Tripping the arts fantastic

first_imgOn a recent afternoon, amid the buzz of preparations for Harvard’s annual Arts First extravaganza, the man who helps pull it all together sat in his office, surrounded by posters of past undergraduate performances and mementos from previous student-run shows, and made a surprising admission.When he was courted by Harvard 11 years ago for a leading arts position, Jack Megan left the campus after several rounds of intense interviews with a job offer, but also with a nagging hesitation.“I remember feeling like I still really didn’t have a sense of what the Office for the Arts (OFA) at Harvard did, or what the arts were like at Harvard.”Administrators told him to take time to think about his future and suggested he stop by Arts First. He did, and it struck him like a thunderbolt.A stellar piano concert in the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum’s sumptuous courtyard, a riveting Asian-American dance presentation in Lowell Lecture Hall, and an inspiring performance by Harvard’s Kuumba Singers in Sanders Theatre, along with other performances, hooked him cold.“They were making art; they were doing it,” recalled Megan, director of OFA. “It was soul-lifting.”The annual arts showcase, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a bonanza of art, dance, poetry, music, film, and more, will run from April 26 to 29. Saturday’s Performance Fair, with multiple acts at 30-minute intervals in a dozen venues, is a movable feast of student talent.It all started with the dream of an alumnus who just wanted to bring a little festival to campus.Twenty years ago John Lithgow ’67, in collaboration with Harvard’s Board of Overseers, and the OFA’s then-director Myra Mayman, decided to organize a celebration of the arts scene at Harvard. Two decades later, the event, backed by Harvard President Drew Faust’s commitment to weaving the arts into the fabric of daily life on campus, has become an annual extravaganza.Approximately half of Harvard’s 6,600 students take part. This spring, more than 225 free events, diverse offerings including organ recitals, Irish dancing, jazz performances,  improv comedy, and pottery demonstrations, will take place at locations all around campus, with most open to the public for free.Harvard Arts Medal to JonesThe event will kick off with the annual Harvard Arts Medal ceremony at Sanders on April 26 at 3 p.m. This year, the award ceremony features two former Harvard student actors who will be together on stage once more. Lithgow, the annual master of ceremonies, will moderate a conversation with his former acting partner and Academy Award-winner Tommy Lee Jones ’69. The two performed in several theater productions while at the College.Faust will award the medal.Lithgow’s devotion to Harvard runs deep. He is forgoing a performance of his current Broadway show for the event, said Megan, who praised the actor’s lasting dedication. “He told us, ‘I have to be at Harvard.’ ”Dancing, super slow-motion styleAfter artist David Michalek’s spellbinding work “Slow Dancing” debuted last fall on campus for an event welcoming Harvard’s new director of the OFA Dance Program, Jill Johnson, Megan and company started making plans to return to Harvard.“We thought it would be incredible to offer it at full scale in conjunction with Arts First, in the dead center of the campus,” said Megan. And that’s where it will be.Beginning this Friday and continuing nightly from 7 to 11 p.m. through April 29, visitors to Tercentenary Theatre will be greeted by the impossibly slow movements of a host of professional dancers whose giant images will be projected on the façade of Widener Library.“Slow Dancing” premiered at New York City’s Lincoln Center Festival in 2007. For the series of slow-motion video portraits, Michalek captured each subject’s movement (approximately 5 seconds long) with a high-speed, high-definition camera recording at 1,000 frames per second (standard film captures 30 frames per second). The result is approximately 10 minutes of extreme slow motion. If viewers watch closely, they might see Johnson at work. She was one of the 43 dancers and choreographers involved in the project.“There are astonishing counterpoints and alignments and amazing recursive shapes that happen because of the slow motion,” said Johnson. “To be able to bring it to Harvard is such a thrill.”“We are indebted to President Faust and Campus Services for their support in mounting ‘Slow Dancing’ here,” said Megan. It’s a great example of the spirit of collaboration that the arts are capable of generating in the Harvard community.”Arts in the curriculumWhat can dancing the tango reveal about history? How does working with clay connect to anthropology? How do the Harvard Art Museums inspire new music?Visitors to Arts @ 29 Garden, Harvard’s new art space near the Radcliffe Quad, will find the answers to those questions on April 27, from 2 to 5 p.m. during “Breaking Boundaries: Arts, Creativity and the Harvard Curriculum.” The Quad Express Arts Shuttle will ferry people to the space every 10 minutes. Once there, visitors will encounter a range of art projects and presentations. The innovative, cross-disciplinary work is funded by the Elson Family Arts Initiative, inspired by Harvard’s 2008 Task Force on the Arts that called for greater inclusion of the arts and of art making in all disciplines.Over the years, Arts First has expanded to include more artists and performers, more types of performances and art making, and more space for art to unfold. And it has united many members of the Harvard community and beyond around the arts.“The community-building aspect of Arts First, that’s only gotten better over the years” said Thomas Lee, director of the OFA’s Learning From Performers program.Megan agreed.“It’s our annual opportunity to make a collective statement for the evolving arts and their life in this University.”last_img read more

