organized by each contributor’s class year from the 1972 Charter Class through 1980, riveted an appreciative crowd of family, friends, fans.

How poignant and rare to hear our distinct, now maturely ripened voices—together again—in such a lovely setting. Pretty thrilling for us all. (For a video of the Brooklyn readings, click here.)

 

 

 

MORE NEWS: Lost Orchard was named a finalist in the Anthology category in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

COME HEAR more Lost Orchard contributors at Reunions 2014, Cafe Opus, Hamilton College, Friday, June 6, 4 – 5pm.

by Jo Pitkin

Photos courtesy of Nancy Avery Dafoe, Judy Silverstein Gray, Jennie Morris, Isabel Weinger Nielsen, James Peltz, & Ruth P. Stevens.

Video footage of the Arlington launch was captured by Aurora and Gabriela Rippey; Brooklyn footage was captured by Jasmine Rippey. Many thanks to Ted Fondak, Hamilton College’s Educational Technologist.

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