Campus & Community

Harvard president announces task force on the arts

6 min read

Harvard President Drew Faust announced today (Nov. 1) that she is creating a University-wide task force to examine the place of the arts at Harvard. Chaired by Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt, the task force draws its membership from faculty, students, and others across the University who represent many fields and modes of engagement with the study and practice of the arts.

The task force is charged broadly with examining the role of the arts in a research university, in a liberal arts education, and at Harvard specifically. It will explore the role of arts both within and beyond the curriculum, as well as how Harvard can encourage connections between arts activities and science, technology, humanities, and other related fields. The committee is asked to consider as well how other parts of the University, such as the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), the museums, and the Graduate School of Design (GSD) can be more fully integrated into a vibrant arts culture at Harvard. As it charts answers to these broad questions, the committee is also asked to consider what administrative, financial, and physical structures will be needed to advance the goals identified.

“I am very excited about this undertaking,” said Faust. “Harvard has always had enormous strengths in the arts — and never more so than today — but we have had equally strong ambivalence about the role of performance and practice in the curriculum and in the life of the University. It has been many years since Harvard has attempted to define its aspirations and opportunities in the arts in a systematic way, and I am thrilled that Stephen Greenblatt has agreed to lead this effort.”

“I am honored that President Faust has asked me to take on this role,” said Greenblatt. “This is a period of significant transformation at the University — a new president, new deans of the FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and GSD, as well as both a new undergraduate curriculum and a new campus taking shape in Allston. At this crucial moment of institutional renewal, we have an historic opportunity to consider what place the arts will hold in the Harvard of the 21st century.”

“I am delighted that this task force will provide a University-wide perspective in a domain that is so directly pertinent to the work of FAS. I very much look forward to working closely with Drew and the many FAS faculty members who will serve on the task force to explore the intellectual and curricular implications of this important work,” said Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith.

In framing the charge to the task force, Faust explained why she thinks it is important for Harvard to undertake this inquiry. “The arts abound across Harvard — in nearly 150 undergraduate student organizations, in countless instrumental and choral groups, in the collections of Harvard’s museums, in studios in the Carpenter Center and the Department of VES [Visual and Environmental Studies], in the Harvard Film Archive, at the A.R.T., in the Office for the Arts, in the New College Theatre, in the fellowship program at Radcliffe, in poetry and creative writing classes in the Department of English, in the teaching and scholarship of the Graduate School of Design, in the lives of faculty, students, and staff. We confront ever-increasing demand for opportunities for artistic expression both within and beyond the curriculum. We anticipate a significant place for the arts as a central component of our growth in Allston.

“Yet Harvard has not, in many years, thought comprehensively about its relationship to the arts. Our extraordinary strengths in the arts remain fragmented, less well-understood, less well-supported, and less integrated than their importance warrants. … The arts play a central role in the lives of so many students and faculty at Harvard, yet their role in the life of the University remains uncertain and undefined. I hope that this task force will attempt such a definition.”

In addition to Greenblatt, the task force will include students and faculty from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Education, Kennedy School of Government, and Graduate School of Design, as well as from various arts institutions on campus. In forming its inquiry and recommendations, the committee is asked to consider Harvard’s past considerations of these issues, including the report of the Brown Committee in 1956, as well as the experience and programs of other colleges and universities, including not only our peer institutions, but also institutions that host innovative and distinctive arts programming. The president has asked the committee to consult broadly, soliciting thoughts and ideas from students, faculty, and others on campus, as well as from the large external network of Harvard alumni and others who are involved in the arts.

The task force will begin meeting in the next few weeks and is expected to complete its report by the fall of 2008. The task force welcomes communications

The members of the task force are:

Stephen Greenblatt, chair, Cogan University Professor

Homi Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, director of the Humanities Center, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Melissa Franklin, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Peter Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, director of the Collection of the Historical Scientific Instruments

Jorie Graham, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Alfred Guzzetti, Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Arts, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Madelyn Ho ’08, chemical and physical biology, recipient of Harvard Artist Development Fellowship in Dance, Harvard College

John Kelly, 2004-2005 Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Joseph Koerner, professor of history of art and architecture, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education

Jack Megan, director, Office for the Arts, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Helen Mirra, assistant professor of visual and environmental studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Helen Molesworth, Maisie K. and James R. Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard University Art Museums

Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Mohsen Mostafavi, dean, Graduate School of Design (January 2008)

Dan Pecci ’09, English and American literature and language, secondary field in drama, recipient of 2006 Phyllis Anderson Prize in Playwriting, Harvard College

Hashim Sarkis, Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies, Graduate School of Design

Diana Sorensen, James F. Rothenberg Professor of Romance Languages & Literatures and of Comparative Literature, dean for the Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Marcus Stern, associate director, lecturer on dramatic arts, American Repertory Theatre and the A.R.T./ MXAT Institute for Advanced Theatre Training

Damian Woetzel M.P.A. 2007, principal dancer, New York City Ballet, John F. Kennedy School of Government