Harvard University on Monday unveiled plans for the development of a new hub for arts innovation on North Harvard Street in Allston.
The ArtLab will feature spaces that allow faculty, students, and artists to cross media and academic boundaries to explore possibilities in sensory experience and social cognition. The lab will also host exhibitions and performances, bringing together Harvard, its growing Allston campus, and the community.
“The ArtLab will be more than just a space — it will be an important addition to Harvard’s burgeoning arts environment, a home where faculty, staff, and students can engage in the kinds of interdisciplinary collaboration both within and beyond the curriculum that is a hallmark of Harvard’s strong and diverse arts community,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “The ArtLab also represents our firm commitment to ensuring that creative and artistic innovation are at the heart of our campus. I have no doubt it will both complement and benefit from what is already a vibrant and growing arts community in Allston.”
The ArtLab will further amplify the importance of arts-practice research and collaboration at Harvard. Since the 2008 Report of the Task Force on the Arts, the University has developed academic programs, recruited renowned artists for the faculty, and hosted notable artists from around the world. It has also invested significantly in a network of physical spaces dedicated to the arts, for which the ArtLab will serve as an important connecting point.
“At Harvard, art spaces have historically been designed and situated discipline by discipline,” said Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey, co-chair of the ArtLab Steering Committee. “But our faculty and student artists want to collaborate across boundaries, to mix performance and video, soundscapes and dance, engineering and art. The ArtLab will give them a space to mingle and experiment, free from the usual restraints of school, department, or medium.”
The 9,000-square-foot structure, to be located on North Harvard Street in Barry’s Corner, will offer spaces for film, theater, dance, and media. The ArtLab will house sound-editing stations, a recording studio, and space for rehearsal, improvisation, and informal performance. Plans call for the lab to host visiting and local artists, providing them with flexible studio spaces.
The ArtLab design features sizable glass portions at street level to showcase the creative process. The use of cast materials will create a simple aesthetic, one that supports a diversity of active uses and flexible workshop functions.
The construction material palette includes a mix of industrial, recyclable, and reusable materials, allowing for natural light and a street-level view of the activity inside. The building was designed by Berlin-based Barkow Leibinger Architekten. The local architect is Sasaki of Watertown.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency requires Harvard to file an amendment to its 2013 Institutional Master Plan to secure regulatory approval for the ArtLab.
“This is a new way of approaching art-making on campus,” said Harvard Provost Alan Garber. “The new space, in proximity to the Harvard Business School, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the i-lab cluster will give Harvard faculty and their students an opportunity to cross boundaries of media and discipline in new and exciting ways.”
“The ArtLab will be a key contributor to the artistic ecosystem in Allston by leveraging collaborations with the Ed Portal, the Ceramics Studio, the i-lab cluster, and Zone 3,” said Executive Vice President Katie Lapp. “We’re incredibly excited about the partnerships and new artistic methods that will no doubt take shape at the ArtLab, and are confident that the entire space will be a significant asset to Barry’s Corner.”
The ArtLab plan comes as Harvard continues to strengthen its partnerships with the community, and as the Allston campus continues to grow and thrive. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently joined Faust at the groundbreaking for the upcoming renovation of the historic William F. Smith Field in Allston. Just last week Trader Joe’s opened its doors in Barry’s Corner, and the Zone 3 initiative on Western Avenue continues to offer exciting programs and events.
In the 2016–2017 academic year, the Harvard Ed Portal offered more than 200 programs for the community, including dozens of arts events, 11 film screenings, and performances by three Grammy winners. Through the Ed Portal, Harvard also provided scholarships to local residents to use the Harvard Ceramics Studio in Allston, further contributing to arts in the neighborhood.
If approved, construction on the ArtLab could begin as soon as the summer of 2018, and finish early the next year.