Campus & Community

Arts First fete takes center stage

2 min read

More than 3,000 Harvard students take to the streets with the 17th annual Arts First celebration, one of the nation’s largest university arts festivals. More than 225 music, theater, dance, film, and visual arts events comprise the four-day extravaganza, which takes place April 30-May 3 across the Harvard campus.

The festivities kick off tonight (April 30) at the New College Theatre with the awarding of the Arts Medal to poet John Ashbery ’49 by President Drew Faust, in an event hosted by actor John Lithgow ’67.

Other festival highlights include Friday’s (May 1) performance of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” by the Holden Choirs, and concerts at the Holyoke Outdoor Stage, which features afternoon-long a cappella and acoustic performances by Harvard undergraduates.

Saturday (May 2) boasts the 39th annual spring concert by the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College and Sunday (May 3) features Bandfest, an all-day extravaganza of musicians at the Holyoke Outdoor Stage.

Dramatic productions “The Tragedy of Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and student-written plays “The Space Between” and “Matriarchs” will be performed all weekend, while Sunday’s (May 3) Art Walk highlights exhibitions in Harvard’s residential Houses.

Get your portrait drawn on the steps of the Memorial Church, take in animated films by Visual and Environmental Studies students projected onto Widener Library, view the outdoor art installations, or drop by the Harvard Student Art Show and Sale — a new post-festival event — held Monday (May 4) outside the Science Center.

Whether you are a fan of bluegrass or bhangra, tap or tinkling, installation art or ink drawing, furniture or fashion, Arts First has it all.

For a complete schedule and list of events, as well as ticketing information, visit

— Sarah Sweeney