The cliche “out of crisis comes opportunity” has been used for Greece— repeatedly. Investments, like the recent announcement by Libra Group that it is buying fifty percent of bedding company Coco Mat; new Greek startups that are emerging as a response to the financial crisis and a multitude of new social service non-profits expanding their activities like Desmos, are all great examples of the response of the Greek people to not only overcome the crisis— but beat it.
In my opinion, there is no greater investment at times like these, than education— and in particular education in the field of the arts. Last week, the American College of Greece, based in Athens, announced its largest gift ever in its 137 year history— a $2 million bequest from the estate of renown American sculptor Frances Rich.
Frances Rich was the daughter of silent screen actress Irene Rich. She fell in love with Greece, thanks to a friendship she developed with Koralia Krokodilou whom she met at Smith College in the 1940s. For many years Krokodilou was the Dean of Students at Pierce College, the secondary school division of the American College of Greece. She visited Greece for the first time in 1958 with her friend and fellow actor Katherine Hepburn and began a love affair with the country— and the school— which continues posthumously today.
Rich was an important American sculptor who before dedicating herself exclusively to her art, was an actress herself. She studied English literature at Smith College in Massachusetts, sculpture with Malvina Hoffman in Paris, and Alexander Iacovleff at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; she also worked with sculptor Carl Milles for 18 years.
She often created portraits of some of her famous friends, such as artist Diego Rivera, actress Katharine Hepburn and musician Virgil Thomson. She also sculpted religious figures, like the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi. Her works have been installed among other places in the Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, the University of California, Berkeley, CA, the Boston Public Library and The de Young Museum in San Francisco.
In her honor, the college— the only US accredited institution of higher learning in Athens, renamed its school of fine and performing arts The Frances Rich School of Fine and Performing Arts.
The power and symbolism of this investment in Greece’s future is immeasurable during these times of crisis. The school educates thousands of Greek and international students annually and offers an American model of education— a model of hope and opportunity that is so critical in an environment of hopelessness and 60% youth unemployment.