In the years 1966-69, my (then) husband and I lived on campus at UC Santa Cruz, as preceptors in the dorms (translation = house parents). We were in our mid 20's barely older than those crazy young students we were supposed to be watching over. The late 60's on the West Coast was the apex of the hippie era, and Santa Cruz was definitely on the map for the flower-power generation. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was the mantra of those years. Cowell College had an amazing mixture of creative and eccentric intellectuals. Living in the dormitory next door to us were Philip and Beatrice Terzian Thompson, and we four became the closest of friends in those years. Philip was an amazing poet. (A book of his brilliant work, Dusk and Dawn, has just been published by Cowell alumnus, Gideon Rappaport.) Beatrice is an artist, and taught students how to draw - first at Cowell, and then for many years at the Brearley School in New York. She also is the author of a book about Drawings by High School Students. We entertained each other wildly, cooking huge Italian and Armenian meals, reading aloud to each other, looking at art, socializing with the faculty, and marveling at the student world swirling around us.
During spring break, 1969, when all the students and faculty had vacated the campus, the four of us got a notion to undertake a fun project. The college had an unused room underneath the Cowell Dining Hall. For some reason we decided to decorate this empty room while everyone was away, and then throw a surprise party there when they all came back again. For two weeks, we barely slept. We drove all over 3 counties going from super market to super market begging for the colorful food advertising that, in those days, was common throughout grocery stores. Sometimes we scored big - whole rolls of oranges, for example, that we used to cover the ceiling and floors.
For days and nights we cut and arranged and glued our food art onto the walls, ceiling, and floor until every inch of the room was completely covered in colorful food. It looked so terrific, but lacked a certain finishing touch. So we bought a large piece of green astro-turf for the floor, and hauled a couple of large rocks into the room, to complete the artificial "dejeuner sur l'herbe" effect.
When spring break was over, we sent invitations to the whole of Cowell College to come to a party in THE FRUIT ROOM. Nobody was allowed in until the party began. Meanwhile, we had set up huge bushel baskets of fresh fruit as our only refreshment for the party. In the photograph below, Philip and Beatrice Thompson, our co-creators, sit along the wall at this party.
Page Smith, founding Provost of Cowell College, below, has a piece of fruit.
Jasper Rose, art historian, joined the party.
In the photo below, Mary Holmes, Professor of Art History, sits with Professor Jasper Rose.Below, Sara Holmes Boutelle (author of the book Julia Morgan, Architect), with Philip Thompson.
Philip and Jane, with Keith Christiansen (now the Curator of Italian Art at the New York Metropolitan Museum, but formerly a Cowell College student and pal).
A writer from American Artist magazine came to view the room soon after it opened. He was very excited about it and wanted to do an article for the magazine. However, once he determined that we had not been using any drugs while we created the Fruit Room, he declared that it was "not significant" and went away! It didn't matter that we were high on the creative process. The late 60's were all about hallucinogens, and we were not!
Several years later, long after the four of us had left the college, Cowell covered up all the fruit in the FRUIT ROOM and painted it white again. No trace of it remains now, except in the memories of those of us who were part of it.