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Introduction To ARTalk by ARTalk

An introduction to the ARTalk guest author blog by Kerry Powell, Assistant to the Director of Arts Initiatives, and Ken Haggerty '11.

[by Kerry Powell, Assistant to the Director of Arts Initiatives, and Ken Haggerty ’11]

MIT is at the center of one of the most original and innovative art making communities in the country. There are over 60 student art groups here, allowing students to explore their talents and experiment with making, performing, looking at, and understanding the multitudes of formats that the arts take in 2008. The arts at MIT are everywhere and include the internationally recognized public art collection, the List Center for Visual Arts, artists-in-residence, the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the Visual Arts Program, the MIT Dramashop, Dance Ensemble, MIT Symphony Orchestra, and the Media Lab, to name just a few.

MIT Dramashop’s performance of Leocadia. Photocredit / Hayden Taylor

ARTALK will focus on the active arts scene at MIT as students, faculty, and staff will discuss events they have attended, courses they are taking, plays they have acted in, or any other related activities or ideas worth blogging about. Students with a multitude of interest and involvement in the arts at MIT will start the conversation, including Sadie Scheffer ’10, Ashley Nash ’11, Susan Shepherd ’11, Biyeun Buczyk ’10, Danbee Kim ’09, and Harrison Bralower ’11. We welcome you to join the conversation.

So what is special about the arts at MIT? For one: the students. The energy MIT students put into all of their projects is reflected by experimentation with creativity and expression. A hands-on approach allows what they learn in their other subjects to inform their artistic endeavors, and vice versa.

Gamelan Galak Tika bowing in the traditional manner after a performance with Ensemble Robot at the Boston Museum of Science, Photocredit / Jeff Lieberman

In the next part of this entry, freshman Ken Haggerty, who helped us organize this venture, explains what makes the arts at MIT so unique and why they are important to him personally.

When people think of MIT, the first things that come to mind tend to be engineering, mathematics, science, chemistry, and nerds. I myself thought this when I first applied to MIT. A friend’s mother told me she thought I was too normal for MIT. And though MIT definitely has all the engineering, math, science, chemistry, and nerds you’d expect it to have, such things are only a fraction of what MIT has to offer.

Being an artsy person, I signed up for a pre-orientation program in the arts called the Freshman Arts Program (or FAP for short). Through FAP I met fantastically friendly and talented people: writers, drummers, guitarists, vocalists, painters, actors, and photographers. Many of my closest friends did FAP with me, and it’s great because to this day we all still hang out and go out and do things together. People here are really involved in student groups so there’s almost always something to do or someone to see.

“Wolf Lights,” 2004, by Joan Jonas

After FAP I signed up for a freshman advising seminar in the arts called FASAP, and again, I met a lot of really awesome and talented people – not just students, but professors and guest speakers whose work included writing novels (Professor Junot Diaz, award-winning author), glassblowing (Materials Science and Engineering Professor Michael Cima), origami (graduate student and origami master Brian Chan), Senegalese dance (Patricia Tang, Professor of Music), and using technology to track the population of owls (Dale Joachim, Visiting Professor at the MIT Media Lab). Through FASAP we also saw a lot of really great events, including the Paul Taylor Dance Company and sneak previews of both films Rendition and Funny Games. When my friends from other schools visit, they’re amazed by the amount of opportunities we have at MIT.

But what is it, exactly, which makes the arts at MIT so different? The short answer, I think, is the people. Not only are the people here some of the friendliest and most hardworking, but they’re also very practical and technical, and they bring these traits to their art. Here, discussions of origami include the mathematics and geometry behind it, while students discuss glassblowing in terms of molecular structure and phase changes. There are also a plethora of groups here, from break-dancing to journalism, something which I personally feel doesn’t get enough publicity.

Dan Graham’s Yin Yang Pavilion in Simmons Hall

For me, though, art brings balance to my life. While many of the classes I’m taking stress logic, math, and scientific thought, art allows me to be myself and be creative. That is not to say that the classes I’m taking don’t require or stress creativity – it’s just that art balances it and makes sure I’m doing both. In a sense, the two influence each other. I’m a better scientist by keeping up my art, and I’m a better artist by being scientific. Both are part of who I am, and I’m very fortunate that I go to a school where I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

To learn how you can now easily find more information about all of the arts events happening at MIT, read the recent Tech Talk article “The art of communication: Making arts information at MIT more accessible.”

22 responses to “Introduction To ARTalk”

  1. Isshak says:

    That pool is so cool. I love the design. I think I saw it first on Snively’s blog, or his CPW blog, either one. But anyway, art is an important part of life, I think you need both art and science to truly express yourself.

