Just in the last week, for example, I gave a tour of Sweet Briar House to participants in our own BLUR program. These are high school students who are creating innovative and interdisciplinary art under the guidance of faculty and student interns. Because their projects engage a sense of place — because they in some manner respond to the specific beauty and history of Sweet Briar — BLUR students are always interested to learn more about our history and to explore every corner of the campus. I don’t think any other tour group has ever asked me so many questions!
Another evening I attended a performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” on the lawn behind Sweet Briar House — the first I’ve ever seen that featured a puppet! Sweet Briar sponsors the Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival in conjunction with Endstation Theatre Company, whose work is distinguished by its artistic commitment to place. “Taming,” therefore, was staged as if presented by a touring vaudeville company arriving in Lynchburg in the early 20th century.
On yet another afternoon I greeted families arriving to bring their children to the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop. UVa holds this program on our campus because we provide an unparalleled environment for young writers. The beauty of the campus inspires them, the expanse of the campus gives them room to roam and explore, the quiet of the campus gives them occasion to pause and reflect. All these young artists are experiencing for a summer what we here on campus — and you as alumnae — know so well already: Sweet Briar is a special, inspiring and moving place. The education we offer is enriched immeasurably by the fact that it is offered here.
But the real value of time spent in this magical place, as generations of alumnae have proved, is that it prepares students to go out into the world and do remarkable things. You’ll read in this issue about Sally Haas’ work in Haiti, for example. Professor Tom O’Halloran, like many faculty, travels with his students to locations where they can encounter new phenomena and gain hands-on experience, as this issue’s photo essay demonstrates.
Each of these stories tells of people prepared in this magical place to go out and improve the experience of people in other, less fortunate places. Proud as I am of our campus, I am even prouder of stories like these.
Best wishes for the remainder of the summer.
Jo Ellen Parker
Category: Summer 2013