Campus & Community

Faust and Cohen mark new $12.5M fund for arts

5 min read

Johnson-Kulukundis family’s gift will shape the future of arts at Harvard

President Drew Faust and Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, are celebrating a major gift from Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson ’57 and Rupert H. Johnson Jr. to enhance the creative arts at Harvard, it was announced today.

The $12.5 million investment will shape the future of the arts at Harvard — theater, visual arts, performing arts, music, film, video, writing, and more — and expand the experiences of students, faculty, fellows, and the public. The Johnson-Kulukundis family gift of $10 million comprises a $5 million gift to the President’s Fund and a $5 million gift to the Radcliffe Institute, the latter of which will receive an additional $2.5 million through the Radcliffe endowment match program.

The generosity of the Johnson-Kulukundis family is being recognized at an event featuring remarks by Faust, Cohen, Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson, and composer-pianist Vijay Iyer, who is the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts. This gathering brings together arts leaders from across Harvard, including leaders from academic departments, the Office for the Arts, the Harvard Art Museums, and the American Repertory Theater. Radcliffe fellows will join the celebration; a unique aspect of Radcliffe’s fellowship program is that artists participate with scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals for a full year of intensive work in a multidisciplinary community.

“The arts open our eyes to new ways of thinking and doing, and challenge us to see the world differently,” said Faust. “The generosity of the Johnson-Kulukundis family will create more opportunities for students and faculty to explore their interests as they contribute to Harvard’s long tradition of excellence in the arts. I look forward to hearing, seeing, and experiencing the works that will be sparked and supported by this wonderful gift.”

“Creative arts are a gift in themselves and also for what they contribute to deeper knowledge in other disciplines,” said Cohen. “The contribution of the arts to critical thinking is a hallmark of Radcliffe’s past, an important feature of the Radcliffe Institute today, and — with this gift — an even more significant part of our future. The generosity of the Johnson-Kulukundis family furthers our mission to generate and share daring and exciting work across all fields.”

At Radcliffe, the fund will enable the transformation of the institute’s gallery in Byerly Hall into an arts laboratory with flexible space for exhibitions by visual artists and scholars who work with a variety of media. The gallery, which will be significantly enlarged and improved as a result of this gift, will be named the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery.

In the past year alone, the gallery featured innovative visual artists, scientists, and filmmakers. It was home to an exhibition by Elise Adibi RI ’14 of evocative and unique paintings that involved smell as well as sight; another exhibition that included moving images by pixel painter T. Marie RI ’14; an interactive demonstration of simple toys that conveyed complex scientific principles from mathematician Tadashi Tokeida RI ’14; and sound sculptures and performance images of Harvard student dancers by Hans Tutschku RI ’14, the Fanny P. Mason Professor of Music at Harvard University.

In addition to the work of fellows, the gallery shares the work of students, staff, and visiting artists invited by Radcliffe’s Academic Ventures program. Unique items from the collections of the institute’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and exhibitions that complement conferences and symposia in many scholarly fields have also been on display in the gallery.

At Radcliffe, the fund also endows a position for a faculty director of the arts. The Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute leads the development of arts programming. Yukio Lippit, a professor of history of art and architecture in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, currently holds this position and is spearheading exhibitions, seminars, and symposia on crucial topics at the intersection of the arts and other disciplines.

The Johnson-Kulukundis family gift at Harvard will create a President’s Fund at the University, which will support initiatives such as art intensives during Wintersession, internships in the arts, curriculum development in the arts, and visiting artists. It will establish an endowed fellowship for a doctoral student in the arts during the critical first years of advanced study.

Two significant philanthropic priorities of Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson and Rupert H. Johnson Jr. are the arts and education. Their generous support for the arts at Radcliffe and Harvard will help incorporate the arts as an integral part of University life. “This gift is designed to expand the opportunities for, and engagement with, the arts at Harvard,” Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson said. “We want the University as a whole, and Radcliffe in particular, to launch new projects and programs in the arts that enrich and excite students, faculty, and the public.”

The gift is a significant one for the arts. Sidney R. Knafel ’52, M.B.A. ’54, who is co-chair of The Radcliffe Campaign, and honorary co-chair of The Harvard Campaign, lauded the support as “a most fortuitous gift at this moment for Harvard and for President Faust, who has been so consistently forceful in taking the initiative to strengthen the richness of the arts programs at the University. This gift clearly will enable a great measure of that objective.”