there are several different recollections of how, exactly,
the dance of the pen ended,
here is the one most often told: By the early 1980s, Reed’s
art department wanted pure focus upon modern art, which somehow
calligraphy was not. Palladino found out that his course had
lost its credit by reading the minutes of a faculty meeting.
It was 1984, six years after Lloyd Reynolds’s death.
X is the symbol for an unknown quantity, and that’s
what those who decided to get rid of calligraphy never understood:
to Reynolds and Palladino (and to the more than half of the
Reed student body who protested the discrediting of the class)
it wasn’t arts and crafts, it was art and life. It
wasn’t making pretty letters, it was making connections
to other worlds.
I would have made the same decision had I been the head of the
college, not knowing the class,” Michael McPherson says. “But
it wasn’t about calligraphy to me as a student—it was
about an entire approach to education itself.”
“Lloyd Reynolds conveyed a grand vision
of writing,” confirms Chuck Bigelow. “Those who thought
it was merely a quaint, ornamental frivolity saw no reason to continue
it. They saw it as penmanship. Lloyd saw it as civilization.”
You can feel it, even today,
in the power of the memories. Things that were said, things that
were discovered, are recalled in exact detail 35, 40, 50 years
later. It was just a class, just some paper and pens and a prophet
and a priest. Why do Reedies still care?
“People felt a real loss when calligraphy
left Reed,” Georgiana Greenwood concludes. “It touched
them so personally. There was never another course quite like that.”
adorning the trees ended with the termination of Reed’s calligraphy program. “ All
distances are within reach,” reads one of the “weathergrams.” Reynolds
conceived the form; haiku-like poems drawn to hang in the garden.
“The tree chops the ax.”
“The horizon can be extended by standing
A dance of the
pen, indeed. “You
make the discovery,” Lloyd Reynolds once said. “You
shove off the lid and the light is blinding and you gaze into infinity;
every person is sacred, nothing is profane!”
Todd Schwartz is a writer who lives
in Portland. His mother, Margaret Sprinkle ‘44, insists that
Lloyd Reynolds was never cranky when he was her thesis adviser.