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.

New for 2020-21: Transdisciplinary Course in Arts Practice

ARTS 20: The Garden
Claire Chase (Music), Jill Johnson (Theater, Dance & Media), Karthik Pandian (Art, Film & Visual Studies), with Vincent Brown (History and African & African American Studies) and Dan Byers (Art, Film, & Visual Studies) FALL

The Garden is a transdisciplinary arts collective, co-taught by faculty mentors in music, visual art, and dance, along with resident artists, scholars, and curators. Our contemporary world offers distinct challenges and opportunities for artists as makers, scholars, and local and global citizens. We believe transdisciplinary learning equips students with the critical tools, awareness, and perspectives needed for thinking and action. This course is for students who seek to imagine new alternatives, to push the critical and scholarly boundaries of their creative practice, and to expand their artistic inquiry in a collegial, rigorous, and lively environment. Each faculty mentor works with a cohort of five students, providing regular, sustained one-on-one mentorship to develop their practice. All three faculty, their student cohorts, residents, and guests hold frequent convivial gatherings to share and receive feedback on work, collaborate, improvise and dialogue in the spirit of dynamic exchange.

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 2020-21 academic year.  

Chinese BX: Elementary Chinese for Advanced Beginners

Chinese BX: Elementary Chinese for Advanced Beginners
Jie Ying (East Asian Languages & Civilizations) FALL

For students with significant listening and speaking background. Introductory Modern Chinese language course, with emphasis on reading and writing. Covers in one term the equivalent of Chinese Ba and Bb.

Arts Integration Component: Students learn, explore and experience the Chinese characters through artmaking.

Chinese 120a: Intermediate Modern Chinese

Chinese 120a: Intermediate Modern Chinese
Bin Yang (East Asian Languages & Civilizations) FALL

This course focuses on the consolidation of the foundational skills acquired in Ba-Bb, introduces more complex grammatical structures, and develops students’ understanding and knowledge of Chinese culture.

Arts Integration Component: Students learn, explore and experience the Chinese characters through artmaking.

Chinese 140xa: Advanced Modern Chinese

Chinese 140xa: Advanced Modern Chinese for High-Proficiency Learners 
Ya Ting Fan (East Asian Languages & Civilizations) FALL

Continuation of Chinese 130xb,130b. This course aims at further developing students’ ability to use Chinese in advanced and complex contexts, and process and generate sentences with complex structures used mainly in formal speech and writing.

The objectives of this course include: 1) enabling students to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese cultural conventions and assumptions, and the ability to “read between the lines” and discern the subtle connotations often present in Chinese speech and writing, 2) giving students the skills and confidence to use Chinese in a number of important, practical settings, including job interviews and academic forums, 3) enabling students to express their opinions and feelings more accurately, appropriately and coherently, and to offer more detailed and vivid descriptions and narrations.

Arts Integration Component: Guest workshops which will equip students with the skills of songwriting. Students will also work with Chinese composers to make music for their lyrics. Music videos will be posted on an online platform for enhanced appreciation and discussion in the virtual community.

Classical Studies 124: Shield of Achilles

Classical Studies 124: Shield of Achilles
Natasha Bershadsky (The Classics) SPRING

This course invites students to explore the Homeric Shield of Achilles and to create their own versions of the Shield, both visual and verbal. The description of the Shield of Achilles in the process of being created by the god Hephaestus takes up a large part of Book 18 of the Iliad. The shield is a gleaming world in miniature, combining scenes of war and peace, labor and leisure, prompting both fear and delight. What is the relationship of this world to other worlds: the world of Achilles, the world of the Iliad, the worlds of different historical periods of ancient Greece? The Shield is magical: it dazzles, its figures move. The poem continually draws our attention to multiple techniques and levels of creation: the art of the divine bronzesmith; the verbal art of the narrative; the interior mechanisms of imagining what is being narrated. We are going to look at the historical, literary and artistic contexts of the Shield; we also are going to examine its complexities through art-making. The final project in the course is threefold: first, it is a digital version of the Shield, created by each student as their representations of the hero’s cosmos; second, a verbal description of the Shield, allowing to experiment with techniques of ekphrasis; and an essay, explaining the relation of their version to the Shield of Achilles in the Iliad

Arts Integration Component: : Each student will design a digital version of the shield of Achilles depicting their representation of the hero’s cosmos. Students will experiment with creating meaning through the technique of collage, and also with crafting references to ancient literary and visual traditions. The course is supported by workshops familiarizing students with Photoshop.

