The move from New York City to rural Concord may sound like a deceleration, but new faculty member Sarah Hardin finds herself as busy as ever. After working at the Spanierman Gallery and then earning her M.A in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, Ms. Hardin now injects a refreshing energy to the Middlesex art history curriculum, the dance and cross country teams, and Higginson house.
How have you found the transition from New York City to Middlesex? Has Middlesex (in its own way) been able to match the energy and excitement found in New York?
The transition from New York to Middlesex has been pretty seamless, but I confess that I do miss the convenience of having a coffee shop downstairs or a cab on every corner! I've quickly come to realize, however, that there is no shortage of energy or excitement on the Middlesex campus. The students and faculty are involved in so many activities that there is always something for the students to do. Best of all: The activities are catered specifically for the high school audience!
Having joined the Middlesex community this past fall, what has struck you most about the school in your first semester?
I've been most struck by the students' sense of citizenship and by the ease with which they engage in meaningful, and often complex, discussions about the "big questions." I love so many things about my job, but I've been surprised to find that the visiting lecturers and evening speakers are among my favorite activities. The question-and-answer portions of these evenings are particularly exciting for me, and it makes me so happy to see the students ask thoughtful questions to adults who are experts in their fields. I know some graduate students who wouldn't ask questions so freely!
When and how did you first become interested in art history?
At the risk of sounding cliche: I have always been interested in art history and in visual information more generally. My parents tell a story about taking me to the Clark Art Institute when I was two or three years old: Apparently I encountered a portrait of George Washington and exclaimed, "Look, Mom and Dad! That's George Washington! The father of our country!" Before you assume that I was a budding history prodigy, I should explain that I had seen a dollar bill the day before and had asked who the figure on the front was. Someone identified this man as "George Washington, the father of our country." I'm sure I had no idea what these words meant when I repeated them, but I do think they speak to a general interest in visual culture. I still find myself asking these basic questions when I encounter works of art from different cultural or historical periods. Who was this person? Why put his image on currency? What must the world have looked like to the person who created this image? What qualities or ideals did the artist value most?
As my story suggests, I was lucky to have grown up in a family that exposed me to the arts at a young age. My parents often took us to museums, and as we got older I remember sitting with the New York Times arts listings on the occasional Saturday morning and planning the day's museum trip. I can still name the specific exhibition that "opened my eyes" and made me fall in love with art history: the Met's 1998 exhibition Van Eyck to Breugel. Eventually, I ended up in Art 101 at Williams, and it's been a decade of continuous study from that point on!
What's your favorite part about coaching the dance team?
In many ways, the dance program encapsulates everything that's best about the Middlesex students. I work with dancers from a variety of backgrounds - everything from salsa and hip hop to ballet and classical Indian dance--and with other students who have never studied dance. Somehow, in a brief 10-week season, the group has coalesced, and the dancers have been equally eager to share their own talents and to learn from the experiences of their peers. It takes a lot of courage to dance with a new group of people (and ultimately in front of your school community!), and I admire the grace and determination that the girls demonstrate each day. Finally, I am continually inspired by the students' choreography. We have a great group of dancers who have created interesting, and often challenging, pieces. It's the students who have inspired me to start planning for next year - even before the official end of our current season!