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Conrad Churchill Skinner ’74

March 2, 2023, in Denver, Colorado, after a short and sudden illness.

The eldest of four sons, Conrad grew up in McLean, Virginia, and attended Potomac School and Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school, where he excelled at soccer and visual arts. He spent a year in France as a high school student, learning French and memorably sporting an opera cape and smoking cigarettes in the balcony at the Paris Opera.

Conrad studied art at Reed, producing a thesis titled “Xerox Itself” under the guidance of Prof. Lewis Rakosky [art 1972–75]. After graduating, he lived for two and a half years in Tokyo, where he tutored Japanese students in English, learned fluent Japanese, and played the game of Go, which he continued to play and study throughout his life. He maintained respectful friendships with prominent Japanese artists and architects and would later have a solo sculpture show in Tokyo at Gallery Te.

Following a stint fabricating and installing large-scale sculpture for artist Dennis Oppenheim in New York, Conrad moved to Santa Fe, where he resided for 40 years. A visionary and working architect who earned his MA in architecture from the University of New Mexico, Conrad was committed to designing architecture for the human body. His connection with contemporary art, sculpture, and dance spanned his lifetime.

Conrad had a particular fascination with the design of the never-finished Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe, and became an advocate when the structure was threatened with demolition. His research project into the history of the amphitheater played a lead role in 2016’s SITE Santa Fe biennial, with a gallery he designed constituting the show’s introductory room.

Conrad was profoundly influenced by his maternal grandmother, Mary Senior Churchill, with whom he spent much time as a boy and young man soaking in the cultural life of her home town of New York City. Henry Churchill, his maternal grandfather, was an architect and urban planner in New York and Philadelphia who designed and built the first Bauhaus-inspired skyscraper in Manhattan.

A lover of nature and physical activities, Conrad grew up camping in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and sailing under the tutelage of his father, Homer, an expert sailor and a naval architect with Quaker roots from a Massachusetts whaling family. Conrad’s accomplishments as a sailor developed during childhood summers in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He participated with his father and his brother Graham in the 1978 Marion to Bermuda Race aboard Homer’s beloved Hinckley Bermuda 40 yawl, Capella. Many family dinners included avid retellings of Bermuda races and boasts about winning a match race against Marblehead’s greatest sailmaker.

In New Mexico, Conrad and his wife Ellen Berkovitch hosted many gatherings of friends and family. The couple took up canoeing at the time they built their house in the mountains, and spent many a windy summer afternoon paddling on lakes and rivers. Conrad also excelled at backcountry skiing and swimming, and was lately devoted to ground training his horse, Uno. His lightning wit and legendary kindness will be missed by his many friends across New Mexico, back East, and abroad.

As a Soto/Rinzai Buddhist of the White Plum Asanga, Conrad took Jukai in December 2022, receiving the name “Uji,” usually translated as “Being-Time,” from Daishin Roshi. Conrad’s delight, curiosity, and dedication in Buddhist practice mirrored the delight, curiosity, and dedication he showed in his vocation and avocations.

Conrad is survived by his wife and best friend of 30 years, Ellen Berkovitch, and his brothers Henry, Graham, and Nathaniel Skinner. He is also survived by his cherished new friend, Amanda Proll.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2023

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