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Review Calls for More Arts Classes

Harvard students of the future may be more likely to dance, paint and act for credit as a result of the recommendations made in the curricular review report.

“Curricular activity in the practice and performance of the arts often falls in the shadow of extracurricular activities. We believe that there is room for greater curricular activity and curricular innovation in the arts,” the report suggested.

The report also suggested that more opportunities in the arts could be available to students as part of a January term.

While students and faculty members are applauding the initiative to increase curricular arts opportunities, some worry that doing so will present logistical difficulties and will threaten the extracurricular arts atmosphere at Harvard.

Dean for the Humanities Maria Tatar—who, according to the report, would be responsible for expanding “curricular opportunities for performance and the creative arts”—said that she is working with faculty members in the humanities to examine new options for courses and possible tracks within concentrations.

“We’re exploring a variety of possibilites in different media,” she said.

Elizabeth Bergmann, director for the dance program at the Office for the Arts, said she is excited about the possibilities for greater emphasis on arts in the curriculum, but expressed some concern about its execution.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think carrying it out is expensive and needs space. You need to teach all the instruments, and all the dance forms....The University has never gone in that direction.”

Alexis F. Bernstein ’05, a former director of the Harvard Ballet Company, said she worries that making arts opportunities count for credit could change students’ reasons for participating in the arts.

“Because it’s totally extracurricular [now], we do it because we love it,” Bernstein said of involvement in dance. “If there were grades attached to your dance, or if there were attendance policies...I think it would totally change the atmosphere...I think it would change people’s motivations.”

Administrators have not yet decided how to balance arts in and outside of the classroom.

“We need to find the appropriate relationship between the great wealth of artistic creativity students show outside the classroom and the opportunities in the arts in the curriculum,” said Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby.

Tatar said that she and her colleagues will take care to preserve the variety and creativity in the College’s current extracurricular arts options.

“We’re going to approach this very cautiously,” she said. “There is so much creative imagination and energy out there. We want to look at the areas where we are not accommodating student demand.”

Bergmann noted that one aspect of curricular arts programs at other schools is that the arts concentrators do most of the performing.

“There’s pretty much a consensus that we don’t want that,” she said.

Bergmann added that she hopes to preserve the vibrancy of Harvard’s current extracurricular arts life.

“We have a huge co-curricular arts life here, and its wonderful,” she said. “I think that this kind of free-for-all thing has a great spirit in it.”

—Staff writer Sara E. Polsky can be reached at polsky@fas.harvard.edu.

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