Give the Carpenter Center Its Freedom


To the Editors of the Crimson:

In my efforts to unravel the Gordian knot which now has choked and indeed, threatens to eliminate the "Mother of the art movement" (the Sert Gallery Exhibition Program at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts) within this institution. I have been awakened more clearly than ever before to the absolute necessity for the Le Corbusier edifice at 24 Quincy Street to put its house in order, and for the administration of this institution to sever the outdated, inextricable bonds of budgetary and administrative decision- making which still bind together the two separate entities of the Carpenter Center and the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies.

Harvard University has the choice to support with autonomy one or the other, or both (or neither), of these two entities. These tow distinctive entities share only the common purpose of educating in the contemporary arts, but they possess different audiences (the Harvard undergraduate vs. the general public). One entity (the VES department) is bound and restrained by academic rules and regulations whereas the other (the Carpenter Center) should never be so bound or restrained. The two entities are ideologically, budgetarily, administratively, functionally and physically different. The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts is for all the visual arts and it often does serve (through the exhibition of student work) the academic department it houses. The center, however, should never be the puppet of its tenant, as it is now, or be forced by any means to submit to its tenant's self-serving needs. For the center's commitment is farther reaching than the gates of Harvard. That both these entities, the center and the department, have long since passed adolescence and grown into maturity is proof of their necessity.

The center, through its exhibition program, has achieved an honorable, respected international reputation. The department has outgrown its facility and proof of its legitimacy is evident in the Sert Gallery's recent exhibition of the department's alumni achievements in the art world. Both the Carpenter Center and the VES department have expanded beyond their earlier constraints.

But it is now apparent to me, through the unconscionable, destructive act perpetrated by two members of the department on April 5, 1993, that the apron strings which once held these two entities together have not become the lashes which can rend them apart and promote the elimination of one entity to satisfy the needs of the other. That act, which seemed incomprehensible to me nearly 90 days ago, is entirely feasible (albeit despicable) to me now.


There are those within the VES department and other who excuse this disruptive act as "policy" and hide behind such excuse to protect themselves and the private kingdoms they have built within this structure. To them I say policy is made by men and if such policy proves to be destructive and non-democratic then it can also be changed by men, men with vision, courage and non-self-serving needs. Free and open education must be based upon free and open policy and interchange. Such a negative environment as currently exists within the center and the department cannot be a positive, conducive climate for the advancement of the contemporary arts.

Veritas permeates Harvard. It is emblazoned on the chairs, the walls, the gates, even imprinted on the first years' underwear. But for nearly 90 days I have asked for the unexpurgated, non-rhetorical truth in this coup d'etat and have received little more than the stains on the underwear. My eyes are open. With every pore of my being I am visual. My voice may be diminished by the resounding bang of authority, but I call now upon the administration of this great university and upon every person who is committed to the advancement of education in the arts within this institution, regardless of whom their audience may be, to demand "Veritas" in this most disturbing matter. Do not again allow two faces on the arts to be visible, or again from one side of the mouth utter "Let's celebrate the arts at Harvard," and from the other side say "Let's eliminate the 'Mother of the movement!'" The Le Corbusier edifice at 24 Quincy Street stands now in disorder, its hallowed walls bear the stains of the abhorrent act perpetrated within and the unacceptable tactics (better served by undemocratic, dictatorial regimes) used to advance it to fruition.

As an alumnus (Graduate School of Education 1959), a former member of the VES faculty, and a former administrative officer of this University, I implore you to give credence to the celebration of the arts by removing the mechanism which permits its destruction within this notable edifice, by rescinding this unconscionable act, by resuscitating the "Mother of the art movement" within this institution, and thereby saving the Sert Gallery Exhibition Program in respect for the thousands of people who have benefited from it in the past, and for the future generations who may be rewarded by it.

I hasten to add that I am greatly indebted to the many people (in the thousands) from the broadest community who have sincerely stepped forward in support of the continuance of the Sert Gallery Exhibition Program and sincerely appreciate the noble efforts of those within the University administration who seek the means to restore me to wholeness.

With all due respect, I remain sincerely, Roger Brandenberg-Horn   Former Curator of Exhibits   Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

Editor's note: Brandenberg-Horn, who had originally been terminated as of last week, has been put back on the University payroll. He no longer has a job at the Carpenter Center, and the Sert Gallery appears to have closed.