  2. Paul says:

    Awesome! Congrats to Ken, Mr. Powell, and all the other bloggers for getting this up and running. I’m looking forward to reading. :D

    Also, as a proud Sponge-Dweller, I thoroughly support the inclusion of the Simmons Yin-Yang. It’s missing the ducks, though. wink

  3. Isshak says:

    Paul, I think you should talk to Snively about the ducks wink

  4. Chris B. '12 says:

    This new blog makes me ridiculously happy. I need some drama in my life. As such, could there please be some theater blogging? Perhaps MTG?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Where’s the rubber ducky in the ying-yang?

  6. Desmond says:

    Nice blog, I believe art is the perfect means by which all fields can be expressed. Afterall isn’t all forms of designing, from automotive to aeronautics, some form of art.
    Its wonderful that MIT is so involved in art and I look forward to meeting great artists and to experiencing the synergy of art and science. Thats if I’m admitted.
    Nice work Ken

  7. Desmond says:

    Adding; How are MIT bloggers chosen?

  8. Kerry Powell says:

    We are so glad you all like our new blog. Dan Graham’s sculpture is one of many beautiful and important works of public art on MIT’s campus. Visit to see the other outstanding pieces in our collection. Also, as you may know, Professor Diaz’s book has been voted one of the best works of fiction of 2007 by numerous publications including the New York Times. MIT students have incredible opportunities to learn not only from world-renowned scientists, but gifted artists and writers such as Professor Diaz. We look forward to hearing more of your comments! PS: Paul, I am a Ms, not a Mr ;o).

  9. Larisa says:

    support your local gamelan!

    Larisa (your friendly compli player and gamelan enthusiast)

  10. Paul says:

    Oops! My apologies, Ms. Powell! smile

  11. Kerry Powell says:

    CORRECTION: Please note that Dance Theater Ensemble, NOT Dance Ensemble, is the correct name of MIT’s co-curricular dance ensemble supported by the MIT Theater Arts and Dance Program and the Music and Theater Arts Section of MIT.

  12. Akshay says:

    A very cool post. It’s a very good initiative. I’m looking forward for more information about arts at MIT.

  13. Piper says:

    MIT students CAN do art!

  14. Harnur says:

    nice blog… very interesting..conveys everything about the creativity at mit

  15. José P. says:

    Speaking of Junot Díaz: I bought his book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, earlier today—and then, of course, I spent part of the afternoon reading it and being subsequently reproached for laughing too much.

  16. José P. says:

    (Totally recommended. :D)

  17. Morgan '12? says:

    Yay, finally a blog about art! I’m an AP Studio art kid, I’ve been hoping for some new info. Thanks!

  18. I was also really surprised when I first learned about the extent of MIT’s humanities and arts programs and community.

    On the timeline of the relationship between MIT and I, the two major turning points are 1) When I discovered the hack gallery and it hit me all at once that MIT wasn’t too nerdy of a place for me (and admittedly I’m a nerdy person myself, but before that I assumed MIT was all work, no fun .. thats when I realized I was wrong) and 2) When I discovered the Logs.. I had been under the erroneous assumption that MIT was “pretty well-rounded” and such, that it didn’t have much in the way of a capella groups (which I only associated with schools known for their music programs). Once I heard the Logs, I loved them and at least doubled my love of MIT.

    At MIT, I hope to be involved in a lot of art things, if I can. I would like to be a Log, even though I realize its a hard thing both to get in the group and to do everything they do. I also would like to do some theater stuff, and maybe pick up dance somewhere (I’ve always wanted to breakdance.. but I’ll have to work on it .. maybe take a class in IAP or something).

    Anyway, this looks like an interesting blog, I look forward to reading it.

    ~Donald Guy

  19. Excellent idea for this blog. Thanks! After living in Cambridge for 2 decades, it wasn’t till I started working here that I found out about all the art happening here. Love the music and the sculptures around campus. Hope the blog gets me out of my office more. The MIT Museum has amazing holograms on view, and Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculptures that are oddly meditative, beautiful and seem to end up on u-tube a lot – I think because many of them move. There’s a new one, “Gathering Strength” on the first floor of the museum – N52 – on Mass. Ave.
    I really like the culture here where so many people make things that are surprising.

  20. Kerry Powell says:


    No matter what your talent level or time availability–there is something for everyone at MIT when it comes to the arts, so I have no doubt that you will have plenty of opportunities to choose from!

  21. Ken Haggerty says:

    @ Desmond:
    I can answer that! The MIT bloggers were chosen based on their areas of interest, personality, writing, and availability. After sending out an e-mail and getting responses I had them fill out an application and then meet with Ms. Powell and me. I am very happy with the six bloggers we selected and look forward to the fun things they’ll write about in the near-future!