ARTS FIRST at 25 (and hot tips!)

ARTS FIRSTARTS FIRST turns 25. There are more than 100 reasons for you to attend. Here are a few that are on our radar for Harvard's popular celebration of the arts APRIL 27-30. 

By Alicia Anstead NF '08

Harvard Yard
Harvard Yard during ARTS FIRST '16
This year's ARTS FIRST festival is marked by exhuberance for Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts at Harvard and producer of the annual festival celebrating student and faculty creativity. It's the 25th anniversary of the event, which is open to the public, including children, and offers many free events. (Here's a fun short video that captures the spirit of the festival.) Megan also noted the upcoming 10-year mark for the Report of the Task Force on the Arts, one of President Drew Gilpin Faust's first official moves at Harvard. Although the festival has been around for a quarter of a century, its history and the decade-old report share a central tenet: an ongoing, strategic and ever-growing commitment to the arts at Harvard. 

"Twenty-five years ago, the college realized there was something important about the arts that should be celebrated," said Megan. "We've come so far from there, particularly with the Theater, Dance & Media concentration, the arts in the curriculum and college credit for arts practice – playing in the HRO, for instance.  Not to mention Arts @ 29 Garden, our experimental arts space, new public art initiatives by the Harvard University Committee on the Arts and much more. ARTS FIRST allows us a moment to acknowledge the history and the future, and I think the best is yet to come.
Battle of Bands
Battle of the Bands during ARTS FIRST '16
I couldn't be more grateful to President Faust for putting this into motion. There's no denying that the arts are more visible and prioritized as a part of the Harvard education."

For those who work in the arts every day at Harvard, a culminating event such as ARTS FIRST is, indeed, an exhuberant way to share ongoing work with the community. We asked our blogging team members, who cover the arts throughout the academic year, to share their schedules for ARTS FIRST. Their tips, suggestions and excitement are presented here. You can follow their lead or browse more than 100 festival events in the official ARTS FIRST Guide

vid gamesCherie Hu ‘17
I'm really excited about the Media & Technology track because it sheds light not just on the interdisciplinary, innovative potential of the arts, but also on the unique positioning of Harvard to bring this potential to life. Sam Wu's exhibition still was conceived in collaboration with the Harvard Innovation Lab, a startup hub not normally associated with the campus arts scene; research by Aaron Suduiko '17 on video games is both academically rigorous and surprisingly universal: His findings have moral and personal implications for anyone engaging with fictional characters through technology. These two events on Saturday, April 29 -- Wu at 1:30 p.m. in Paine Hall,  and Suduiko at 4 p.m. in Dudley House Courtyard -- are exemplary of what I like the most about ARTS FIRST – namely, how the festival debunks myths about artistic study being too insular, abstract or esoteric, and instead presenting the arts as thriving at the nexus of innovation and relevance.

Y2YSamantha Neville ‘19
I’m really excited to see the art produced by Y2Y through Art: Seeing and Understanding Youth and Homelessness in Harvard Square. I think art is a necessary part of life. Y2Y does fantastic work, and it is great that the youth there are able to do art. I think it’s really healthy for them and not something people from even low-income families always have the time and resources to engage in.

DrysideIsa Flores-Jones ‘19
I'm most excited to see Dryside, senior Aislinn Brophy's TDM thesis, a project which explores the impact of climate change on marginalized communities.  Friends have poured their voices, their time and their love into this musical, and I can't wait to see it come ARTS FIRST weekend. 

Shadow puppet Garuda figure, JavaJake Stepansky ‘17
I’m always on the lookout for artistic experiences that foster community growth, so I can’t wait to check out The Magic of Java – a performance by a Javanese-style gamelan orchestra that combines three of my favorite things: shadow puppetry, live music and coffee. It takes place 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30 at the Peabody Museum. I think it will embody what I love most about ARTS FIRST: gathering to build community through unapologetic celebration of the arts.

Harvard Baroque Chamber OrchestraEmily Vides, Communications Coordinator, OFA
This year my kids and I are most excited about the Make Art Stations, 1-5 p.m. Saturday, April 29 on the Plaza, including Build a Bug, T-Shirt Re-Fashion, and the ACT ONE Accessible Workshops. If I can get them away from the Plaza, we’ll get to the Memorial Church at 2 p.m. to see the Harvard Early Music Society and the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra. We’re also going to ARTS FIRST on Sunday to see The Magic of Java at 2 p.m. in the Peabody Museum because who doesn’t love shadow puppets (and coffee)? And if I can get a babysitter, I’ll go to the Harvard Film Archive to see the Fugazi film, Instrument, which I’ve only ever seen on a bad VHS recording.”

What's Hanging Over Your Head?Alicia Anstead NF ’08, Harvard Arts Blog editor-in-chief
John Lithgow '67 originally imagined ARTS FIRST as a banquet. With that in mind, it’s hard for me to say no to any arts event at this annual smorgasbord of arts. That said, this year I am particularly excited about student public art and a new offering: artist talks. Two student exhibitions – I Want to Say I’m Sorry Pt. 2 (1937) and Art of Residue – will, respectively, feature artists Nina Luo ’17 at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at Tercentenary Theatre, and Yaqing Cai GSD ’17 and Haoxiang Yang GSD ’17 at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29 next to Memorial Church (Tercentenary side). I love artist talks because they give us a window into process and desire. A third student public artwork will also be in Harvard Yard: What’s Hanging Over Your Head? by the GSD African American Studies Union. I’ll check that out as well.”