Art Making

From prehistoric times to the present, humans have imagined and enacted the meaning of their world. Each new generation of poets, musicians, painters, playwrights, and other artists has a chance to do this afresh. At Harvard, you can learn how to participate in this vital creative process.

The Creative Writing Program

Playwriting Workshop
The Creative Writing Program in the Department of English offers courses in scriptwriting for film and television, fiction and non-fiction, poetry, and playwriting.

The Department of Music

Harvard Music
The Department of Music offers courses in composition and performance across a range of musical approaches.

The Program in Theater, Dance & Media

TDM The Man Who
The new concentration in Theater, Dance & Media enables students to learn the essential elements of theater or dance in a new media environment.

The Department of Art, Film & Visual Studies

Drawing Class
The Department of Art, Film & Visual Studies offers students instruction in a range of art forms, from film and photography to sculpture and installation art.

Elson Family Arts Initiative

Thanks to the generous contributions of the Elson family, the Elson Family Arts Initiative has supported many exciting arts-related course projects, final performances, and student exhibitions. Courses supported by the Initiative use tools and methods of the arts to explore course material in memorable and innovative ways.  Below is a list of the courses supported by the initiative for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

English 103G: Old English: Working with Manuscripts

English 103G: Old English: Working with Manuscripts

Daniel Donoghue (English) SPRING


The task of translation will be supplemented by consistent attention to the manuscript contexts of Old English literature. The texts will include selections from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Genesis, the Exeter Book Riddles, Beowulf, and others. The course will guide students through basic principles of manuscript study and will culminate in a collaborative edition of an Old English text.


Arts Integration Component: Students will gain first-hand experience of the art of calligraphy that produced medieval manuscripts.


Folklore & Mythology 172: Quilts and Quiltmaking

FOLKMYTH 172: Quilts and Quiltmaking

Felicity Lufkin (Folklore & Mythology) SPRING


Are quilts the great American (folk) art? From intricately stitched whole-cloth quilts to the improvisational patchworks of Gee's Bend; from the graphic simplicity of Amish quilts to the cozy pastels of depression-era quilts; from the Aids Quilt to art quilts; quilts have taken on extraordinary significance in American culture. This class surveys the evolution of quilt-making as a social practice, considering the role of quilts in articulations of gender, ethnic, class and religious identities, and their positions within discourses of domesticity, technology, consumerism, and cultural hierarchy.


Arts Integration Component: The class includes weekly QuiltLab sessions that introduce students to the basic processes of quiltmaking. Students will produce, by the end of the semester, a class quilt. Students may also undertake individual quiltmaking projects as their final project with support from the course.


Freshman Seminar 34V: Broadway Musicals: History and Performance

Freshman Seminar 34V:  Broadway Musicals: History and Performance

Carol Oja (Music) SPRING


This seminar will explore a core group of Broadway musicals. Historical and musical discussions will be paired with student performances and staging of individual scenes. The seminar will touch on signal moments over the course of the “Golden Age” of the musical, stretching up to the present day: Oklahoma! (1943), South Pacific (1949), West Side Story (1957), A Chorus Line (1975), In the Heights (2008), and Hamilton (2016).


Arts Integration Component: Allegra Libonati, Resident Director at the A.R.T., will lead three class sessions devoted to staging elements of the shows being studied. An undergraduate piano accompanist will work with students to produce weekly in-class performances of individual numbers.


Freshman Seminar 35N: The Art and Craft of Acting

Freshman Seminar 35N: The Art and Craft of Acting

Remo Airaldi (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL


Acting is undoubtedly the most popular, most widely experienced of the performing arts and yet, in many ways, it remains a mystery. This seminar will give students an opportunity to demystify the art of acting by introducing them to the basic tools of the trade. Students will explore a range of acting techniques designed to give students greater access to their creativity, imagination and emotional life. The aim will be to improve skills that are essential to the acting process, like concentration, focus, relaxation, observation, listening, etc.

Arts Integration Component: Students will attend and critique productions at the Loeb Drama Center and other theaters in the Boston area. Directors and actors from these productions will speak to students about the acting process. Students will participate in class modules based on the productions they attend. Final monologue presentations will be fully staged and designed.

