Arrivederci, Sandy Richter

Sandy Richter bid farewell to Moses Brown this spring after 19 years teaching history and art history. Outside the classroom, she coached JV field hockey; worked on costumes and make-up for school musicals; served as community service advisor, including The Hope Exchange which connected MB students with students from Burundi; mentored new teachers; developed humanities curricula; tutored in the learning center; was an academic advisor; created art history lectures for faculty; and was honored with the Bilodeau Faculty Award. She shares some parting thoughts here.

SandyRWhy art history?

I began as an artist. Drawing, painting, making jewelry: you name it, I did it! When my high school studio art teacher pulled together a small group of us seniors to prepare for the Art History AP exam, I was “hooked”. Unexpectedly, art history gave me a new and exciting entry into history — a primary source that (as a visual learner) I could comprehend. I felt like I had broken a secret code: when seen through a visual lens, history suddenly became clear, understood.

Why Moses Brown?

Happy accident. My husband was accepted to the graduate program at RISD for furniture design. We were living in New York and I was teaching at Horace Mann School. I came to interview at MB for a history position and everything changed for me. Sure, I miss the whirling noise of city life, but I found that Providence holds me – how can I put this? – a bit more gently. At Moses Brown, I grew as an educator. I was given time to go deeper, to tend to the craft of teaching. I was encouraged to team-teach a course with English teacher Lenke Wood, to use imagery and architecture in my history courses and eventually to develop an art history elective. At Moses Brown, my own students became my son’s favorite babysitters, and yes, his role models. While they did not wear capes and have superpowers, my students became his heroes. I could not have asked for more.

Here I have met my most honest critics, colleagues, friends and mentors, students who have humbled me with their talent and their deep desire to know. My art history classes always include hands-on building and/or drawing. These raw experiences can be “messy” with a lot of trial and error. This never fazes my students who always delve right in. I like that they have the direct experience of creating, collaborating and touching. In a sense, I am taking them through my own journey from studio art to art history, reminding them, as my teachers did, that there is a difference between looking and seeing, that sight is one of our greatest gifts, that we are all creators.

What does the future hold?

This summer, I will teach art history at a high school in Rome. This is a dream come true. I am bringing my husband and son along for the ride and as it turns out, a few MB students will be joining me on this adventure, too! In the fall, I plan to work for a non-profit downtown that provides college counseling for under-served students in Providence. Leaving is not easy. I am forever grateful to the students and community here. From the bottom of my heart: grazie, Moses Brown.

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