If the Freshman Arts Advisory Board (FAAB) has one mission, it is to provide intense Harvard students with not-so-intense artistic downtime. Recognizing that students, and especially freshmen, can be intimidated by the heavy time commitments required by extracurricular organizations and semester-long VES courses, FAAB has organized a wide array of spring workshops to help first-year students engage with the arts. To celebrate the initiative’s official debut, the newly-formed board hosted "A FAAB Affair," an interactive arts extravaganza which was held on Thursday, February 3.
During the event, many freshmen enthusiastically shared their wide range of skills with others by giving mini-workshops. Several small classrooms in the basement of Memorial Hall were filled with students trying out a range of activities, from origami to juggling to cake decorating.
FAAB is the brainchild of Rory M. Sullivan’09, the newly instated Director of Residential Education at the Freshman Dean’s Office. One of Sullivan’s first projects was to gather fifteen freshmen to serve on the Board, which is designed to help fellow first-years both navigate and also reshape arts opportunities on campus.
"I wanted to get freshmen excited for the arts," says Sullivan. "So when I decided to initiate the FAAB and asked for applications, I asked them what they thought we could improve, and what they thought were important priorities." From this initial feedback, two main goals were formed: find a low-key way for freshmen to participate in the arts, and provide more exhibition space for student art.
These specific objectives are reflective of the broader emphasis which Harvard’s administration has placed on arts education in recent years. As Freshman Dean Thomas A. Dingman ’67 explains, "academics are the centerpiece for freshmen but we wanted freshmen to grow on all fronts." In particular, he notes that the administration "thought that if they offered more arts opportunities, there would be enthusiastic participants. This also aligns with the attention that President Faust has directed to the arts at Harvard."
For now, these arts opportunities will primarily take the form of 4- to 8-week long workshops on topics ranging from Photoshop to pantomime. Beginning in the second week of February, six limited-enrollment workshops will allow students to "dabble" in making docudramas, creative writing, and even using the Bow & Arrow letterpress.
"It can be hard to break into the arts scene at Harvard as a freshman if you’re not already part of a group," says FAAB member Sarina M. Patterson ’14. "That’s the nature of Harvard. You have to comp everything. It’s hard to be involved with the arts if you just want to get a taste of it."
While the Office for the Arts (OFA) does offer beginner-level arts courses which are open to all students, FAAB seeks to build an inviting creative environment which specifically caters to first-years. The Board also wanted to increase freshman presence in the college’s annual Arts First festival, so they have reserved Annenberg for a May 1 showcase dedicated exclusively to freshman art.
Even with all of its enthusiastic support and exciting ideas, FAAB is still in its formative stages as a group and is open-ended in its plans for evolution. In the future, the Board hopes to offer career development resources for aspiring artists. "We’re hoping to organize talks like ‘Integrating the Arts into Your Career’ panels, where we would invite people to talk about how to integrate arts into professions in government, medicine, or even public service," Sullivan says.
For now, freshmen can explore new types of art in the spring workshops and at informal events like "A FAAB Affair". "I think it’s so great when students encounter a different art form that is made to feel accessible," said Marin J. Orlosky-Randow ’07-’08, now an instructor in the OFA’s Dance Program. "FAAB did a great job with the timing of this event because freshmen are probably overwhelmed with information in the first semester of college, and now is a good break to get people excited about the arts again."
—Staff writer Minji Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.