Tempers flared last Thursday night in Agassiz Theatre as participants in the First-year Arts Program (FAP) discussed issues like the "Piss Christ" exhibit at the NEA, a photograph of a crucifix dipped in urine.
Moments later though, when the group photo was taken and the 40 first-years yelled enthusiastically "The arts!" as the camera clicked, personal differences were set aside.
The debate and the photo are just two of dozens of activities that "fappers" participated in last week. The first-years spent last week touring art museums, composing original music, writing poetry and acting on stage during the program's first summer.
FAP joins the Freshman Urban Program and the Freshman Outdoor Program to offer first years a week of pre-orientation activities before Freshman Week.
"I was sitting around in the freshman advising sessions last year and heard about FOP and FAP," said Alan Symonds '69, director of FAP and Technical Director for College Theatre Programs. "I thought to myself, why not the arts? Why not another vowel?"
Symonds sent a query to Dean of Freshman, Elizabeth S. Nathans, who immediately responded with an enthusiastic go-shead, according to Symonds.
"[FAP] has the same goals as the other programs like getting used to Harvard, getting to know people, etc," Symonds said.
While foppers trecked through the mountains and as fuppies worked their way through the city, FAP participants explored Harvard's hidden arts resources, Symonds said.
"People often don't find [Harvard's art resources] until their senior year," Symonds said.
The first generation of FAP participants seem to agree that the program has been an valuable head start to their Harvard careers.
"I can only hope that the rest of my time here at Harvard will be as good as this week has been," said Gabriella N. Skirnick '99, a member of a FAP group which prepared an exhibit at the Carpenter Center.
"I've been able to explore a lot of different venues that I never even dreamed of, said Candice I. Hoyes '99. "[The program] has definitely surpassed anything I ever did in high school."
Symonds said one of his goals for the program was to expose students to a wide variety of the arts in order to avoid what he calls the "tracking phenomenon," in which students latch on to specific identities early on in their college careers.
"People who do theater rarely get into the art museums. Artists also rarely get into the theaters," Symonds said, "All of these threads should interlock."
Maria E. Padilla '96, a proctor with the program, echoed Symonds's description of FAP's goal.
"There were so many things about art at Harvard that made my college career amazing, and I wanted to make sure others got that same opportunity," Padilla said.
FAP participants said the program's hands-on nature enabled students to get to know each other on a personal level.
"I composed a musical piece with three other women," said Hoyes. "We really got to know each other artistically and personally."
How many is tremendous?
Hundreds...of incoming first-years applied for the program last spring, Symonds said. Padilla said the staff chose a wide range of applicants on the basis of their sense of humor and enthusiasm.
"We have students who had studied at Juilliard to people who had done nothing artistically ever," Padilla said.
Much of the activity towards the end of the week at FAP was preparation for the Yard Pageant on Saturday night.
On the steps of Lamont Library, FAP students performed compositions created during the week. In addition, at the Carpenter Center's Sert Gallery, a student-curated exhibition of the Harvard University Art Museums' print collection was displayed.
In addition to participating in workshops on scenic art, stage lighting, theater improvisation and choral music, FAP participants heard speeches by Harvard arts luminaries such as Arthur L. Loeb, senior lecturer on Visual and Environmental Studies; Jeffrey Bernstein '89, conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus and assistant conductor of the Harvard Glee Club; and Marjorie Cohn, Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints at the Harvard Art Museums.