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Happy Birthday, Nellie Cornish

Happy Birthday, Nellie Cornish

: A colorful line of Nellies in front of the Cornish Main Campus Center, a statue honoring alumnus Merce Cunningham, and construction cranes for the new residence hall. The busts: designed by Ryan Feddersen (AR '09), from the collection of Raymond Maxwell. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Happy Birthday, Nellie Cornish

: Nellie Centennial Cornish in the 1920s. Photo by courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.

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Centennial Watch: 100 years ago, on July 9, 1914, Nellie Cornish celebrated her 38th birthday, she didn’t know it, but she would found an art school 127 days later.

It’s Nellie Cornish’s birthday, a day to celebrate the life of an extraordinary woman, a visionary educator, and the founder of Cornish College of the Arts. This is especially so as the College approaches the beginning of its centennial year on November 14. Nellie set out to revolutionize how the arts were taught in America, and the college that bears her name is still working overtime to live up to her example with an array of exciting advances in curricula and partnerships in the community.

On July 9, 1914, as Nellie Cornish celebrated her 38th birthday, she was planning to do amazing things. It seems incredible now, but founding an art school was not one of them. Nellie had left Seattle behind — so she thought — and was living with her father, Nathan Cornish, in Alturas, California. She was not happy there. “No one in Alturas was interested in my world … life was dull,” she wrote in her autobiography, Miss Aunt Nellie. As July wore on, the two were continuing to work out the details of a trip to Europe in August. However, an event in far away Bosnia not two weeks before on June 28 dominated the headlines and heralded the demise of their planned vacation on the Continent. The assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that day had begun talk of war between the great powers of Europe, and the talk was growing ever more heated. Also on her mind was another plan, as she recalls in her autobiography. It revolved around her father running for district attorney during the summer of 1914. Nathan promised that his salary from this position would underwrite Nellie soaking in the arts for two years in New York City — if he won.

Follow the timeline that culminated in the founding of Cornish in November of 1914:
January, 1914.


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