Art programs get moved around in reorganization

To make arts at MIT more ‘coherent’, SAA will take over some programs from the Office of the Arts

Student and Artist-in-Residence Programs, a department run under the Office of the Arts, will be redistributed as entities under the Student Art Association this semester. Programs including the Arts Scholars Program, Grad Arts Forum, Art Reps, and the MIT Mural Competition will be affected by this change.

Director of Arts Initiatives Leila Kinney said that this change “creates an opportunity to examine things.” While there are many separate art programs at MIT, several of them are disjoint and separately organized. For example, while both the MIT Museum and Student Art Association organize art programs, they are disparate from one another. Kinney described arts at MIT as an “exploded mosaic.”

“Our goal is to make the image [of arts at MIT] coherent without changing the individual parts,” she said. The image is beginning to become more clear as two academic programs — the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (the result of a merger of the Department of Architecture’s Visual Arts Program and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies) and the Comparative Media Studies department — move into the old Media Lab this semester. These programs will join and share space with the List Visual Arts Center and Office of the Arts to create a new art zone.

Among the extracurricular art programs, the largest is the which is endowed by the MIT Council for the Arts. The program, which interested students apply to in the fall, provides undergraduates the opportunity to attend 8–12 workshops or excursions per year in several disciplines.

“Arts Scholars is mainly a student-run group,” said Arts Scholars president Paula M. Te ’11. “Scholars get the opportunity to organize outings to arts events they hear about. In turn, other scholars get to see all kinds of art they previously would not have experienced.” Artists and arts faculty are also invited to attend the events and discuss them with students afterward.

As in the past, incoming freshman will have opportunity to learn about the arts at MIT and in the Boston area by attending the Freshman Arts Seminar Advising Program (FASAP). This year, however, the seminar will be smaller and only 10 students will be allowed to participate. The seminar will be led by Director of the Arts Initiatives Leila W. Kinney, and this year, it will have a new focus: Art, Science, and Technology at MIT. Freshmen taking the seminar will develop project ideas for the upcoming Festival in Arts, Science, and Technology, or FAST, which will coincide with the 150th anniversary of MIT in Spring 2011.

Upperclassmen can also participate in the festival. Students taking Professor Tod Machover’s Media Lab course, MAS-825J “FAST: Designing a Festival to Celebrate Art, Science & Technology at MIT.” The class will hold a competition between its student projects, and winners will be shown at the spring semester arts festival.

The majority of the festival activities will be held on five separate weekends in the spring semester. Exhibitions, installations, music, opera, panel discussions, and performances will highlight the past, present, and future of the arts at MIT. While most of the festival contributions will be student projects, the festival will also showcase faculty work including Machover’s “Death and the Powers at the Cutler Majestic.”

“It seems like almost everyone is trying to do art and science together”, said Kinney. “MIT has been doing it since the ’60s with the founding of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. FAST will be an opportunity to reclaim its great legacy of arts and science at MIT.”

Information about the festival, as well as all other arts programs at MIT, will be available in a new arts portal at

Leah Brunetto is the student curator of the Wiesner Student Art Gallery