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    • The Drummer Boy by William Morris Hunt

    • Cartoon by Dan Wasserman in The Boston Globe

Alumni in the Arts

Craigin Maloney ’21 Arts Editor
Hopkins is renowned for its outstanding STEM programs and boasts hundreds of accomplished alumni in a variety of scientific fields.
But less talked about are the Hopkins students whose passion lies in the arts. This piece encompasses some of Hopkins’ most established alumni in the performing arts, visual arts, and music industries, starting as early as 1834 and spanning the next two centuries.

For most of its existence, Hopkins produced few notable actors. But as the drama department grew and Lovell Hall produced more trained actors, the number of Hopkins students pursuing acting professionally also increased. The first Hopkins alumnus that landed roles of any significance was George DiCenzo ’58. DiCenzo made appearances in over 30 major productions, most famously as Marty McFly’s grandfather Sam Baines in "Back to the Future." Along with regular appearances on "Murder She Wrote" and "NYPD Blue," DiCenzo also dabbled in directing, making a series of showings as a guest producer on TV shows. 

Despite DiCenzo’s success in the industry, he never landed as big of a role as Alexander DiPersia ’00. In 2016, DiPersia played Bret in "Light’s Out," an American supernatural horror film. Though these two men have had featured parts in big films, neither of them have had a role in a major television show like Scott Lowell ’83. Lowell plays Ted Schmidt, a sex-loving crystal-meth-addicted accountant, in "Queer as Folk." Lowell continues to find success in the industry, recently being cast in the Broadway production of "Elephant Man," appearing alongside famous actor Bradley Cooper. 

Hopkins alums have a long history of finding success as painters and illustrators, starting with William Morris Hunt, class of 1834. By the end of his life, Hunt had become so renowned in the art world that the library in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was named in his honor. Throughout his lifetime, Hunt painted half a dozen well-known paintings. Three are on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: "The Bathers" (1877), "Portrait of Morris Hunt, son of William Morris Hunt" (1857), and "The Drummer Boy "(1862). 

A more recent Hopkins artist is Dan Wasserman ’67. Wasserman is currently working at The Boston Globe as an established political cartoonist. Wasserman’s journey never had one set destination; in fact, Wasserman admitted that at Hopkins he “spent more time doing school theater” because he always felt that “there were other students who were better artists and better cartoonists.” Swarthmore, his college of choice, had “a poor arts program at the time,” leaving Wasserman to be completely self-taught. Despite the “rejection letters that... accumulated when … [Wasserman] was looking for a staff job as a newspaper editorial cartoonist” Wasserman persisted, and finally landed a spot at the Boston Globe. Though Hopkins may not have been instrumental in his artistic training, Wassmerman maintained that “the best thing Hopkins did was teach me how to write.... a crucial part of cartooning”.
 
Along with writing a series of published short stories and essays, Mei Chin ’93 is a food writer whose name can be found in publications such as Vogue, Gourmet, Mirabella, and The New York Times Book Review. Since graduating from Hopkins and later Wesleyan, Chin has been thrown into a whirlwind of job opportunities and success, even landing positions as an editor at Vogue and teaching a course on food writing at Yale. Chin’s writing about food is often motivated by her Chinese-American heritage; most recently reviewing a classic Chinese New Year dish she calls “Steamed Hake with Hosee Fat Choy” on her website, bastethebook.com. Chin is currently working out of Dublin, Ireland, where she has caught the attention of organizations such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and received their Bert Greene award for exceptional food writing twice. Though Chin career isn’t a conventional one, she has already gone far in her industry of choice.

Unsurprisingly, Hopkins has a range of composers who've composed pieces from Yale’s alma mater, “Bright College Years,” to scores for recent cinematic hits like "If Beale Street Could Talk." Hopkins’ first well-known composer was Charles Ives, class of 1894. In 1906, he composed his first musical work, entitled “Central Park in the Dark”. By 1908, he had composed two more symphonies. Around 1910, Ives composed his two most famous pieces: “Holiday Symphony” and “Three Places in New England.”  Ives received recognition from many notable composers and music theorists, including Arnold Schoenberg, who wrote in 1944: “There is a great Man living in this Country – a composer. He has solved the problem [of] how to preserve one's self-esteem and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives.”

More recently, Nicholas Britell ’99 entered the arts world as a prominent cinematic composer. He has scored many movies including a pair of films directed by Natalie Portman: "Eve", and, more famously, "New York, I Love You." His resumé also boasts a number of Hollywood hits, most markedly "The Big Short." He’s been nominated for several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music, which he received in 2019. Britell has found remarkable success for his age: he’s received all these honors before his fortieth birthday. Ives and Britell rose to the top of their industry, and there are dozens more Hopkins graduates who have accomplished a great deal in music, both through composition and playing.  In the words of Pablo Picasso: "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Clearly, Hopkins helps its students hold onto that inner artist.


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