Silk Road To Move to Allston

The Silk Road Project, a nonprofit arts and educational organization created by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, will move its headquarters from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. to a Harvard property in Allston in July.

The lease marks the University’s second successful letting of a vacant property in the neighborhood since the December announcement that Harvard would be aggressively pursuing tenants for its unoccupied holdings in Allston. The announcement came in the wake of the indefinite halt of construction on the Allston Science Complex, a major component of Harvard’s plans to build a new campus across the Charles River.

The Silk Road Project recently completed a five year residency at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a collaboration that motivated the organization to move to Allston in order to form a deeper partnership with the University, according to Ma.

“By actually being more on campus we can have a deeper engagement with and understanding of what’s actually happening at the University,” he said.

Ma emphasized that the move will help advance the organization’s goal of bringing together artists and audiences worldwide to engage in multidisciplinary artistic exchange.


“What we want to do is maximize the passion for and the memorability of learning things,” Ma said. “We want to sponsor courses at Harvard where people are making things, emphasizing the continuity between thinking and making, using all of our senses in order to pursue creative inquiry.” In addition to sponsoring and informing course offerings, the Silk Road Project hopes to hold symposia on subjects ranging from the state of the arts to community involvement.

University officials said they had high hopes for the Silk Road Project’s involvement in arts programming at Harvard.

“Silk Road’s move to Harvard is also a representation of Harvard’s commitment to the arts and to international dimensions on the arts,” University President Drew G. Faust said.

Ma also said that Silk Road hopes to be directly involved with the Allston community.

“We want to listen to their wish-list and see if there’s any way of making some of those things happen,” Ma said.

Faust also said she was excited to see how the Silk Road Project would integrate itself into the Allston neighborhood.

“I think the Silk Road’s engagement with Harvard and the community will be a real plus for all of us,” Faust said.

Allston resident Ray Mellone, who chairs the Harvard Allston Task Force, echoed those sentiments.

“I think it will benefit the community,” Mellone said, adding that he especially hoped the Silk Road Project would improve arts education in Allston.

Silk Road’s move to the neighborhood is emblematic of Harvard’s overall leasing strategy in Allston, according to University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, who oversees the leasing of Harvard’s Allston property and its relations with the local community.

“This is an example of weaving together Harvard’s priorities along with our spaces in Allston, not only to bring vibrancy to the community, but to reflect this institution’s priorities,” Lapp said.

The announcement of Silk Road’s move comes less than three weeks after Harvard finalized the lease of another one of its Allston properties to Earth Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization.

Lapp said she hopes to announce more leases to local organizations in the near future.

“We leave no stone unturned,” Lapp said. “We continue to follow up with people. We will continue to be as aggressive as we have been.”

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at