English CACF: Get Real: The Art of Community-Based Film

English CACF: Get Real: The Art of Community-Based Film
Musa Syeed (English) FALL

“I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us,” the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami said, “unless it’s inside a frame.” For our communities confronting invisibility and erasure, there’s an urgent need for new frames. In this workshop, we’ll explore a community-engaged approach to documentary filmmaking, as we seek to see our world more deeply. We’ll begin with screenings, craft exercises, and discussions around authorship and social impact. Then we each will develop a short documentary over the rest of the semester, building off of intentional community engagement. Students will end the class with a written documentary treatment and recorded material for a rough cut.

Arts Integration Component: Each student will develop a short documentary, building off intentional community engagement. Students will end the class with a written documentary treatment and recording material for a rough cut.

French 20: Intermediate French: Francophone Culture

French 20: Intermediate French: Francophone Culture in Local Communities
Karen Turman (Romance Languages & Literatures) FALL, repeated SPRING

In this intermediate-level language course, you will review your knowledge of various grammatical structures by exploring cultural topics such as music, dance, and cuisine in French-speaking communities. Themes such as family life in West Africa, immigrant communities from Haiti, and cuisine in Morocco will be broached through communicative activities to further develop proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. You will discover francophone cultures through conversations with online language partners abroad, guest visitors via Zoom, and course materials including film, music, and texts. The course will be conducted through synchronous Zoom sessions as well as asynchronous activities using Voice Thread, Slack, and Canvas. Course assignments include contextualized grammar activities, creative writing compositions, oral presentations, video projects, and online discussions.

Arts Integration Component: Students participate in interactive cultural visits via Zoom in the classroom with local guest artists and musicians from French-speaking immigrant communities, and engage off-campus/ outside of the remote classroom in virtual dance and/or music lessons with local French-speaking artists and musicians.  

Freshman Seminar 51N: The Secrets of Stradivarius

Freshman Seminar 51N: The Secrets of Stradivarius or What Makes the Violin Sound Beautiful?
Philippe Cluzel (Molecular & Cellular Biology and Physics) 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.

Freshman Seminar 63V: Video: The Medium of Everyday Life

Freshman Seminar 63V: Video: The Medium of Everyday Life

Karthik Pandian (Art, Film & Visual Studies) SPRING

Video is fast becoming the medium of everyday life. We use it to communicate, learn, entertain, inform, and express ourselves. At the same time, we are often used by it - manipulated, programmed, influenced, distracted, fooled. In this production seminar, we will explore the medium of video by putting works of contemporary art into dialog with memes, viral videos, and other social media from the present moment. Artists whose work we will look at represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, motivating us to consider how video engages questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Over the course of the term, students will create a series of videos inspired by these discussions, drawing on technical workshops introducing the basics of shooting, editing, and publishing videos.  

Arts Integration Component: Students will create a series of videos drawing on technical workshops introducing the basics of shooting, editing, and publishing videos.

Freshman Seminar 64E: Asian American Literature

Freshman Seminar 64E: Asian American Literature
Catherine Nguyen (History & Literature) FALL

What is Asian American literature? In the recent decade, Asian American literature has been increasingly visible with the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer and with more and more Asian American-authored works on the New York Times best sellers list. Asian American literature engages with the experiences of Asian immigration to the United States, articulates the hardships of resettlement and assimilation, and critiques racism and the model minority. We will read a wide selection of Asian American literature to explore the history of Asians in America as well as study the experiences of different groups: Chinese American lives in Chinatown, Japanese American accounts of WWII internment, Vietnamese American narratives of war and boat refugees, and the Filipino and South Asian diasporas. We will consider the future of Asian American literature and read diasporic, transnational, and global works of cultural productions.

Arts Integration Component:  Students will participate in workshops with Southeast Asian American artists and writes to discuss the artists' work. There is also an option for students to complete a creative final project that engages with the themes and topics that arise from the course readings and class discussions. 

Music 97L: Critical Listening

Music 97L: Critical Listening
Kay Shelemay (Music) FALL

This course will explore musical perception as shaped by physiological, social, and cultural processes of everyday life. We will address the complex relationship between speech and music and the challenge of using one to communicate about the other. Through listening to a wide range of musical styles elucidated by written and audio-visual resources, we will contrast and compare music’s meanings through rapidly changing times and in different locales. 

