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From Passions to Professions

Faust lays out implementation plans for the Task Force for the Arts

By Alex M. Mcleese, Crimson Staff Writer

University President Drew G. Faust clarified plans for making the arts more prominent on campus at this weekend’s “Passion for the Arts,” a two-day career showcase event that she said was the first large-scale event Harvard has hosted to encourage careers in the arts and humanities.

Speakers during the two-day career showcase event included famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76 and Harvard Law School Professor Noah R. Feldman ’92, both of whom joined Faust in arguing for the importance of an education in the arts and humanities—a focus that Faust has repeatedly stressed over the first year and a half of her presidency.

The event represented a collaborative effort spanning various sectors of the University, from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Dean of Arts and Humanities to the Office of Career Services.

In her speech on Friday evening, Faust announced the actions the University plans to take towards fulfillment of the recommendations made in December by the Task Force on the Arts, a committee that she commissioned in the first months of her presidency.

The Task Force’s report called for increased art production in the curriculum and a greater presence for art on campus.

“Arts abound at Harvard,” Faust said, noting that nearly half of all extracurricular activities at the University are dedicated to the arts.

But she said that Harvard has separated art production from theory and criticism for too long.

“It is time to recognize that arts practice and performance contribute to knowledge and learning as much as any other intellectual inquiry,” she said.

Faust acknowledged that the Task Force report “has not appeared at the most propitious of times,” given the effects of a current financial downturn that has constricted University coffers.

Harvard’s endowment fell 22 percent—or roughly $8 billion—in the four months prior to Nov. 1, and is projected to fall 30 percent by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

While the Task Force’s report will need to be subject to some financial concessions, Faust said, Harvard is making “a small beginning” to ensure that the University capitalizes on the report’s momentum.

Faust did not mention increasing investments in physical spaces for arts creation and collaboration—one of the Task Force’s major recommendations—but announced that the administration is moving forward with other Task Force goals.

Following the Task Force’s emphasis on the need for art in the curriculum, Faust said that her goal is to offer at least five General Education courses and five freshman seminars next year that involve arts practice.

The History of Art and Architecture concentration is planning a new track for students interested in architecture, with courses on design as well as the theory and practice of urban planning.

She also said that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will begin to explore an undergraduate concentration in the dramatic arts and that the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will look into how a graduate Master of Fine Arts programs might be created.

In addition, Harvard students will now have free admission to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art, in addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, which is already free for students.

Task Force leader and English Professor Stephen J. Greenblatt said on Friday evening that while he did not expect Task Force recommendations to go forward unhindered by financial troubles, he is pleased that “the University has decided that it will actually embrace this opportunity and move forward.”

Faust’s announcements were greeted with frequent applause, but not all audience members were satisfied.

In a question-and-answer session on Friday, one student asked why video and new media were neglected in the Task Force’s report. Another audience member asked why the report paid little attention to the Graduate School of Education’s “Arts in Education” program.

Others were ready to give Faust credit for improving the arts’ profile on campus.

According to Office of Career Services Interim Director Robin Mount, the OCS is diversifying its programming to place less weight on finance and consulting. Mount said that Faust’s influence helped spur the changes.

—Staff writer Alex M. McLeese can be reached at amcleese@fas.harvard.edu.

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