Interim President Brown Leads Students Through Art and History at U.S. Capitol

By Caitlin Burns | September 21, 2017

While many students visit the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., few receive a guided tour of the Capitol’s art and history by a former U.S. Senator.

On Sept. 15, Arcadia University’s Interim President Hank Brown led Art and Design students through a tour of the Capitol’s art, which include diverse works from artists such as Francis Bicknell Carpenter, Constantino Brumidi, Thomas Crawford, Vinnie Ream, and Allyn Cox.

Brown, a five-time U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator from Colorado, remains on a first-name basis with many of the Capitol workers and aides, even more than 20 years after leaving the Senate. His closeness with Capitol workers enabled Arcadia students to have an in-depth tour of locations not available to the public.

After viewing a stained glass depiction of George Washington during the Revolutionary War in the dining room, Brown led Arcadia students, faculty, and Trustees through the Capitol to the Senate floor, Treaty Room, the Old Senate Chamber, the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, House of Representatives, and the Allyn Cox corridor.

“Art is like a time capsule,” said Brown. “It tells us history. It shows us what it was like at that time, even if we don’t agree with those values anymore.”

Students engaged in politics and history as Brown led the group through the tour and shared anecdotes about his time as a legislator. One particular story that Brown delighted in telling was how senators carve their names into the desks where they sit, a tradition dating back to the 1800s.

“For me, this combines my interests in art and politics perfectly,” said Dion “Sam” Smith ’19, a Political Science major who has participated in several of the art programs, including the Global Field Study to Rome. “Originally, I thought this was just going to be an art department field trip, but I realize what a great opportunity it is. Today was amazing.”

The 17 students were joined by faculty members Carole Loeffler, chair and associate professor of Art; Jill Pederson, associate professor of Art History; Elizabeth Ferrell, assistant professor of Art History; Amy Widestrom, associate professor of Historical and Political Studies, and Ana Maria García, associate professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice. Additionally, six Board of Trustee members attended– Chair Alison Aaron Madsen Esq. ’85; Vice Chair Joycellen Young Auritt ’71, Ph.D.; Lois E. Haber ’71, ’16H; Babette Senker Krug ’68, ’81M; Robert E. Putney, III; and Jean S. Hassler ’00M, as well as former Trustee Patti Debow.

“[Brown] was so passionate in talking about the [John] Trumbull paintings in the Rotunda,” said Pederson. “Cross disciplinary events like this are great, and they allow our students to make connections outside the classroom. It is our curriculum in action.”

For Trustees, the tour served as a way to bring together many University community members, while providing students with an opportunity unique to Arcadia.  

“The students are very engaged,” said Board Chair Madsen. “The obvious benefit of an event like this is exposing students to an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have, but the tangential benefit is a shared experience with trustees, faculty, and the interim president.”