Students to run in 11th annual Holy Half

first_imgKevin Song | The Observer Students participating in last year’s Holy Half brave the cold and snow to ultimately finish the race’s 13.1 miles.The 11th annual Holy Half Marathon will be held this Saturday. This year’s race will be filled with the maximum 1500 participants, as well as 500 waiting list members, and will benefit the local charities St. Margaret’s House and La Casa de Amistad.Holy Half President Katie Wood said the tradition started eleven years ago with only 80 runners and earned $1,000 for charity.“It was really these kids seeing, ‘Hey do you think we could run a half marathon?’” Maria Murphy, Vice Preisdent of the Holy Half, said, “So they decided to put one on, and a couple kids joined in. It’s expanded a lot.”This year’s race was capped off at 1500 runners, with 500 left on a waiting list.“We have a strict cap of 1500,” Kate Simons, chief of staff for the Holy Half, said. “The campus is not big enough to go bigger than that. So we’re going to keep it at 1500 for the foreseeable future.”Wood said registration for the race opened the first week in December, and the 1500-runner cap filled up by early January.“This is the earliest it’s ever filled up since we’ve been race directors … for the past three years,” Wood said.After beginning the race at the Stepan Center, the same starting place as last year, runners will embark on a 13.1 mile route that is a departure from past years.“This year is unique because of all the construction on campus,” Murphy said, “We’re still finalizing the course due to last minute changes we had to make. We’re avoiding the stadium and everything in that direction. We’re seeing a lot of the main sights of Notre Dame Avenue; we’re hitting both of the lakes, which are really nice to run along; God Quad; going up by the grotto.”Murphy said this year will feature another first – a spaghetti dinner on the Friday before the race.“Everyone can carbo-load, meet each other, get excited for the race,” she said, “We’re trying to expand it into more of a weekend experience, as opposed to a three-hour race.”For each of past two years, the Holy Half has raised $30,000 for charity, and all three race directors hope to exceed that figure this year.The charities the race benefits changes every year, but Simons said they make a point of choosing charities that have a connection with Notre Dame.“We always try to keep it within the South Bend community,” Wood said.According to their respective websites, La Casa de Amistad assists bilingual and bicultural members of the community in education and work, with an emphasis on Latinos, and St. Margaret’s House is a day center aiding homeless or suffering women and children in the area.Anne Arnason, a member of the charity committee and participant in this year’s race, said the club has “done charity days with both of the organizations. With La Casa we went … and toured their building and met with the director of their program, who told us what they do.”As an organizer, Arnason said she hopes the race “gives students an opportunity to know what their participation in the race is for. Both of the charities will be setting up a booth at the race for both runners and (spectators) to learn more about the organizations, which will hopefully give them a way to make known all the good things that they do for the South Bend community.”Murphy said emphasizing the charity aspect was the most important part of the race.“That’s obviously why we’re doing this,” she said. “We’re excited to raise money.”Tags: Anne Arnason, Holy Half, Kate Simons, Katie Wood, La Casa de Amistad, Maria Murphy, St. Margaret’s House, Stepan Centerlast_img read more

Joseph Mariathasan: Time to take ESG seriously

first_imgFor pension funds holding Volkswagen shares, the damage has been twofold. They have seen not only a significant loss arising from the share-price fall but they also have the knowledge that one of their investee companies has caused environmental damage and contributed to the ill health of society at large, including their own beneficiaries.ESG factors clearly can be components of investment analysis. There is some academic evidence, and many would argue companies that adhere to high standards when it comes to ESG outperform over the long term. But establishing conclusive proof, as with any other theory in investment, is always elusive, and results are debatable. Irrespective of which side of the debate you are on, the largest pension funds are faced with the problem that they are essentially universal funds, with stakes in virtually all the investable stocks in the universe. Indeed, most have a large indexed core. Such funds have to face the issue that their sheer size may preclude them from disinvesting from large portions of the market. Maximising returns by robbing Peter to pay Paul is meaningless if you own both Peter and Paul.An example would be the poor management and handling of chemicals by one company leading to additional costs to companies associated with the treatment of water – a universal owner would hold both in their portfolio. Moreover, they would also argue that their members are worse off if companies increase their share price through activities that degrade the environment or reduce the quality of life for their members in other ways.Investor lobby group Preventable Surprises issued a report recently entitled “Investors, Climate Risk and Forceful Stewardship: An Agenda for Action”. It advocates pension funds taking a more activist stance based on two key investment observations. First, climate change poses a significant and increasing systemic risk to the global economy and thus to the portfolios of diversified investors, in turn threatening the security and financial well-being of their beneficiaries. Second, institutional investors have a fiduciary obligation to control this risk and prevent it from increasing as much as they reasonably can.The issue for the industry as a whole is that of which entity has the resources and motivation to develop a constructive dialogue with companies. Fund managers can take the free-rider approach and look to benefit from the activities of their competitors in this area without having to contribute resources of their own. Pension schemes themselves have the temptation to become complacent with the strategy of delegating this responsibility to their fund managers. Clearly, universal schemes that have holdings in virtually all stocks would benefit from an activist approach.What is certain is that responsible ownership requires taking a proactive approach to many areas of a company’s activities such as corporate governance, social and ethical issues, and the external environment. Ultimately, the objective of many idealists is that the ESG movement fades away, not because it has been a failure but because it has been such a success in that no distinction can be made between mainstream investment and ESG.Joseph Mariathasan is a contributing editor at IPE Responsible ownership requires taking a proactive approach to many areas of a company’s activities, writes Joseph MariathasanThe United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris has brought the issue of climate change to the fore in investors’ minds. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues such as climate change are certainly becoming more and more mainstream, but ESG as a concept investors should take seriously still has its detractors.Luke Johnson, private equity entrepreneur and Sunday Times columnist, was scathing about corporate social responsibility in his 15 September column this year, declaring: “Corporate social responsibility is an indulgence of affluent societies and rich companies.” He concluded his diatribe by declaring: “The field feels rank with hypocrisy, unrealistic expectations and questionable motives.”Ironically, within a few days, the Volkswagen scandal broke out when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to the German automaker. The BBC reported that this was not the first time Volkswagen had attempted to sidestep regulation, having been fined $120,000 (€110,230) in 1973 for dodging similar tests.last_img read more