The Hippo


Nov 20, 2019








Classes in Emma Blood French Hall in the early 1900’s. Courtesy photo.

See “Emma Blood French Hall 100th Anniversary”

Where: Emma Blood French Gallery, 148 Concord St., Manchester; Roger Williams Gallery, 77 Amherst St., Manchester
When: On view through Dec. 17; hours for both galleries are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon
Contact:,, 623-0313

Time to celebrate
NHIA commemorates 100 years of Emma Blood French Hall

By Kelly Sennott

 When the New Hampshire Institute of Art — formerly the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences — turned 100 in 1998, there was a lot going on. At the time, the school was gaining authorization to award bachelor of fine arts degrees and in the midst of getting rebranded and renamed. 

“At that time, they were celebrating much more than 100 years,” Betsy Holmes, the school’s library director, said during an interview at the school.
But about two years ago, as the Manchester City Library’s Carpenter Memorial Library Building was turning 100, NHIA staff realized the 100th birthday of the school’s iconic Emma Blood French Hall was approaching too — another opportunity for a centennial celebration. And so, the school hosts a show, “Emma Blood French Hall 100th Anniversary Exhibition,” on view through Dec. 17 and curated by Holmes, photography chair Gary Samson and gallery director Sam Trioli.
Technically, it’s two exhibitions; the first, on view in the Emma Blood French Gallery, looks at history, particularly the early 1900s, when Manchester was becoming an industrial powerhouse. 
“Once they had a strong industrial base … the next thing was to bring a cultural life to the city. So the institute was formed [in 1898],” said Jan Sutcliffe, a filmmaker and Manchester history enthusiast who is working with NHIA on an oral history project.
About 20 years later, the institute needed a permanent venue. In came Emma Blood French, who underwrote, built and gifted Emma Blood French Hall in 1916 to the organization as a place to hold lectures, concerts, art exhibits, film presentations, etc. 
Hanging in the gallery are historic photos of the founders and its first students, plus early building blueprints, where viewers will see that not much has changed in the past 100 years, said Holmes. Alongside the images are text boxes offering more information about French and her family, who’ve played an enormous role in the city’s cultural scene. 
French’s father, Aretas Blood, developed many millyard buildings and chartered Manchester Locomotives Works. Her mother, Lavinia Kendall, helped establish the Women’s Aid and Relief Society, and her sister, Eleanora, married Frank Carpenter, who would eventually build the city library building in her memory. French’s granddaughter Mary Fuller Spencer bequeathed the college a $26 million endowment, and her grandson Henry Melville Fuller willed the Currier Museum $43 million.
“So you have this family who’s had a huge impact on the Manchester culture, and not just with the institutions,” Holmes said.
The other show, at the nearby Amherst Street Gallery, is an art exhibition featuring about 30 pieces by faculty past and present. A few days before the opening, Trioli was working with senior Christin Graham, who helps manage the Manchester galleries, placing finishing touches on the walls. 
“This is a good example of the future of the school,” Trioli said, pointing to a book by new faculty member Erin Sweeney. “Since she’s come to the school, student interest in book arts has been amazing.”
They pointed to a print by Elizabeth Cameron and a handful of pieces by Patrick McCay. On the walls was art by Earl Schofield, Alison Williams, Marcus Greene, among others. Former artist laureate James Aponovich, who taught at the institute years back, would be dropping off a piece soon, and Chris Archer would be creating an installation piece going through the gallery wall.
Trioli, a former student who began taking classes at the institute in high school, said he’s been trying to create a balanced show with a variety of media, from paintings and photos to jewelry and mixed media. Graham said she’s been enjoying seeing her teachers’ work.
“A lot of teachers, in my experience, don’t want to show you their work because they don’t want to influence you in one way or another,” Graham said. “So this is cool because you can see what they’re doing in their own time.”
The anniversary also presents cause for the school to look further into NHIA history outside the French building, as many records were lost over the years due to fires and school transitions. 
Sutcliffe said research has involved digging through archives and interviewing locals (18 so far) about the institute’s earliest days. One man was at the school from 1935 to 1940 and knew Maud Briggs Knowlton, who went on to become a director of the Currier Museum of Art, an unusual role for a woman at the time. Another woman remembered walking by the institute and hearing the symphony playing. 
“One hundred years sounds like a long time, but one of the most interesting things was interviewing a woman whose great-grandfather was instrumental in building the Carpenter Memorial Library right next door — and so it was her great-great-aunt who was the one who donated the money and had the institute built. It’s not so far away,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s terrific to be able to sit down and really bring people’s attention to something that is still so alive in the midst of this city.” 

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