The Office of the Arts (OFA) this year has created a position aimed to entice Harvard’s student art community to use the office’s resources.
Mildred M. Yuan ’04 was hired last week as a communications assistant to serve this role.
“In the past four or five years, it has become increasingly difficult to get students involved [in OFA],” said Tom Lee, OFA’s Learning from Performers program manager. “We realized it’s important to have a student on board to help reach a certain constituency and to think of the un-obvious.”
Yuan will be responsible for The Beat—OFA’s weekly newsletter—as well as focusing on student outreach.
“A big part of my job is reaching students who may not initially be interested in [OFA-sponsored activities],” Yuan said.
As her first task, Yuan is publicizing a two-person electronic group called Matmos. The group has opened for Bjork in the past, and has recently incorporated surgical sounds into its music.
“Of course I’d look for students interested in electronic music, but I think people interested in medicine will like Matmos also,” Yuan said.
In addition to creating the new position, OFA is continuing to publicize itself through The Beat. The newsletter is released every Thursday via e-mail and notifies students about various art events.
Yuan and the OFA regularly contact the House newsletters and solicit different arts leaders to ensure The Beat is as complete as possible. OFA also sponsors its own activities such as the Learning from Performers program and the Spring Arts Festival, in addition to offering students a number of grants.
Although several students were intrigued by the new liaison position posted on the student job bank, Yuan was selected because of her experience and versatility, according to Lee. In addition to being former president of the ballroom dancing club, Yuan plays the violin and has danced ballet her entire life.
Nevertheless, Yuan said she is ready for the challenge of dealing with the artistic areas in which she is not as knowledgeable and experienced.
“I can only do my best.” Yuan said. “Even though I don’t actively participate in [all areas of the arts], I am interested in promoting art in a general form.”
Yuan is not the first student liaison employed by the OFA. Two years ago, Shelby Braxton-Brooks ’03 was hired by the OFA to reach out to ethnic-based arts groups. Over time, however, Lee said her position morphed into one that reached out to the student arts community as a whole.
Braxton-Brooks said she encountered different levels of enthusiasm for working with the OFA from the various student arts groups.
“[The community assistant] is helpful to the degree that [student organizations] want to be helped.” Braxton-Brooks said. “Some organizations want to be on the outskirts—the OFA can’t force them what to do.”
The initiative toward student representation began when Phillip A. Goff ’99, an active member of the black arts scene, expressed concern about the health of these groups after he graduated.
Goff surveyed ethnic-arts groups and found that the most feasible first step was to add a student to the OFA staff.
After the ethnic-based arts liaison was added, however, Lee said it became clear that many groups—not just those with an ethnic focus—were not fully taking advantage of OFA, and that an increase in awareness was necessary.