One artist will attempt to dig a hole to the other side of the planet. A group of first-years will perform an entirely student-produced musical about love and work set 35,000 feet in the air. Twenty dance troupes will convene for an outdoor showcase.
These are just three of the concerts, exhibitions, and hands-on activities that comprise the Arts First festival this weekend, celebrating Harvard’s creative spirit both inside and out of the classroom.
The festival, now in its 27th year, opens with the Harvard Arts Medal Ceremony on Thursday, celebrating this year’s recipient, U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith ’94. Returning alumni performers also include saxophonist and composer Don Braden ’85, theater director Peter Sellars ’81, and musician and writer Ali Sethi ’06.
As an undergraduate, Sethi, a classically trained singer from Pakistan, relished the opportunity to see artists perform and discuss their crafts on campus. As an alumnus working in the arts, he sees great value in performing at Arts First.
“It’s very heartening to see art being celebrated in your academic environment,” he said. “The quality of life and discourse, the ability to revel in the subtleties of text and the joys of music, to be able to enter into and take part in a centuries-old craft — these are some of the things that make life worth living.”
Sethi will bring classical Sufi poetry to the contemporary stage with “The Covenant of Love: The Poetry, Music, and Spirituality of South Asian Muslim Cultures,” which closes the festival. Sethi, Grammy-winning producer Noah Georgeson, and a group of musicians will perform musical tributes to Sufi Muslim poetry with commentary from Ali Asani ’77, a professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures.