Kite Day—Reimagined

On a Saturday in early May, each year from 1961 to 1975, the skies above a farm field on Stone Hill would fill with student-designed, handmade kites as part of Kite Day. That tradition is being revived this fall by Rosenburg Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology Hank Art.

Art, who joined the Williams faculty in the early 1970s, has fond memories of Kite Day. The event was organized each year by H. Lee Hirsche, who was recruited to the college in 1956 to help create the studio art program. According to a website devoted to Hirsche and his work, he was an “inventive artist” who worked in a variety of media, including wood sculpture, stone construction, brass and copper fountains, and oil and acrylic paintings.

Kite Day was the culmination of Hirsche’s Art 306-Basic Design course, in which students designed, built, and launched their kites on Stone Hill.

“It was a huge community event that everyone looked forward to,” Art says. “There would be signs up all over town announcing it. It was a magnificent event that brought the college and the town together.”

Art’s re-envisioned Kite Day includes students from his Natural History of the Berkshires: Stone Hill course, along with those from Associate Professor of Physics Fred Strauch’s Quantum Physics and art lecturer Ben Benedict’s Sustainabuilding classes. It ties in with the Clark Art Institute’s Family Day on Oct. 2, celebrating the special exhibition Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill. The exhibit at the Lunder Center is co-curated by Art and Mark Taylor, professor of religion at Columbia. In addition to the students flying kites, the Williams Percussion Ensemble will also perform.

This year’s Kite Day took place Oct. 2 at Stone Hill, near the Thomas Schutte sculpture “Crystal.”