Freshman Seminar 51N: The Secrets of Stradivarius or What Makes the Violin Sound Beautiful?

Freshman Seminar 51N: The Secrets of Stradivarius or What Makes the Violin Sound Beautiful?

Philippe Cluzel (Molecular & Cellular Biology) FALL


This is an exploratory seminar that draws concepts from many different fields ranging from music to evolution, machine learning, physics, biology, wood carving, and neuro-aesthetics. The goal of the seminar is to discuss the different concepts needed to understand the design of a violin and to propose new methods and technology to improve the quality of the sound it produces. Students will spend most of their time developing hands-on experiments whose final goal will be to transform low-cost violins into beautiful-sounding instruments using the ideas developed through the readings.


Arts Integration Component: Students will take apart and reconstruct mass-produced violins to improve the beauty of their sound by carving new soundboards and by exploring the effect of developing alternative design and using different materials.


General Education 1080: How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World

General Education 1080: How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World 

Robert Wood (SEAS, Engineering & Applied Sciences) FALL


How does Shazam know what song is playing? How and why do singers harmonize? Do high-end musical instruments sound better than cheap ones? What processes are common in designing a device and composing a piece of music? How is music stored and manipulated in a digital form? This class explores these and related themes in an accessible way for all concentrators, regardless of technical background. The class uses music and musical instruments as the framework to introduce a broad array of concepts in physics, mathematics, and engineering.


Arts Integration Component: Students will construct instruments (first acoustic, second electronic) and then use their instruments to compose two original pieces that take advantage of the voice of their instruments.


General Education 1114: What Artmaking Lets Us See and Say

General Education 1114:  Painting’s Doubt: What Artmaking Lets Us See and Say

Matt Saunders (Arts, Film & Visual Studies) SPRING


Painting is an engagement between the self and the world. It is a practice of embodied making, and, as a language outside of words, can think around conditioned understanding. This introductory studio art course proposes learning to paint as a new experience of relating to the world, and through painting we will investigate not only what we have to say, but what we have to see.


Arts Integration Component: Studio assignments in small sections are complemented by weekly lectures, visiting artist presentations, readings and visits to Harvard’s collections. The primary materials for this course will be oil on canvas, with some excursions into drawing and work on a paper.


General Education 1121: Economic Justice

General Education 1121: Economic Justice

Mathias Risse (Philosophy/Harvard Kennedy School) SPRING


How should we arrange the institutions that produce wealth and shape life trajectories? The Occupy Movement made clear that even Americans now care about excessive inequality, and many worry about the future in an increasingly economically divided society where access to technology richly rewards some to the exclusion of many others. We must ask what lessons we can learn from 250 years of reflection on social justice in industrialized societies, and what plausible visions of economic justice there would be for the future.


Arts Integration Component: Students will participate in a metaLAB Creative Workshop led by Prof. Jeffrey Schnapp (Romance Languages & Literatures/GSD). The workshop utilizes design-thinking methodologies to contend with conceptual and philosophical questions through a series of exercises and artistic production. In an arts space on campus, students will learn ways in which artistic materials can be combined with scholarly humanities work in their future pursuits and study.


History of Art & Architecture 138M: From Byzantium to the British Isles: The Materiality of Late Antiquity

History of Art & Architecture 138M: From Byzantium to the British Isles: The Materiality of Late Antiquity

Evridiki Georganteli (History of Art & Architecture) FALL


This course explores the extraordinary cultural transformation Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East underwent from Diocletian's reorganization of the Roman Empire in the late 3rd century to the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. Examines monuments and sites, sculpture, mosaics, frescoes and ceramics, icons and relics, textiles, coins and seals that chart the movement of people, commodities, and ideas along routes of warfare, pilgrimage, trade, and diplomacy.


Arts Integration Component: Students will conduct close-up inspections of works of art in the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Business School, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Students will also take part in three Art in the Making workshops to take place in the Fabrication Studio of the School of the MFA at Tufts and the Harvard Ceramics Studio.


