On May 9 more than 200 guests, including residents from the local Czech community and international dignitaries, gathered outside Fir Acres Theatre to dedicate Lewis & Clark’s newest addition to the campus grounds: Václav Havel’s Place, a permanent installation in honor of the late Czech artist, playwright, and dissident-turned-president.
The intimate space is part of a worldwide project to create a network of public spaces where people can hold frank exchanges of important ideas, an expression of Havel’s belief in the power of mutual dialogue.
The dedication ceremony and program featured reflections on Havel’s life, performances of excerpts of his plays, and a panel discussion on the significance of his contributions to Western democracy and human rights. Professor of Theatre and Department Chair Štepán Šimek, an authorized translator of Havel’s body of work, was the key to Lewis & Clark securing the installation and organizing a successful event.
Speakers included Petr Gandalovic, Czech ambassador to the United States, and Karel Schwarzenberg, former minister of foreign affairs under President Havel and current chair of the Czech parliament’s foreign affairs council. The dedication service concluded with a performance by a Czech children’s choir and a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Designed by prominent architect and designer Borek Šípek, Havel’s Place is elegant in its simplicity: it consists of two chairs capped with artisan glass adjoining a small round table through which grows a linden tree, the national tree of the Czech Republic.
Lewis & Clark joins Georgetown University as the only other location in the United States with a Havel’s Place installation. The memorial at Lewis & Clark was donated by the Embassy of the Czech Republic.