The Arts Are Branching Out at the Top of the Hop

The Hood Museum has installed a digital animation that shimmers—especially at night.

As the sun sets over the Green through the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Top of the Hop, something remarkable happens. A luminous tree appears, as if out of thin air, on the back wall. It moves and shimmers, sending a reflection across the room to the windows. Over the course of a few minutes, nature seems to speed up. Leaves appear on the branches, turn colors, and drop, leaving a stark silhouette before the seasonal cycle starts all over again.

The digital animation, recently acquired by the Hood Museum of Art and projected on the wall at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, is the work of Jennifer Steinkamp, a California-based installation artist who works with video and new media to explore ideas about space, motion, and perception. Titled Judy Crook 9, it’s part of a series named for the artist’s professors at the Art College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., says John Stomberg, the Hood Museum’s Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director.

“This is a wonderful thank you, an ode, to the teachers who taught her about color, motion, depth, and all the other wonderful things that make art,” says Stomberg.  

Stomberg says the Hop will display Judy Crook 9 for a year. After that, he says, the work may move into an addition to the Hood Museum that is now under construction. “Or it may show up where people least expect it, somewhere else on campus,” says Stomberg, adding that the donors, Tom Russo ’77 and Gina Tugwell Russo ’77, are enthusiastic about putting art in public spaces on campus.

Stomberg will give a gallery talk, “Of Trees and Life: Contemplating the Art of Jennifer Steinkamp,” at the Top of the Hop at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

After the Steinkamp tree began to glimmer, Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard Gilman ’44 Director of the Hop, began programming “art-infused social events” in the second-floor space, which, in addition to a sweeping view of the Green, has a fireplace and comfortable furniture.

“If you stand in that room and you look at the Green from those windows, you realize the Top of the Hop is premier real estate on this campus,” says Aleskie. “Jenny Steinkamp’s tree brings a warm glow and an ambience that was not there before.”

Hop audiences are invited to gather near the tree before and after performances, sometimes around a pop-up bar. “We’ve also moved some pre-concert talks upstairs,” says Aleskie, “and instead of having a dozen people show up—pretty typical in Moore Theater—we’re seeing 30 or 40.”

Aleskie says the Top of the Hop is a natural extension of the lobby at the main entrance to the building. “We think it’s a really great space, kind of like the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center overlooking Central Park. We may also present student performances in there,” she says.

Aleskie, like Stomberg, sees Dartmouth as a place “where the arts cannot be contained.” She can’t resist a pun. “We’re branching out,” she says.

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected].