January: American Stories
“I see it as the start of a conversation,” said Lisa Crossman, curator of American art and arts of the Americas at Amherst’s Mead Art Museum. She was talking to Amherst magazine about her first Mead exhibition, titled Founding Narratives and created with intern Maya Foster ’23. It considered the role of art in creating, reinforcing and challenging our ideas about national identity. Crossman intended it to be the first of many Mead shows to present “more diverse and inclusive stories about art produced in the United States.”
February: The Art of Solidarity
In her collaborative performance piece Unraveling, Professor of Art and the History of Art Sonya Clark ’89 asked viewers to help pull apart a Confederate flag. In Twist, she fashioned a typeface based on the curl pattern of her own hair. And in 2021, the former psychology major invited the Amherst community to ponder solidarity and community through the Solidarity Book Project. Commissioned by the College for its 2021 Bicentennial, this project also honored the five-year anniversary of the Amherst Uprising student protests and the 50th anniversary of the Black studies department.
“Since I was 4 years old, I wanted to be part of the Boy Scouts,” said Sydney Ireland ’23. Amherst enrolled women in the ’70s. It took the Boy Scouts until 2020—thanks, in part, to Ireland’s unrelenting efforts. Here, she talked about her experience as part of the first cohort of young women to earn the Eagle Scout rank.
April: Made for the Mead
When Zoe Akoto ’21 organized the inaugural Black Art Matters Festival in 2018, “it was a lot more DIY then, for sure,” she said. She asked around among friends to find Black student artists to show their work, and she personally carried the display easels into the event space. In 2021, the festival graduated to a full-fledged exhibition in the Mead Art Museum: “BAM really just has been taking off.”
For Commencement 2021, families and friends arrived in LeFrak Gymnasium and settled into their seats, doffing raincoats and chatting, all gearing up to watch the graduates onscreen in Coolidge Cage. Marvina Brewer, mother of Reginald M. Brewster ’21, expressed the joy felt by many in the room: “We are so happy today!”
The 2021 graduating class boasted numerous national fellowship and scholarship winners, including a Rhodes Scholar. Watson Fellow Eniola Ajao ’21 offered a sentiment that many of them likely share. “I am most looking forward to the chance encounters with strangers that branch into more encounters and open up unexpected opportunities. I am also excited for the opportunity to be totally independent, and the growth that will inevitably follow.”
July: The Moderna Era
“My God. It’s a home run.” That’s what Moderna president Stephen Hoge ’98 thought when he saw the first Phase I trial data for his company’s COVID-19 vaccine. For a decade, Moderna had pioneered the messenger RNA approach, but until COVID, few had noticed or cared. In this Amherst magazine cover story, Hoge shared the inside story of how the vaccine came to be, and what’s next.
The class of 2025 and this year’s transfer students brought to campus a joy of learning and a resilience in persevering through a pandemic. They also brought the widest range of backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives of any group of students in the College’s history.
September: The Bicentennial Essays
These specially commissioned essays from Amherst magazine will bring you onto the Connecticut River before dawn. You’ll walk through an open door into Chapman House, where you’ll meet an unforgettable group of friends. You’ll witness a moment of deep humanity in the office of a thesis adviser. And you’ll go to class, where you’ll read Emily Dickinson on the quad, take responsibility for your own ideas and embrace your endless contradictions.
“I waited 200 years for this!” So joked Lisa Zheutlin ’22 at The Bicentennial Party this fall. President Biddy Martin arrived on horseback, re-enacting with several students Zephaniah Swift Moore’s defection from Williams in 1821. The evening crested to a performance from Common, the Grammy and Academy Award-winning rapper, who brought Joy Hall ’24 up onstage and pulled off an impressive “freestyle verse / at Amherst,” as students bobbed and danced. The night ended with a fireworks show, as the finale crackled with incandescent cascades of purple and white.
“In my family's history of being removed to Oklahoma, there was a lot of loss, but, more importantly, there is survival as well. Hard fought survival. Obviously, I am living proof of that survival.” So said Carley Malloy ’22, one of four Amherst students featured in text and photographs in celebration of Native American Heritage Month this year.
Emma Spencer ’23E and Sabrina Lin ’21 have launched two projects centered on interviews with people whose stories they believe need to be heard: those who served the U.S. military in the Vietnam War, and those who live and work in Chinatowns across the country. Both endeavors are Projects for Peace, which “support and encourage today’s motivated youth to create and test their own ideas for building peace.”