2018 ARTS FIRST Festival: April 26–29

    Four days of art, music, fun & community!

ARTS FIRST is Harvard's annual showcase of student and faculty creativity. Produced by the Office for the Arts, with support from the Board of Overseers of Harvard University, the festival is a public event with many free performances and activities for Harvard and community members of all ages. 

THANK YOU to all of the performers, volunteers, staff, participants and attendees of ARTS FIRST 2017! Without you the Festival could never happen, and we are so grateful to all of you!

View photos from ARTS FIRST on Facebook

Read the 2017 ARTS FIRST Festival guide online

2017 Festival Highlights

Harvard Arts Medal Ceremony Honoring John Lithgow

actor John Lithgow ’67 ArD ‘05, Master of the Arts at Harvard
Award-winning actor John Lithgow ’67 ArD ’05 was the recipient of the 2017 Harvard Arts Medal, which will be awarded by Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust at a ceremony on Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 4 pm at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge. The ceremony, presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Harvard University Board of Overseers in association with the American Repertory Theater, included a discussion with Lithgow moderated by President Faust. 

Mayor Marty Walsh proclaimed Saturday, April 29, 2017 as JOHN LITHGOW DAY in the City of Boston. Happy John Lithgow Day

A Celebration of Harvard Artists

An extraordinary night of performances featuring an ensemble of accomplished Harvard alumni, faculty and student artists under the direction of Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus '88. It was a wonderful an evening of dance, music, spoken word, drama and film honoring the talents cultivated at Harvard and their continuing journeys. Read "A Star Turn for Harvard Artists" in the Harvard Gazette.

On The Plaza & Performance Fair

Performing Musical Difference: Rhythms of Unity

Students in Music 194: Performing Musical Difference woke up the Plaza with body percussion and music of the Silk Road Ensemble. Drawing on traditional Middle Eastern rhythms, this collaboration with Professor Kay Kaufman Shelemay and Shane Shanahan, Silk Road Ensemble percussionist, transcends cultural boundaries to build a musical community.

In the Beginning... the ARTS FIRST Creation Story (sort of)

The ARTS FIRST Origin Story you never knew you wanted to know!

Dean Rakesh Khurana as the Fearless Rakeshules, Bringer of Art
Sir Dean Thomas Dingman as the Celestial Soprano of the Gods
The esteemed Gregory Mankiw, Titan
The Reverend Jonathan Walton, Narrator
Geneticist Pardis Sabeti as the Algorithmic Oracle
River Charles Ensemble | Hasty Pudding Theatricals | Harvard Ballet Company | Expressions Dance Company | Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones

In the Beginning...the ARTS FIRST Creation Story

In the beginning, Harvard was shrouded in darkness, sorrow and the hard sciences. The campus needed a hero. Then lo! The gods sent their muse, the fearless Rakeshules, who set out to illuminate the campus with art, creativity and transformative experiences: the ARTS FIRST Creation Story as told by some of the greatest actors of this or any generation! 

Welcome from John Lithgow ’67, ArD ’05 with Harvard University Band

A cappella at ARTS FIRST 2016Performance Fair

View the Grid

Make Art Stations

See the full listings page.

Performance Fair on the Plaza

Jammin’ A Cappella | 1-3 PM: Vocal music showcase
DanceFest | 3-5 PM: A celebration of dance traditions

Jazz on the Plaza

Yosvany Terry¡Festejemos jazz! In honor of International Jazz Day (April 30), ARTS FIRST presented a free concert featuring Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist/composer Yosvany Terry, Harvard’s Director of Jazz Ensembles, Senior Lecturer on Music and ”a leader among the current generation of Afro-Carribean jazz musicians in the United States” according to The New York Times. Terry conducted the student Monday Jazz Band in a program featuring compositions of such celebrated jazz masters as Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and George Cables and showcased his Grammy-nominated quintet from New York: Yosvany Terry, alto & soprano saxophones, chekeré | Michael Rodriquez, trumpet | Osmany Paredes, piano | Yunior Terry Cabrera, bass | Ludwig Afonso, drums
Presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard.
Plaza Tent


An interactive public art experience of light and sound co-created by Lateral Office—a Toronto-based experimental design practice founded by Harvard Graduate School of Design graduates Lola Sheppard GSD ’01 and Mason White GSD ‘01—and the Montréal-based lighting consultancy CS Design. The installation, situated in the south end of Old Harvard Yard, consisted of a series of acoustic, illuminated see-saws that create waves of light intensification and sound sequences when activated by the public. More information.

Impulse at ARTS FIRST 2017. Photo by Jake Belcher.
Impulse at ARTS FIRST 2017. Photo by Jake Belcher.