Faust Names Panel To Revitalize Arts

Task force will likely address role of arts in extracurricular and academic realms

Unnamed photo
Adam D. Sidman

President Drew G. Faust addresses an audience last night at the New College Theatre, where she detailed plans for the new task force on the arts. She named the group’s 20 members yesterday.

Although the evening began with actors hefting a coffin on-stage, University President Drew G. Faust spoke of rebirth last night when she unveiled a task force aimed at reinvigorating the arts at Harvard.

“This marks a new beginning for a new era of arts at Harvard,” Faust told hundreds gathered at the inaugural production of the New College Theatre.

The announcement marked the formal beginning of Faust’s campaign to better integrate the arts at Harvard, a piece of her presidential agenda that has earned more attention than many of her other stated priorities.

“Our extraordinary strengths in the arts remain fragmented, less well-understood, less well-supported, and less integrated than their importance warrants. Demand exceeds supply in many areas,” Faust wrote in a charge to the professors, administrators, and students on the panel.

She presented the 20-member group with a set of detailed questions to address in a report scheduled to be issued by next fall.

Homi K. Bhabha, a member of the task force and the director of the Humanities Center, said it was too soon to know what direction the committee would take, but he speculated that it would consider the role of the arts both in the extracurricular and curricular realms.

Bhabha said the panel will look at ways of strengthening links between the arts, sciences, and humanities.

“When the arts lead the humanities, and the sciences, too, then the power of the intellect is enhanced by the creative and conceptual embrace of performance and creativity,” he said.

Although the announcement came yesterday, the idea of forming a task force has been in the works for some time, according to Office of the Arts Director Jack Megan.

Members of Harvard’s artistic community were asked to submit ideas for changes in the arts, according to Megan. Based on those ideas, Faust chose members of the task force, Megan said.

“In small groups, President Faust has said ‘I want to do this not just for the University to be competitive, but because it’s the right thing to do,’” Megan said.

At last night’s performance of “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad” by Arthur L. Kopit ’59, who was in attendance, audience members said they had high hopes for the task force.

Theatre professor Robert Scanlan, who was unaware of the formation of the task force until the announcement, said, “I expect the moon.”

The committee will be headed by English professor Stephen J. Greenblatt. Other members include physics professor Melissa Franklin, rhetoric and oratory professor Jorie Graham, history of science professor Peter Galison, visual arts professor Alfred Guzzetti, Radcliffe fellow John Kelly, history of art and architecture professor Joseph Koerner, education professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, visual and environmental studies professor Helen Mirra, art curator Helen Molesworth, African-American music professor Ingrid Monson, Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, landscape architecture professor Hashim Sarkis, dramatic arts lecturer Marcus Stern, and Humanities dean Diana Sorensen.

Three students will serve on the panel: Madelyn M.L. Ho ’08, Dan R. Pecci ’09, and Kennedy School grad and New York City Ballet principal dancer Damian Woetzel.

—Claire M. Guehenno and Laurence H. M. Holland contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Alexander B. Cohn can be reached at