Richard Lewis '58

Richard Lewis '58


Richard Lewis


Interviewee Role


Significant Quote

“ . . . one of the beauties of Bard and probably still is, is that you're not seen as a as an academic entity that only is concentrating on one thing that there's a whole life around you and in you that if it's tapped, you know, the whole person, so to speak, comes out, not just not just the academic side of you. “


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Class Year


Academic Program

Music; Literature

Class Year



Leëta Damon, Bennett Wood


As a part of an ELAS [Engaged Liberal Arts & Sciences] project for the Fall ‘21 course: Jeanne Lee: the Total Environment, focusing on the Bard Alum and internationally renowned Jazz singer Jeanne Lee ‘61, Leëta Damon ‘24 and Bennett Wood ‘23 interviewed Richard Lewis ‘58 about his experience at Bard, and his relationship with Jeanne Lee. Richard also shared his work in teaching with his Touchstone Foundation, a pedagogic organization that he founded in 1969, devoted to childhood creativity.

Lewis came to Bard in the early 50’s as a Philosophy major, but would soon switch to become a dual Music Composition and Literature major. It was here that he met Jeanne, who was at the time a Psychology major. Richard reminisced over the culture of the Bard that he knew, discussing the small class sizes, expressing his disappointment over not graduating on time, and laughing over how it seemed like the school never had any money. Then Richard shares some memories of the social scene of the time, including venues such as the Hegeman Coffee shop, and Adolph’s, a small pub just off the campus.

On Jeanne Lee: Lewis discusses his experiences working with her both at Bard, and as a teacher at the Touchstone Foundation. Richard recalls Jeanne’s infectious and authentic energy that made a genuine connection with the kids.

[00:26:08] "...Jeanne was multi-dexterous... she was both a singer and a dancer and a playwright and a writer of both scripts and poetry, she was, you know, alive with everything on that level."

[00:53:49] “She also had the children get down on the floor without their shoes on. . . She wanted them to express themselves as different animals, different creatures moving. So this . . . was a moment in which the children were actually becoming other than themselves, which is extremely important, obviously in terms of the imagination. How one can take one's imagination and move it into something else besides ourselves.”

On Life at Bard in the late 1950s: Richard recalls the beauty of Blithewood, and describes the academic and social intensity of a rather small, but intellectually vigorous college -- about 200 students at the time:

[00:07:07] “ . . . one of the beauties of Bard and probably still is, is that you're not seen as a as an academic entity that only is concentrating on one thing that there's a whole life around you and in you that if it's tapped, you know, the whole person, so to speak, comes out, not just not just the academic side of you. “

[00:39:39] “I think Bard gave me and gave the other persons that we were, that I was working with a kind of slant on, on life, on living that was unique. It would kind of risk-taking. A sense of the world is to be explored for its possibilities, a sense that that knowledge is something that can be transformational, both from the listening of it, but also the taking of it and moving it outward to somewhere else to so as well. “

On Touchstone: Richard shares his founding vision for the Touchstone Foundation, including an approach designed to foster imagination not only in the kids they worked with, but also in every other adult involved in the projects.

[00:18:17] When I started Touchstone Center in 1969, one of the things that I wanted it to be, was a organization that will go into the schools, public schools of New York City and work with the arts, be a group of of collaborators which consist of myself, writers, poets, dancers, visual artists, people who were in one shape or form were expressing themselves in different ways.

[00:20:35] “ . . . the idea behind the way of the artists that we were working with together collaboratively, was to bring children to a point in which the imagination opens itself up to the nature of the world that surrounds it, and as deeply as important, the nature of itself. That I am part of this marvelous, extraordinary, beautiful, blossoming moment of the natural world coming to life. “


"Cave", “Dances the Animals”, "Ecology of Childhood", "In Praise of Music", "In the Spirit of Play: Teaching Towards an Ecology of Childhood", "Journeys", "Languages of Being: Reflective Conversations on the Role of Wonder, Play, and Imagination in Learning and Teaching", "Living by Wonder", "Miracles", "On Liberty", "Out of the Earth I Sing", "Realm of the Earth", “The Drum”, “What If? A Poem of our Imagining”, 88th Street, Adolph’s, Africa, African Pygmies, Alex [Benson], American Studies, Army, Art Center of Northern New Jersey, Ashley Bryant, Australia, Bard [College], Bard Archives, Bard Baccalaureate [Program], Blithewood, Bow Street, Bronx, Brooklyn, Canada, Carlos [child in Touchstone program], Carol Lewis, Catskill / Hudson, Catskills, Central Park, Central Park West, Chantelle [child in Touchstone program], Columbia University, Common Course, Dahavius [child in Touchstone program], Dolores [child in Touchstone program], Early Childhood Education, Earth, England, Englewood, NJ, English, Episcopal, Europe, Exploration of the Earth, Fifth Avenue, Fiji Islands, G.I. Bill of Rights, G.I. Bill, George Hirose '79, George Soros, Gigi Alvaré ‘77, Halloween Parade, Hannah Arendt, Harry Mann, Heinrich Bluecher, Henry Simon, Henry Street, Henry Street Settlement, Hudson [River], I.S. [Intermediate School] 227, India, Ireland, James Case, Jean Erdman, Jeanne Fleming '70, Jeanne Lee ‘61, John Dewey, John Stuart Mill, Joseph Campbell, Korea, Korean War, [Federico García] Lorca, Lower East Side, Manhattan, Manhattan Country School, Manor School of Music, Moderation [Papers, Process], Mr. Case, Music Composition, Musical America, Navy, New Jersey, New York, New York City [Public Schools], New Zealand, P.S. 110, P.S. 165, P.S. 4, P.S. 9, Paul Nordoff, Pygmies in Africa, Queens, Sarah Lawrence College, Saul Bellow, Scotland, Second Ave, Second World War, Senior Project, Shakespeare, Sharon Mendez [child in Touchstone program], Simon and Schuster, Spring 1986, St. James College [meant St. Stephen's College], Studio Arts, The Holocaust, Touchstone Center, UNESCO, University of Birmingham, Upper West Side, Voices of the Earth, Walden School, WGXC, WW2, Zoom

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Richard Lewis '58