Historically, Harvard has valued the head over the hand, but that may soon shift — at least in one discipline.
Under the auspices of Jennifer L. Roberts, the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities, and Ethan Lasser, Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American art at the Harvard Art Museums, graduate students, particularly those in art history, are joining a University movement against what Roberts calls a “longstanding, multi-century bias toward conceptual and mathematical, verbal, abstract forms of knowledge over the forms of knowledge embedded in making.”
As their class “Minding Making: Art History and Artisanal Intelligence” goes through its second iteration, students are learning how hands-on experience with materials and processes feeds a different kind of awareness and a new appreciation of the finished product.
Part of a larger project, detailed at mindingmaking.org, the class follows several summer graduate workshops, as well as a broader trend toward recognizing art-making as part of the University’s “cognitive life,” said Roberts. “The humanities are in the middle of what’s known as the material turn,” she explained. “There’s a lot of interest in matter and materiality, but that hasn’t really yet translated into a clear new way of thinking about making, about interacting with all that material.”