Student Petition Seeks Support for the Arts

In a petition circulated throughout House and extracurricular e-mail lists, Abhishek J. Bose-Kolanu ’11 is soliciting greater College support for student artists.

The petition, released on April 2, includes four requests: the development of a fully-funded yearlong post-graduate fellowship exclusively for artists, the creation of a yearlong artist-in-residence program for graduates more than a year out of college, the installment of an officer at the Office of Career Services dedicated to finding opportunities for student artists, and an institutional commitment to one art show per year in the main gallery of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.

“As I was applying for grants to pursue art making after graduation, I realized there were no funds dedicated specifically for this purpose,” Bose-Kolanu wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson. “It struck me that there is a large disparity in resources committed to helping the average student get a finance or consulting job versus the resources committed to further the careers of students who choose to make art.”

The original email containing a link to the petition states that students will ask for their classmates’ support in arts and arts-related classes throughout this week.

Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts, is among several prospective recipients of the petition. While he has not yet received it personally, he acknowledges the relevance of its objectives.

“The spirit of this petition is great,” Megan said. “I think that this is a really interesting and worthwhile idea that ultimately comes down to resource allocation. Students are asking for enhanced resources and we would welcome exploring that.”

Megan acknowledged that the majority of artist fellowships are provided to current undergraduates, but also noted that there are a very limited number available to graduating artists.

Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies Marjorie Garber, who also has not received the petition, said that financial constraints may hinder the implementation of these requests.

“Even if the art displayed in the Carpenter Center were free or the art were local, it is expensive to install it and insure it,” she said.

OCS Director Robin Mount received the petition as a forwarded email from a colleague.

In response to the request for the installment of an OCS officer dedicated to student artists, she said that there were already two advisers who have expertise within the arts and that OCS hosted a series of programs about careers in the arts in the fall.

“What many people don’t realize is that these jobs in the arts and art management can be frustrating them because they are the sorts of jobs where people have to leave in order for there to be an opening,” she said. “These are organizations that don’t have huge extra budgets and many rely on donor contributions.”

Mount also said that the allocation and creation of post-graduate fellowships, which are donor-driven, are not at her office’s discretion.

“The OCS does not decide where these fellowships go,” she said. “Post-graduate fellowships are unique and many schools don’t even have them.”

Bose-Kolanu will continue to engage the support of faculty and administrators for these measures, in addition to soliciting student signatures on campus, he said.

“We have a concentration for artists, so we must think their contributions to society are meaningful,” he wrote. “If that’s the case, we should whole-heartedly support them.”

—Staff writer Barbara B. DePena can be reached at barbara.b.depena@college.harvard.edu.

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