The morning panel, “From Artist to Audience,” found a fitting home on the beach party–inspired set of the A.R.T. revival of Pirates of Penzance, a production newly adapted and directed by the incoming Radcliffe fellow Sean Graney RI ’14. As Radcliffe Dean Lizabeth Cohen noted in her introductory remarks, “What better test could there be of the obstacles to be overcome in moving art from artist to audience?”
The panel, which featured five Radcliffe-affiliated artists, celebrated Radcliffe’s long and vibrant association with the arts and addressed the challenges that artists face in contemporary society.
At the lunch in Radcliffe Yard, Dean Cohen awarded the Radcliffe Medal to the actor Jane Alexander, whom she called “a warrior for the arts.” Cohen recognized Alexander for “her critically acclaimed acting roles in films, theater, and television and her passionate advocacy for the arts as head of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993 to 1997.”
“On this day, when we celebrate the arts at Radcliffe, we also celebrate the talent and accomplishments of a remarkable woman whose life’s work has touched us all,” Cohen said.
Alexander said she felt especially honored to receive the Radcliffe Medal because of her past. After attending Sarah Lawrence College for two years and spending her junior year at the University of Edinburgh—where she “sowed many wild oats,” as she put it, but didn’t do well in school—her father insisted she apply to Radcliffe. When she wasn’t accepted, she headed to New York City with $40 in her pocket. “I never got a college degree,” she said, “but I did all right. So I thank you, Radcliffe. Thank you for turning me down and starting me on my career.”