Arts First Draws Half of Harvard Undergrads

Arts First
Students and visitors alike were dazzled by events taking place on the Science Center Plaza and in The Yard this past weekend, all organized to showcase the arts.

With more than 225 events over four days this weekend, the Arts First Festival celebrated the talents of Harvard students and faculty in the performance and visual arts.

According to the Arts First website, about half of Harvard’s undergraduate population took part in the festival, which lasted from Thursday to Sunday. Most students who participated performed in various events that were free and open to the public.

“[Arts First] is a great way to express to the broader Cambridge community just how many different kinds of arts groups there are here,” General Manager of the Krokodiloes Ben J. Marek ’14 said. “It’s really great to have the arts so visible for a weekend.”

One highlight of the weekend’s festivities came on Thursday when the Harvard Arts Medal, presented annually to a Harvard or Radcliffe alum who has shown excellence in the arts, was awarded to author, poet, and environmental activist Margaret Atwood. Past recipients of this honor include Matt Damon (’88-’92), Tommy Lee Jones ’69, and Yo Yo Ma ’76.

Also on the docket for Thursday were a number of theatrical performances. Audiences in the Radcliffe Yard were treated to a student-written production from the Sunken Garden Children’s Theater which has been putting on shows geared towards the children of the Cambridge community for more than 15 years.

Later that evening, the annual freshman musical opened in the Agassiz Theatre. This year’s installment, titled “Hero,” was written by Jacob D. Rienstra ‘17, Mayer M. Chalom ’17, and Rachel J. Stromberg ’17.

“It was a very rewarding process,” said James M. Graham ’17, who directed Hero. “It’s been a long run deciding what the show’s going to be like… and this was the culmination of all that effort over two semesters, and it’s really paid off.”

On Saturday afternoon, more than 100 free events took place around Harvard Yard at the yearly Performance Fair and Dance Fest in which crowds of spectators gathered around stages and in venues scattered across campus.

A number of music groups, including the Harvard Krokodiloes, performed in front of the John Harvard statue, entertaining students, faculty, and the public alike.

“There was a really nice crowd out enjoying the nice weather and the good performances,” Marek said. “It was a good mix of people from outside the Harvard community and also students and faculty as well.”

Sunday brought a number of less conventional presentations which displayed creative ways in which arts can be merged with other fields. One such event was Symmetry Breaking, an exhibition of Mariel N. Pettee’s ’14 joint Physics and Math thesis which fused performing, visual, and digital arts to explore the nature of scientific inquiry and the creative process.

Overall, students seemed to enjoy the collaborative nature of Arts First.

“What I like best about the arts community here is that everything is so cooperative,” Graham said. “You don’t just get actors staying actors and musicians staying musicians… Everyone gets along well, goes to see each other’s things, and supports each other.”

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