Can every day be Arts First?

by Simon de Carvalho '14

It was Saturday, and I sat at my desk on the third floor of Straus Hall in a futile attempt to work on one or another of the many things I have to do this reading period. In the Yard outside my window, where usually I hear only silence and occasional chatter, music filled the air.

And this was no isolated occurrence: Music filled the air all day. And this happened all weekend. Yes, this was Arts First, all right.

Harvard came alive for Arts First. The campus was overrun with art of all sorts: This weekend, I attended a film screening, watched the Freshman Musical, heard the Harvard Band from my room, saw art installations and much more.

And I talked to friends who did countless other things—orchestra concerts, a cappella performances, dance shows.

What made the weekend so special was the energy behind it: There was something indescribable in the air. The weather this weekend proved to be gorgeous, which certainly helped, but people seemed generally excited. I spoke with many who were planning their afternoons around various performances, making time to take in some art amidst the drudgery of reading period studies.

Things should be like this all the time!

It is clear that the entire Harvard community takes Arts First very seriously: This weekend really felt like a unified effort on all parts. Performers prepared for weeks and months, and the administration clearly worked hard to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

And they called in the big guns: As I was walking through the yard on Saturday with some friends, I looked at the stage that was being set up in front of the John Harvard statue.

"Hey!" I said. "That’s John Lithgow, isn’t it?"

And indeed it was. John Lithgow ’67, whom I spoke with last semester (and who performed at the Loeb main stage Monday), was standing there, in his Arts First t-shirt, conversing with some people. When we walked back by a few minutes later, he was addressing a sizeable crowd from the stage.

Only at Harvard. And only during Arts First.

[Caption: Many children participated in the Ceramics Program's Pottery Wheel Throwing Demonstration during ARTS FIRST 2011]