bennington college

Betty Ford attended the dedication of Bennington College’s new Visual and Performing Arts Center on May 22, 1976. The First Lady had studied dance there as a teenager in the 1930s.

In her remarks Mrs. Ford reflected on her time at Bennington and her appreciation for the arts. “For those of us who studied here, Martha Hill, Martha Graham and others gave us something else. They touched our hearts with fire and infused us with spirit,” she said. “Isn’t that what the arts are about? Nourishment for the soul. The arts, especially for me the dance, draw out our emotions and make us more alive. Very often the arts help me to see life in a new way.”

During the ceremony Mrs. Ford affixed a plaque to the building, officially dedicating the center. She and Martha Hill, who had been one of her dance instructors at Bennington, watched a presentation of pieces choreographed and performed by students from the college’s dance department in the new building’s West Dance Studio.

(White House photograph A9928-14A)

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It’s infrequent to find a really good plot turn in a book of less than 40 pages. It’s just hard to have much dynamic built up in one direction to be able to accomplish that turn, without having the turn feel contrived. And so it’s to Gilman’s absolute credit that she manages to do so. The abrupt shift nearly caught me off-guard, as I was expecting a dramatic climax, but definitely not in the direction it was taken. And then reviewing the plot a second time, from a feminist standpoint, brought out the wonderful symbolism of the entire book, particularly the last sequences. A quick but very interesting read.

Book 107 of 141

Although it was Frank Lloyd Wright’s intention to encourage visitors in his homes to sit on the furniture, I prefer the floor. Admittedly, this is mostly because I am not allowed to sit on the furniture at work, and partially because Wright notoriously designed for aesthetics over comfort. Although it may strike one as peculiar that I consider a place where even sitting on the furniture is severely punishable to be the “homiest” of homes—even more so when you consider that this home sees thousands of picture-sneaking, guide-ignoring, jet-lagged tourists every year—there is simply no place more tranquil and thought-provoking than Wright’s “Kentuck Knob.” Nestled into the quiet countryside, Kentuck is an example of a masterful “organic” dwelling designed by Wright. The building unites its occupants with their natural surroundings both literally and figuratively—the 2,200 square foot residence is built into its namesake “knob” and is made out of materials found on the property. Skylights run the southern length of the house and mimic the shadows of the treetops, while eastern bedroom windows work with the sunrise to create a “natural alarm clock” for inhabitants. Every detail of the structure has been considered: a northern wall offers privacy, custom-designed clerestory windows diffuse natural light, and a path leading from the house to the carport protects visitors from the elements.

Seated on the cork floor of the workspace, where I can often be found between tours, Wright’s perception of human movement and natural tendency becomes clear. One’s eye is immediately drawn to the splendors of the outdoors, reflecting Wright’s firm belief that human development and nature feed one another.Architecture, philosophy, education, and art meld seamlessly. It is one thing to study Wright’s original plans and architectural observations for Kentuck, but it is quite another to pause for a moment and watch the translation from theory to reality.

Much as I enjoy this house and my job there, I disagree with the notion that a guided tour of any historic home is the most enlightening or educational method of experiencing it. A truly functional space speaks for itself. This certainly stands true for Kentuck—in fact, my understanding of the home and of Wright’s principles of organic architecture have blossomed more because of my own silent observations than because of the time spent studying tour scripts and books about organic architecture.

—from an essay by Elyse K, photo via HOSSedia