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Faculty Discuss Potential Arts Spaces in Allston

Constuction halted on Harvard's Allston Science Comlex in December 2009. The vast construction site (above) is hidden from traffic, pedestrians, businesses, and resindets by a wall surrounding its entire perimeter.
Constuction halted on Harvard's Allston Science Comlex in December 2009. The vast construction site (above) is hidden from traffic, pedestrians, businesses, and resindets by a wall surrounding its entire perimeter.
By Karl M. Aspelund and Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writers

Faculty and administrators in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Arts and Humanities Division are working with the University's Allston planning groups in hopes of securing space across the river for more modern art-making facilities. The Arts and Humanities expansion would come in addition to the planned SEAS relocation, which is slated to move two-thirds of the school’s faculty to Allston in 2019.

Three major affiliates of the divisionthe American Repertory Theater and the departments of Music and Visual and Environmental Studiesare considering finding spaces in Allston for rehearsals and exhibitions, according to English department chair W. James Simpson. Simpson serves on the Allston Academic Planning Committee, a group of faculty and administrators chaired by Provost Alan M. Garber ’76.

Dean of Arts and Humanities Diana Sorensen wrote in an email that “conversations are ongoing” but “no definitive plans are in place yet.”

“One has the feeling that things are quickening and that things are moving forward,” VES Department Chair Robb Moss said. He added that he thinks the “amount of conversations and urgency in the conversations,” and that fact that “art-making [is] becoming more front and center at Harvard,” indicate that expansion might become a reality.

Though Moss said no locations have yet been determined for potential performance spaces, he said that administrators are considering a building known as the “gateway site” which will be built on the site of old Charlesview apartments for academic purposes, University officials said at a Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting last October. Harvard’s institutional master plan for Allston originally slated the building for administrative purposes.

Moss said that while the VES department has suitable studio and exhibition spaces in Cambridge, such spaces were designed for art making in the 19th and 20th centuries, and that new locations in Allston may enhance modern-day film screenings and performances.

“This may be an opportunity for Allston to build art-making spaces that could house all kinds of art making,” Moss said. “You could in the same architectural space have a sound studio, practice studio, for performers or dancers or musicians.”

Similarly, the Music Department has long been in need of new rehearsal and performance spaces that suit modern music styles, according to Simpson. Currently, the department’s main performance space is Paine Hall.

“Harvard desperately needs the performing arts center that many of our peer institutions have,” Simpson said. “[Paine Hall]  is suitable for all kinds of music but not the kinds of music that have emerged since 1914,” when it was completed.

The ART, meanwhile, is mostly interested in rehearsal space, Simpson said.

Although very early in conceptualization, rehearsal spaces could be utilized by other Harvard affiliates and the Allston community as well as for ART productions, according to Anna C. Fitzloff, director of marketing and communications at the ART.

The new Harvard Allston Education Portal at 224 Western Ave.—which will host an opening celebration on Feb. 21— will include space for live art performances and exhibitions open to the community, though it is not affiliated with the Arts and Humanities division.

“We want to be a home for all kinds of faculty- and student-directed productions and curations,” the Portal’s new arts coordinator Eva B. Rosenberg ’10 said, noting that she is actively trying to make faculty and students aware of the Portal’s services for art-making and exhibition.

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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