As those of you who have been able to spend time on our campus probably know, Brewster plays witness to some spectacular sunsets. Before the sun dips behind the mountains, its rays set fire not only to the lake but also to the western facing windows and walls of the Academic Building; the edifice glows. Winter snow storms intensify these glowing, close-of-day moments. When the sky grows pinky-purple—no matter how many shots I have of this scene—I find myself rushing out of Lord House to capture the iconic Academic Building, the heart of our campus, at sunset. The scene embodies to me so much of what makes Brewster special—the union of Nature’s majesty and humanity’s quest to understand, to learn and to grow. And since October, when the bicentennial banners were hung outside on the pillars of the Academic Building, the scene, in my eyes, has become even more spectacular. These handsome banners reflect our pride in Brewster’s history and bring to the scene, at least for me, a reminder of how our history is tied to the town and its remarkable setting.
In 1820 town fathers made plans and gathered funds to open the Wolfeborough-Tuftonborough Academy. 1820. Even with the date flying outside of the AC, it can be hard to grasp just how long ago 1820 was. Remembering that the bell that hung in the original school building was made by Paul Revere offers a marker of sorts. Our school began in the early days of our nation.
As we prepare to ring in the new year, the weight of the bicentennial is growing on campus. Our history is storied. Brewster has endured and thrived, and we are eager to celebrate our past. We are also eager to use the bicentennial to build excitement for our future. To that end, Craig identified “legacy” as a theme for the year and challenged the students to think into the future about what kind of legacy they want to leave here at Brewster. Doing so, he suggested, would require them to consider the many decisions they make each day, as daily actions over time surely play a key role in shaping a legacy.
This past Tuesday at Morning Meeting Craig reminded the community about the idea of legacy as he introduced an event that will serve as a centerpiece of our bicentennial celebration. The event is an internationally acclaimed photography exhibition entitled 200 Women. As its title suggests, the exhibition is comprised of 200 photographs of women (of which we will have 55 photographs) and the accompanying film and audio of these women answering the following five questions:
What really matters to you?
What brings you happiness?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What would you change if you could?
Which single word do you most identify with?
To understand what kind of legacy we want to leave our school, our families and communities, we have to understand ourselves and our values. These questions push all of us toward that greater understanding, and in January students, faculty, and staff will be gathering to reflect on these questions. This is a chance for us all to reflect (an inevitable considering of the past) as we simultaneously imagine our futures. Over winter break we encourage you to consider these questions with your children and on your own. And know that in the coming months, you will have the opportunity to take up these questions with other Brewster parents.
A few more details about the exhibit:
The 200 Women exhibition will be open on campus from mid-April until early July, and during Interim Studies, a group of students will be helping to design our unique iteration of this global exhibition. The brainchild of New Zealand-based Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, 200 Women originated as a book project (available at major booksellers). Seeking diversity and authenticity, Blackwell and Hobday aimed to capture the “real stories” of “real women,” and to do so, they traveled around the world meeting with women, famous and not, and listened to their stories. The production experience, they comment, “educated, humbled and inspired” them. Reflecting more broadly, they write:
[O]ver and over we encountered uplifting examples of kindness, selflessness, strength, wisdom, inspiration and the most compelling of all, truth. Writ large was the value, beauty and privilege of being able to just listen to these women, to truly see their humanity, and to recognize our own in doing so.
Having spent significant time with the book as I worked with a group of faculty to select the women we will have in the exhibition, I too feel educated, humbled and inspired. We are excited to share this experience with the Brewster, Wolfeboro, and the wider New Hampshire community. In the bicentennial planning process, we have set out to remember the local community that conceived of this school and laid its foundation. Part of our decision to make this exhibition a centerpiece of our celebration is that not only can we open the exhibition to our neighbors but also in doing so we can engage in conversation that will enrich all of us. The exhibition will lead us into discussions about the power of images, of language, of storytelling, of understanding ourselves and recognizing the worth and dignity of others.
That’s the scene I am most excited about seeing as we head into 2020—all of us together, looking, listening, and sharing our stories and connecting. It might just be as spectacular as a Brewster sunset.
Learn more about 200 Women.
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