Marlboro College

About Remarks at the 30th Anniversary of the Governor’s Institute on the Arts

Castleton College, July 7, 2013
By Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, president of Marlboro College and GIV Co-Founder


Thirty years ago, in 1983, I wanted to provide Vermont students with opportunities to work along side Vermont artists in an intense summer experience on a college campus. I approached then Secretary of Education Steve Kagan and we soon enlisted Christine Graham and Susan Sgorbati, who is here today, to help us design the program. Governor Snelling approved calling this the Governor’s Institute on the Arts and Stephan Morse of the Windham Foundation offered support, as did Vermont schools and soon the State, through the General Assembly.

The idea was to contrast with the conventional classroom experience. Students with potential, not always with proven talent, would be selected to create alongside our best musicians, poets, actors, visual artists and dancers. These students were often not recognized at school; they didn’t have money for private lessons; they often felt like “the only one” they knew who was writing poems, composing songs or imagining themselves in a play.

Now were we are thirty years later: all different, all together!

Soon after, we created other Institutes where students could discover alongside environmental scientists, or mathematicians, or engineers, or those devoted to peace and social justice, or to Chinese culture.  But the Governor’s Institutes began with the arts and I am so happy to be here today with all of you, with Karen Taylor Mitchell and Elizabeth Frascoia, your GIA alumna-leader, and all your artist-practitioners who at the heart of this Institute.

There is one remarkable person who has been here for thirty years. She’s been Vermont’s poet-in-residence in schools and communities and nursing homes. She’s helped to celebrate numerous occasions with poems composed just for the event, often using the letters of the person’s name or the place. Verandah Porche, please come forward; here is my tribute to you, which you’ve inspired.

Vermont’s unnamed poet laureate,
Ever-present with words for occasions,
Richly, rightly selected for celebrations,
Always alliterative, accentual, amusing, amazing,
Never tired or dull – she’s unwavering,
Dear to our ears, to the soul of the day,
All join voices to acclaim
Hallelujah, Verandah (repeat)

Hallelujah, Verandah! 

I also want to recognize Geof Hewitt, also here from the start, at first disguised as an arts council administrator, then in his real life as a poet: our word-well, our digger of ideas, gardener of phrases. Now it’s my great pleasure to introduce Susan Sgorbati, GIA director for the first five years. As Susan said, she “did it till it jelled.”

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