Linfield to host documentary, discussion about Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law OlmstedHistorian Laurence Cotton will present the documentary, “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America,” on Monday, April 27, at 7 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield College.

Following the showing, Cotton will discuss the making of the film, his research and answer questions. Cotton originated the film project and served as consulting producer to this film produced by Massachusetts-based Florentine Film/Hott Productions and presented by WNED Buffalo for PBS broadcast.

The documentary is a biography on Frederick Law Olmsted, the first to regard landscape architecture as a profession and a fine art. He was co-designer of Central Park, head of the first Yosemite commission, leader of the campaign to protect Niagara Falls, designer of the U.S. Capitol Grounds, site planner for the Great White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and created park systems in many other cities. To Olmsted, a park was both a work of art and a necessity for urban life. Olmsted’s efforts to preserve nature created an “environmental ethic” decades before the environmental movement became a force in American politics. Olmsted also has ties to Linfield. His stepson, John Charles Olmsted, was a major contributor to McMinnville College, now known as Linfield.

Cotton studied cultural anthropology and film at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. He joined with classmate Ken Burns to produce his first documentary, as a member of an all-student production team. Subsequently Cotton moved into the realm of international humanitarian assistance and sustainable development, working for NGOs and Harvard University-affiliated foreign policy think tanks. From that experience came a four-hour public television series focused on sustainable development in Latin America, Africa and Asia. During the early 1990s Cotton served as executive producer and host of the nationally syndicated public radio talk show Cambridge Forum. He moved to Portland in 1994 to serve as executive director of the World Affairs Council of Oregon. He was one of the planners of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial in Oregon and Washington and played a role in launching the restoration efforts for Vista House at Crown Point. A prior film project that Cotton co-produced for the Oregon Experience series on Oregon Public Broadcasting, C.E.S. Wood,” tells the story of Wood’s participation in the Nez Perce War of 1877, his friendship with Chief Joseph and Wood’s profound influence on early 20th century Portland.

The lecture is sponsored by PLACE (Program for Liberal Arts and Community Engagement), exploring this year’s theme “How Do We Know? Paths to Wisdom.” The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jesus Ilundain at, 503-883-2362.