The Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) supports student engagement in the arts and integrates the arts into University life. Through its programs and services, the OFA teaches and mentors, fosters student art making, connects students to accomplished artists, commissions new work, and partners with local, national, and international constituencies. By supporting the development of students as artists and cultural stewards, the OFA works to enrich society and shape communities in which the arts are a vital part of life.
At its essence, the Office for the Arts champions artists—whether first-year Harvard undergraduates or master innovators. Traditional and contemporary aesthetics are integrated into the teaching of co-curricular courses, as well as in the artistic direction of our ensembles, exhibitions and guest artist programs. The OFA creates connections among practice, theory, and history. It also strives for state-of-the-art practices in the management of many Harvard arts venues.
OFA programs and initiatives enable students to explore an art form in depth and to work directly with professional artists in a wide range of courses, workshops, master classes, residencies, and apprenticeships and in the creation of new works:
For over 50 years the OFA Ceramics Program, known for its leadership in the field, has provided a creative studio environment for Harvard, greater Boston, and international constituents. The core strengths of this studio/study center are its excellent courses and instructors, innovative interdisciplinary symposia, unlimited studio access for independent study, and expansive, well-equipped facility. The Program is located in a 15,500 square-foot studio at 224 Western Ave. in Allston and offers three semesters each year of courses at all levels, as well as master classes and workshops by visiting artists. More than 1000 Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, Harvard faculty and staff, professional artists, and members of the public are annually enrolled.
Rooted in tradition, committed to innovating, the OFA Dance Program supports studies in dance composition, improvisation, performance, choreographic design and history of dance with an emphasis on collaboration and trans-disciplinary inquiry. The program, based at the Harvard Dance Center at 60 Garden St., is a part of the concentration in Theater, Dance & Media; offers a secondary field of concentration in drama with a focus on dance; for-credit courses; co-curricular dance courses at all levels, plus opportunities to perform repertory, commissioned work, and installations. The Dance Program provides mentorship and support for student-led dance companies, a vibrant community of Harvard dancers who represent over twenty dance traditions from across the globe. The program regularly hosts guest artists and choreographers who teach master classes and hold residencies throughout the academic year, fostering exceptional opportunities for students to work with luminaries and innovators in the field and in disciplines linked to dance.
The OFA Jazz Program brings masters of this uniquely American art form to Harvard, honoring them and connecting them to students through clinics, rehearsals, and a performance over a period of weeks. While at Harvard, artists are encouraged to pursue musical ideas that stretch beyond their usual interests and share this process with Harvard students, with new works often commissioned. The goal is threefold: to provide an opportunity for undergraduates to work directly with classic repertoire and masters of the art form; to honor artists who have made a significant contribution to American music; and to increase public awareness of the artist’s music. Guest musicians—who are often isolated from the liberal arts environment—and students both benefit from this educational exchange.
Learning from Performers
The Learning from Performers program was established by the OFA in order to facilitate direct engagement between Harvard students and gifted professional artists. The program annually hosts 15 to 20 artists and sometimes artist ensembles in music, dance, theater, film/TV, visual arts and inter-disciplinary arts. These artists lead workshops, master classes, seminars and informal discussions, and also engage in longer-term residencies that sometimes culminate in performances, exhibitions and new works. In recent years, LFP artists have been increasingly involved with students and faculty as part of FAS courses. The impact of the program is broadened by connecting these artists to other Harvard resources such as the Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, and the Divinity School, as well as Greater Boston arts presenters and organizations.
OFA-Affiliated Orchestras, Choruses and Bands
Harvard has a large and gifted student music community which participates in several professionally-led choruses, orchestras and bands supported by and affiliated with the OFA. Many of these groups undertake annual tours domestically and overseas. They vary in size and mission, and are a complement to the many student-led groups. Collectively, the professional and student-led ensembles produce upwards of 500 concerts annually. The OFA works closely with most of the professional leaders, who report to the OFA’s director—and, in three cases, jointly report to the OFA and the Department of Music.
Public Art Program
Through its Public Art Program, the OFA pursues explorations of public spaces by commissioning emerging or established artists to develop new work at Harvard. Together students and artists explore the meaning of and possibilities for art and civic engagement. The resulting temporary works often interpret spaces that may be owned by Harvard but are used publicly. These long-term residencies allow visiting artists to know Harvard’s places, staff, students, faculty and public. Artists visit FAS and professional school courses and meet with undergraduates in College houses.
Grants and Fellowships
The OFA provides financial support for student artists through Artist Development Fellowships, Project Grants and a Music Lesson Subsidy program.
The OFA manages Agassiz Theatre and Harvard Dance Center for student productions and for dance classes and workshop performances, as well as Directors Studio, a rehearsal space available to Harvard dance companies. Professional technical directors who conduct workshops on technical theater are also on hand to assist all production companies. OFA technical staff also assist with running Farkas Hall, home of the Theater, Dance & Media concentration as well as the venue for Hasty Pudding Theatricals and other undergraduate productions.
Performance Venue Management
The OFA also oversees the management of the Memorial Hall/Lowell Hall Complex (including Sanders Theatre), the Harvard Box Office at Smith Campus Center and ARTS FIRST, an annual spring festival celebrating undergraduates and other Harvard affiliates in the arts. The OFA manages all rehearsal and performance activity in Sanders Theatre and Lowell Hall. In a typical year, the schedules for Sanders and Lowell include 100 student rehearsals, 78 student performances and 90 non-affiliated performances. OFA staff provides considerable support for student presentations, including training and supervision in stage management, house management, technical production and event planning. In addition to Sanders Theatre, Memorial Hall contains practice, storage and office space, the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub (which is used for performance and is under separate management) and Annenberg Hall.
Periodically the OFA develops conferences, performances and new works that fall outside its usual program parameters. Leading scholars and artists are engaged, usually in collaboration with other Harvard departments and organizations outside of the University. Initiatives include “Leonard Bernstein: From Boston to Broadway,” a conference linking practice and scholarship that deepened connections between art and the curriculum; extended artist residencies with theater directors Diane Paulus and Ping Chong, musicians Bobby McFerrin and Marty Ehrlich, and other artists, that would result in the creation of new work; and several projects in collaboration with the Office of the President, including a series of lecture-demonstrations at Sanders Theatre featuring trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis.
Each year, Harvard University recognizes accomplished professional and student artists with awards administered by the OFA: the Harvard Arts Medal, the Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award in Music, and Student Arts Prizes.
Timeline of OFA history