Maseeh, home of the arts

Expressions event series crosses the art-science divide

Throughout March and April, Maseeh Hall hosted a series of events known as Expressions, which merged arts with the sciences. Expressions was comprised of three events — a Master’s Tea, a lecture, and an art reception.

The first event of the series was the Master’s Tea. The Tea, which will become its own ongoing program, is a series of informal meetings hosted in the housemasters’ apartment for a limited number of students to meet and chat with a prominent figure or celebrity. The inaugural Master’s Tea event during Expressions, attended by around 20 students, featured John Bohannon, a Science reporter famous for his “Dance Your PhD” presentations in a TED (Technology, Entertaiment and Design) talk. The discussion focused on Bohannon’s exploration of dance as an alternative to PowerPoint slides as a way to relay scientific concepts.

“As soon as I watched John’s TED video I was amazed and I RSVP’d,” said Francisco X. Peña ’15. “How often do I get to hang out with TED speakers?” Peña, a dancer, added that he found the idea of conveying messages through dance unique and interesting.

“John had us play a game where he listed the titles of different PhD theses and then showed us a clip from the dance, so we had to guess which clip matched to which title,” said Katie L. Villa G, a Maseeh Graduate Resident Tutor (GRT). “He also talked a bit about his life and personal career experiences.”

”As a dancer myself, I felt like this was something I would be interested in pursuing sometime. … It was interesting to realize how creative people can be and what they can do to connect with others,” added Larissa J. Senatus ’15.

“Lots of Maseeh students, it turns out, are dancers at MIT, and I think everyone enjoyed John’s creative work connecting dance to science,” said Eli Kintisch, who organized Expressions. Kintisch is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and Maseeh’s Resident Scholar.

The second event in the series was Maggie Koerth-Baker’s lecture “Shedding Light, Online,” held on April 4. Koerth-Baker, a science editor for the popular blogging site, spoke about how blogging and interacting with a responsive audience shaped her new book on the future of American energy, Before the Lights Go Out.

The last event was an art reception — “To Extremes: Public Art in a Changing World.” To Extremes was a juried exhibition of proposed public artworks exploring climate change. The jury consisted of nine professional artists and designers. Attended by around 90 people, this exhibit was on display in Maseeh’s lobby from April 20 to April 29. London-based artist Sam Jury won the first place of $2,500 for further development of the proposed project for installation at a public site.

Effects on Maseeh Culture

“We believe that Maseeh Hall should be host to visitors to explore new and interesting cultural, academic, and scientific ideas,” said Kintisch. He hopes themes like art, dance, creativity, and scientists and engineers engaging with the world will be part of the Maseeh culture in the future.

“I think it would be great if Maseeh students could come together and decide what sorts of speakers they would be most interested in, and then we would all work together to invite different people and plan exciting events like this one,” suggested Villa.

Some students, though, express lower expectations for the program. Though Peña supports the idea of having more of such lectures at Maseeh, he said that these talks are not big enough to have an influence on the dorm’s culture.

“I don’t think the Expressions talks can become that popular given that they are limited to a single residential hall whose culture has no particular attraction to the arts,” said Peña.

“I don’t know how popular it was, considering it was the first time it happened at Maseeh,” noted Senatus, “but I do think they could become very popular if proper advertisement is made in advance.”