Sage Cowles, pivotal supporter of University's Theatre Arts & Dance Department, Dies at 88
Artist, thoughtful advisor, understanding friend and visionary philanthropist, Sage Cowles passed away peacefully November 21, 2013. "Sage along with her husband John Cowles, who died last year, were pivotal supporters of dance and theatre in this community, across Minnesota, and the United States," stated Carl Flink, U of M's Theatre Arts & Dance Department chair. "Together they have left an enduring legacy within our department that will likely touch it as long as it exists through the Sage Cowles Land Grant Guest Artist Chair program, their support of the Barker Center for Dance, the new Guthrie Theater building, the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, and so much more."
Sage Cowles' passionate support of the U of M's Dance Program literally rescued it from being eliminated in the mid-1980s and transformed it into the nationally regarded program it is today. When a conventional block-style building on the University campus was being proposed to house the dance program, benefactors Sage and John Cowles stepped forward and suggested that new building should "leap skyward," and donated the necessary funds to create today's soaring Barker Center for Dance. Opened in 1999, the Center located at 500 21st Ave on the West Bank of the Twin Cities campus, provides much-needed classroom and studio space.
In 1987, she established the Sage Cowles Land Grant Chair connecting nationally and internationally recognized artists and scholars with dance students, exposing them to contemporary artistry, masterwork and new thinking in dance studies. University of Minnesota Dance is unique for its extensive use of renowned professional artists in the education and training of students. There have been many notable artists and scholars on campus over the years, as well as licensing of masterworks including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Jose Limon, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Bill T. Jones, Lar Lubovitch, Trisha Brown, Lin Hwai-min, Donald Byrd, and others.
The program has also commissioned of new work through the Cowles Land Grant Chair including artists such as David Dorfman, Zvi Gotheiner, Bebe Miller, Tere O'Connor, Doug Varone, Sardono Kusumo, Nora Chipaumire, and many more. Notable dance scholars have also been invited to speak on campus and interact with performances and symposia, including Thomas DeFrantz, Susan Foster, and Brenda Dixon Gottschild to name a few.
"Her gift has helped to make us one of the most cherished and respectable dance programs in the country," commented Ananya Chatterjea, Director of Dance. "Our students have benefited from the exposure and opportunities to train with wide ranging artists, explore historical to contemporary works, techniques and approaches."
UMTAD Chair Carl Flink recalled "Sage and John Cowles enthusiastically attended student performances of Dance Revolutions by University Dance Theatre each year to nurture and support the next generation of performing artists. They will be greatly missed."