Alfred State College (ASC) is proud to announce that Courtney DeRusha, a masonry student from Corning, has been named to the 2021 Class of Quarry Farm Fellows by the Center for Mark Twain Studies.
According to its website, www.MarkTwainStudies.com, “The Center for Mark Twain Studies is offering 11 Quarry Farm fellowships and one smaller artist’s residency in 2021 to scholars, writers, and artists working in the field of Mark Twain Studies. The fellowships provide the Fellows an opportunity to work on academic or creative projects at Quarry Farm, the family home of Twain’s sister- and brother-in-law, Susan and Theodore Crane. Twain and his family lived at Quarry Farm for over 20 summers. During this time, in an octagonal study located about 100 yards from the main house, Mark Twain wrote the majority of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,’ and many other major works.”
The Center’s website notes of the fellowships, “Reflecting the mission of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Quarry Farm Fellowships foster and support scholarship and creative works related to Mark Twain, including, but not limited to, his literature, life, family, associations, influences, reception, and significance. The fellowship selection process aims to assist scholars and artists in producing work of highest distinction and cultivate a diverse community of scholars across backgrounds, specializations, and ranks.”
Last year, DeRusha began preservation work on the central monument at the Langdon/Clemens family burial plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira where Mark Twain and his family are laid to rest. DeRusha notes that during this project, she was invited to examine the dry-laid stone steps at Quarry Farm that lead to the original stone foundation of Clemens’ octagonal writing study.
“During my residency at Quarry Farm, I will pursue two tracks of research,” DeRusha said. “The first is an examination of these built structures, and a search of the center’s archives through the lens of the preservationist mason. This work will result in condition reports for each of the sites, noting in detail the materials and techniques with which they were built when they were constructed, if/when they were repaired or otherwise changed, as well as a list of their current restoration needs. This work is useful to the preservation record and is essential groundwork for future restoration efforts.”
The second part of DeRusha’s research “aims to discover (from both the archives and from the vernacular of the architecture itself) what more we can know about the people who commissioned, constructed, and used these sites.”
“While I cannot guess what kinds of stories might be revealed by this effort,” DeRusha said, “I am moved by the sense of place that emerges when we connect the history of built environments with the histories of the people who interacted with them.”
DeRusha credits her instructors with helping her to earn the fellowship, including Associate Professor Stephen Richard, Assistant Professor and Building Trades Department Chair Louis Zver, and Instructor Timothy Rohrer, as well as School of Applied Technology Dean Jeffrey Stevens.
“I truly don’t think I would have been considered had it not been for Mr. Richard legitimizing my interest in preservation and going to extraordinary lengths to support the work we did at Woodlawn Cemetery last fall,” she said. “Dean Stevens was also helpful, and my freshman-year instructors - Mr. Zver and Mr. Rohrer - have given me a wealth of skills in masonry and carpentry that I’ll be using during this fellowship. This honor truly reflects upon the quality of the building construction and masonry programs at Alfred State.”