Harvard Arts Task Force report released

The arts and culture have long been discussed as having a prominent role in Harvard's Allston expansion, and it is welcome confirmation to see that idea explored in detail in this report released today by the Task Force on the Arts created by President Faust in November 2007. Some excerpts:

Harvard should invest in upgrading existing spaces and in building new, innovative arts spaces. A proposal this ambitious would, given the tight space constraints within which we all function, ordinarily seem a mere fantasy. But here too Harvard has a remarkable opportunity. Serendipitously, the university has the chance to provide its students with the spaces they require both for their exuberant extracurricular arts activities and for the rigorous, challenging, and vitally necessary art-making within the curriculum.The future development of the Allston campus makes it possible to bring into being precisely the architecturally exciting structures that will enable the innovations for which we are calling.

And it will be a site of lively engagement with the immediate community of Allston and Cambridge and the larger community of Greater Boston: public exhibitions and performances of all kinds, art classes, the free screening of movies, after-school programs, events created in conjunction with our neighboring institutions.

the development of the Allston part of Harvard’s campus also offers an opportunity to include studio space and housing for artists; such deliberations ought to be considered in the current planning efforts.

The Task Force has envisioned spaces for the arts in Allston that will provide venues for art-making, display, and performance, spaces which may incorporate museums (including contemporary arts galleries), classrooms, student galleries, performance spaces, a theater for film and video screenings, studio spaces, rehearsal spaces, and practice spaces, in addition to commercial venues (such as a cafĂ© and bookstore) which will help to drive traffic through this hub. All these components are geared to making the arts in Allston a dynamic, social location which invites and spurs discussion.To this end, programming in these spaces should be strong and deep, with the arts facilities here described in use for as many hours in the day as possible.If the campus is to be suffused by the arts, then its hub must be a destination—and origin—for arts making, display, and performance—throughout the day and night.

The report also is clear that there is a lot of decision-making still needed before specific facilities can be planned. This suggests that Harvard isn't yet close to knowing what art facilities to include in its Allston Institutional Master Plan.

there remain several matters which invite careful and rigorous discussion.Among these matters is the precise shape of the distribution of arts facilities across the campus.The Task Force has weighed the advantages of corridor, constellation, and cluster arrangements of dedicated and arts-accessible facilities additional to the arts center proposed above, and recommends that the university incorporate its plans for arts construction/renovation into its other physical planning processes already underway

Many student groups thought an additional theater that could seat 500-750 would alleviate the scheduling pressures. Others expressed an interest in having multiple flexible smaller spaces that could be reconfigured to accommodate the appropriate audience for the event being held within. Some academic departments and visiting artists expressed their interest in a large performance space that could seat 1,600 to 2,000 people.

Overall it is an exciting document that shares some common thinking with the Culture portion of Harvard's 2004 Allston Life Task Force report. I look forward to seeing the vision become reality.

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