The staff members’ bright purple shirts read simply: “MAKE ART.” For the four days of Harvard’s annual Arts First festival, students, faculty, and others did just that.
Arts First, which ran from April 28 to May 1, featured visual exhibits and installations, theatrical and musical performances, dance, and other forms of creative expression. The festival, now in its 24th year, was begun by actor John Lithgow ’67 and Myra Mayman, founding director of Harvard’s Office for the Arts.
“John and Myra both felt that this should be an event every year which celebrates the vitality of art-making,” said Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts, which produces the festival.
Arts First has grown in size and scope over the years. It has expanded to four days, and last year saw an attendance of nearly 7,000.
“This year, we had to add performance slots to the Saturday afternoon Performance Fair, because there were more interested performers than performance spaces,” said Marin Orlosky Randow, Arts First coordinator, citing increased participation from graduate students and first-year undergraduates.
The festival kicked off on Thursday with the Harvard Arts Medal ceremony, which this year honored architect Frank Gehry, a 1957 graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and was moderated by Lithgow.
Friday featured events such as Jazz on the Plaza and the Kirkland House gallery show of student and tutor artwork. On Sunday, performances by groups such as the Silk Road Ensemble, the Parker Quartet, and the Battle of the Bands at the Science Center Plaza tent rounded out the end of the celebration.
Saturday showed the festival at its height, with 11 performance venues across Harvard Yard, seven locations for art-making, and three public art installations by student artists. In total, 37 locations across campus featured exhibits and performances over the weekend.
The Plaza was aflutter Saturday, with the Global Voices international musical performances in the tent, while families and students flocked to food trucks and local children muddied their hands at pottery wheels. Later, a drum circle erupted in a pop-up workshop led by the undergraduate percussion ensemble THUD.