Released Jan . 18, 1999
DANVILLE, KY -- What does rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley have in common with international artist Pablo Picasso and writer Virginia Woolf? All earned high marks in The Centre 100, a compilation developed by Centre College students and faculty describing the most important artists and works of art from the past century.
After months of research, discussion and some heated debate, Centre has unveiled the listing of best movies, novels, musical artists and visual artists of the last 100 years. The combined final list reflects a wide-ranging mix of popular and classical artists, famous individuals and brilliant unknowns, along with a few selections that were personal favorites of individual committee members.
An even more wide-ranging list is emerging as the college tallies votes from its Centre 100 website (www.centre.edu), as well as paper ballots cast by the entire college community of students and employees. The website voting will continue throughout 1999, concluding with the end of the century and the millennium.
A Centre 100 exhibit opened today in the college's Norton Center for the Arts and will remain on display through the winter and spring terms.
Students and staff members plan to keep the list alive well into the next century by putting a copy in a time capsule to be buried during installation festivities for Centre's new president, John A. Roush, set for mid-April. The time capsule is to be opened during Homecoming 2050.
In its entirety, The Centre 100 features four groupings, citing the century's "top 25" in the categories of novels, movies, musical artists and visual artists. Presley followed the Beatles at the top of the list of influential musicians, while Picasso headlined the list of great artists. Citizen Kane and The Godfather got top billing among movies, and James Joyce's Ulysses rated as the top novel, followed by William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!.
"The list is intended not to prove, but to provoke," says Mike Norris, Centre's director of communications and coordinator of the project. "The Centre 100 list stimulates thought and discussion, rather than proving one artist is better than another."
Norris says that, as the world prepares for the close of a century and a millennium, the college sees an opportunity to encourage students to think about remarkable people and achievements from the past. "Before they cast their final votes," Norris says, "every committee member faced three questions. Which artists have really spoken to me personally? Which artists have other people admired? What have historians and experts said about these artists?"
Answering the questions required research and a lot of thinking, Norris notes, but then came the even harder task of translating information into decisions. "I served on the music committee," Norris says, "and we had a lot of fun arguing about whether to pick musicians who were the most popular -- or ones with top musical skills. In the end, we looked for both."
Stan Campbell, director of the library at Centre, also participated in the balloting and was surprised by some of the results. "The lists for music and movies turned out to be quite different from the lists for novels and artists," Campbell says. "But that's because music and movies are so much a part of our culture. The average person on the street has an opinion about good movies, whether it's Casablanca or Schindler's List. Many people don't know nearly so much about great novelists of past years, and we're often unfamiliar with great artists."
Campbell says the music list looked "a little goofy" to him at first because it brought together such an odd range of people. On second thought, he decided the list was "sensible" in its spann of many musical types and instruments. "Since we were claiming to cover all of music in the 20th century, we felt the list had to be representative. A great figure from rock 'n' roll, somebody from jazz, somebody from classical. But when it came down to assigning numbers, how could we compare Elvis Presley with Igor Stravinsky? The numbers got a little arbitrary."
The movies list was equally varied, ranging from the original, terrifying Psycho to the cowboy classic Stagecoach and the Marx brothers' hilarious Duck Soup. The list reaches back to one silent film, Gold Rush (1925), and comes forward to Schindler's List (1993).
The novels' list covers a few U.S. best-sellers such as All the King's Men and Catch-22, but also brings in works by African novelist Chinua Achebe and British writer Iris Murdoch.
The visual artists ranged from turn-of-the-century painter Claude Monet to contemporary sculptor Richard Serra and glass artist Dale Chihuly.
The lists are bound to generate disagreement, according to Campbell. "I've got to call my friends who picked the novels list," Campbell says with a laugh, "and demand to know why they didn't include John LeCarré and Mickey Spillane. I love a great detective story, and LeCarré has written some of the best."
Disagreement? Discussion? "Great," says Norris. "That's exactly what we wanted."
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The Centre 100 List
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422
Coordinator of Public Information: Patsi Barnes Trollinger
Telephone 606-238-5719 · firstname.lastname@example.org