History and Literature 90DK: Asian/American Graphic Novels

History & Literature 90DK: Asian/American Graphic Novels

Catherine Nguyen (History & Literature) FALL


This course focuses on the genre and form of comics and graphic novels in the context of histories of migration and diasporas. Through these illustrative and textual works, we will explore the representation of Asian American identity and the experience of racial difference through varied works. The course seeks to examine literary works and cultural productions in the form of comics and graphic novels that engage with and articulate the Asian American experience as well as the sense of being Asian in the world.


Arts Integration Component: A workshop series will be developed and facilitated by local comic artist/graphic novelist, Erica Henderson. The workshops will lead students through the various stages of production of a comic/graphic novel, including storyboarding, character design, penciling, and inking.

Music 20: Opera

Music 20: Opera

Carolyn Abbate (Music) FALL


Opera has always been multimedia: its marvelous singing, and its music, is shaped by drama, by characters, visual spectacles in staging, and theater architecture and machinery. Operatic performance, by engaging and even overwhelming multiple senses, challenges us to question intellectual truisms like critical detachment and sober analysis. This course looks at opera as it evolved over time from its origins in Italy into a global phenomenon, considering works by famous composers (including Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi) as well as obscure corners and byways.


Arts Integration Component: Students will experience live opera performances (in class and on field trips), and opera as technological art in recordings, film, and other media. Students will participate in demonstrations and beginner master classes in collaboration with faculty at the New England Conservatory. Students who have no experience with operatic singing will come to know what it is to produce an operatic voice, and to reflect upon and analyze it.

Music 160: Composition: Proseminar

Music 160: Composition: Proseminar

Yvette Jackson (Music) FALL

This course focuses on composing theatre by addressing methods of compositional thinking in order to develop new types of performance. This approach differs from merely composing for theatre and begins by examining narrative contour through composition exercises that investigate dramaturgy, form, counterpoint, and polyphony. Workshops with guest artists will allow students mid-semester opportunities to realize compositions for cello and voice, culminating with a group-curated performance at the end of the course.


Arts Integration Component: Students will take part in three workshops that will challenge conventional understanding about composition in relation to theatre. Each invited guest offers a different methodological perspective that builds on compositional etudes assigned in the weeks leading up to the workshop.


Spanish 126: Performing Latinidad

Spanish 126: Performing Latinidad

Lorgia García Peña (Romance Languages & Literatures) FALL


What exactly does the word "latinidad" mean? How has "the Latino" been constructed in U.S. culture? What has been the importance of "latinidad" in the social and political history of people of Latin American descent in this country? What place does "latinidad" occupy within the North American academy? Our course attempts to respond to these inquiries through an analysis of Latino performance and its representation within particular literary and cultural productions: poetry, theater, film, and stand-up comedy.

Arts Integration Component:  Working with performance artist Josefina Baez, visual artist Alex Guerrero,  and poet Ana-Maurine Lara, students will create meaningful micro critiques  employing the Latin American tradition of Clothesline Art  and will collaborate in curating a small exhibit and 5-minute performance pieces.

Theater, Dance & Media 150: Directorial Concepts and Set Design of the 20th & 21st Centuries

Theater, Dance & Media 150: Directorial Concepts and Set Design of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Julia Smeliansky (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL


Students will study the work of the great 20th and 21st-century auteur directors and set designers. They will explore a range of artistic movements including Constructivism, Futurism, and Dada, and discuss how the theater became a place to experiment with the concepts and discoveries of these movements.


Arts Integration Component: Students will attend local performances – opera, dance, drama – and connect that experience to in-class conversations.


Theater, Dance & Media 194: The Making of a Musical: The Creative Process

Theater, Dance & Media 194: The Making of a Musical: The Creative Process 

Diane Paulus (English/Theater, Dance & Media) and Ryan McKittrick (Theater, Dance & Media) SPRING

This course introduces students to the collaborative process of creating a musical through an analysis of both revivals and new musicals. Through readings by historians, theorists, and practitioners, and visits from artists across the field, students learn about the key components of a musical, including book and adaptation; music and lyrics; choreography; visual design; and producing.


Arts Integration Component: Students will have travel expenses and ticket prices covered in order to visit New York City to attend a rehearsal of the musical 1776 and attend a production of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway.