Reunion Weekend 2019 (June 7-9) will be a special one for Mark Richardson ’73 and the League of Bears.
While this is not a “milestone reunion” for Mark, the School will dedicate a bronze bear sculpture on Saturday, June 8, in honor of “The Bear,” Arthur C. Chase, a long-time Berkshire faculty member widely admired by generations of Berkshire students. An accomplished artist whose works are in many private collections, Mark is the proud creator of the bear sculpture that will soon adorn Berkshire's beautiful campus.
Presently, Mark’s signature design work serves prominent real estate developers and architects throughout New York, and his branding, design, typography, and illustration have been recognized nationally and internationally.
He has received awards from Art Direction magazine’s Creativity Awards; Neenah Paper’s Expression Awards; the International Consort Royal Paper Awards; the Summit Creative Awards; the Boston, Westchester, and Los Angeles Art Director’s Clubs; the American Institute of Graphic Arts; Smithsonian magazine; and The Society of Illustrators.
Furthermore, his work has been featured in many prestigious design publications including Graphis Designers USA 2, the Graphis Design Annual, HOW magazine, and U.S. Ad Review’s The Best in American Advertising. His work has been cited in The Washington Post, New York magazine, and Crain's Business.
We are eager to welcome Mark back to campus next month and continue to be inspired by his remarkable talent and work!
What drew you to the arts? I was born into a house of artists with art of every kind on the walls. Each nook was filled with objects of beauty, and bookshelves were filled with art books. My mother had many talents, but first and foremost, she was a painter and the creative “soul” of the family. From early childhood, she would sit me down with lots of paper, crayons, and pencils. Her younger brother, Malcolm, was a superb portrait and landscape painter trained in Europe. Uncle Mal would often escape his New York City walk-up and stay with us for weeks to paint. I would sit for hours at a time to watch him work. And older brothers were budding artists. With mother’s urging over time, I learned to paint in watercolor and dry brush, draw in pen and ink, and later paint in egg tempera, acrylics, and oils.
How did Berkshire help shape you to pursue your goals? When I arrived as a sophomore, the Art Department was practically nonexistent. On a shoestring budget, art teacher Margot Mabie did a great job exposing us to the world of art and encouraged us to experiment in many mediums. When I returned junior year, the School had hired photography teacher Bob Witkowski who liked my eye and took me under his wing. He would take me with his photography buddies on shooting expeditions. I lived in the darkrooms in Godman, perfecting my skills. Bob also set up a series of lectures by several well-known photographers of the day. With Bob’s help, I was honored to attend the Apeiron Photograph Workshop in Millerton, NY, the following fall to study under the famous art photographer Paul Caponigro. It was a remarkable life-changer and raised my skills and eye to a whole different plateau. Before my return to school in October, my brother, Dave, gave me his large-format 4x5 camera. I roamed the Mountain with cameras and tripod in hand and shot scores of images. All of it helped me to gain entrance into Rhode Island School of Design and graduate with honors. I was also awarded the Art Prize at graduation that June.
How is the Berkshire of today the same as it was when you were here and how has it changed? In many ways, it is very much the same. A tightly knit community where one becomes a part of the family can only be possible at a smaller school in a rural setting. That incredible setting and natural beauty influenced us all, and a “you can do anything” attitude was instilled in us by so many. What has changed is that Berkshire has grown into a world-class school in its teaching, sports, and facilities.
What are your fondest memories of Berkshire? Roaming the Mountain and learning to love a natural world I never knew growing up in suburban New York, learning to collaborate and be a team player, learning how to be fearless, and learning how to lead and take risks. We had a number of good underclassmen photographers at the school. We became a tag team and were always sharing notes to improve our collective skills. Because of the tight community, I have made life-long friends of fellow students and former teachers. Several of my classmates—including Ken Gordon, Bill Drake, Harold Clayton, Rex Morgan, Jerry Weil—myself, and several student volunteers teamed up in 2008 with Dean Chamberlain (also Class of ’73) to create one of Dean’s famous “light paintings”—a photograph of the ravine in Glenny Brook that appeared on the cover of the Fall 2009 Berkshire Bulletin. It was a great experience.
What do you hope current and future students take away from the Bear tribute sculpture This Bear sculpture is not about a black bear. It’s about a chance encounter with the spirit of The Bear. Visually, I hope it inspires students to be driven, courageous, brave, and more importantly, open and curious—and to be irrepressible.
Who was Art Chase on campus and why do you think he’s had such a lasting legacy on so many? Art Chase was that “scholar/warrior” we all looked up to and was an imposing man with a soft touch. He was my senior English teacher, a team maker, and one of many moral compasses at the School in a turbulent time for our country. He led by example. If you think about this sculpture in the context of a team, I created the sculpture but could by no means have done this solely on my own. So many very talented artisans from the foundry have worked on it. Alumni in the League of Bears, many at Berkshire School, and that wider community have all influenced this. My guess is at least 100 hands have touched it—plus my two, of course.
A special thank you to Rex Morgan ’73 and Alex Holton ’74 for their contributions to this article.