Arts Integration Component: Tango dance/music workshop with Adam Cornett and Tilly Kimm in order to demonstrate cross-cultural musical perceptions and the embodied nature of musical performance by listening for musical cues to regulate tango pace and rhythm and tactile cues for movements initiated by the lead dancer of each pair.

Spanish 142: Immigration and the Globalization of Borders

Spanish 142: Immigration and the Globalization of Borders
Raquel Vega-Duran (Romance Languages &Literatures) SPRING

This course explores how film, painting, photography, literature, and multimedia projects relate to and narrate contemporary borders such as those between Mexico and the USA; Spain and Morocco; Haiti and Dominican Republic; the five borders of Manipur; other “border spaces” such as the enclosed migrant detention centers in Ceuta (Spain), Lampedusa (Italy), and California; the emergence of “new” identities such as “New Europeans,” “Latiñoles,” the Mei Ming generation, and the perception of Roma in Europe; and the patrolled waters that separate Cuba from the US, West Africa from the Canary Islands, and North Africa from Southern Europe; among others. We will pay particular attention to the history of these walls, fences, and controlled spaces, and the stories they tell us, and consider border-crossing experiences of migrants from a variety of perspectives. We will look in depth at the role of art in relation to these walls, both on the actual walls (artists who use the fences as canvases, such as the project “Borrando la frontera” in the San Diego/Tijuana border, and Ulises, a graphic novel written on the wall of the North African city of Melilla), as well as the ways in which these walls are chronicled in literature, film, photography, and painting (including Danticat’s novel The Farming of Bones; Spottorno’s graphic novel on refugees La grieta; the online project Poets on Borders; Sebastiao Salgado’s photographic cycle Migrations; and movies such as Sin nombre and Balseros; among other works). Taught in Spanish. 

Arts Integration Component: Photography exhibit, curated by students and open to the public, on borders and migration in the world today.

Theater, Dance & Media 90AR: Making Horizontal Theater

Theater, Dance & Media 90AR: Production Studio -Making Horizontal Theater
EllaRose Chary and Jay Stull (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

This workshop teaches the practices and politics surrounding what has been defined variously as “non-fiction,” “documentary,” “interview-based,” or “investigative” theater. We call this theater “horizontal” because its text, source material, and process are multivariate, self-consciously non-hierarchical, and aspirationally democratic: generated by and with communities through interviews. 

In this workshop students will build and perform a full-length piece of horizontal theater. They will collectively choose the topic and scope of the production, study existing models, and interrogate the design of live theater on digital platforms in order to develop an original aesthetic sensibility for an online presentation. Students will determine whom to interview and about what subject of interest; they will conduct those interviews, record them, and transcribe them; and they will use verbatim language from those interviews to build lyrics, write songs, monologues, and dialogue, ultimately constructing a full-length play with music and/or a musical.

In addition, students will examine existing models of horizontal theater and discuss the politics of representation and risks of appropriation that surface in this kind of work. Models of meaningful horizontal theater include: Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, the Tectonic theater Company’s The Laramie Project, Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, The Civilians’ In the Footprint, and Pearl/D’Amour’s 5 Miltons.

Horizontal theater is a document of the present moment - its content informed by the context in which it is made - and this semester our production will inevitably be shaped by the challenges and opportunities of pandemic time. We will explore the paradoxes streaming video platforms offer for live performance - intimacy and alienation, a virtual-near and a tangible-far - and how these platforms recommend performative approaches that unify process and execution.

This workshop has the spirit of a lab, wherein the aesthetics of horizontal theater are modeled, deconstructed, questioned, and ideally re-invented, where students think seriously about the identities of their subjects as well as their own, and where conversations about art-making, performance, and politics are courageous, generous, and daring. 

Arts Integration Component: Composer Erato A. Kremmyda will co-teach a class on composition for musical theater and conduct a more in-depth workshop with the students as a one-time, extracurricular lab. 

Theater, Dance & Media 169S: Singer + Song = Story

Theater, Dance & Media 169S: Singer + Song = Story
Stew Stuart (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

This course is an immersive, songwriting-based introduction to Stew’s musical theater-making practice, a process which views the nexus of writer and song as the seed out of which a more personal, visceral musical theater can emerge. Singer + Song = Story believes in a theater that seeks, via a respect for the inherent dramatic potential of song itself, to capture the intensity of personal testimony that characterizes the best rock, pop, rap, blues and folk songs of our country and the world, with the goal of bringing that testimonial fire to the American theater stage.

Arts Integration Component: The course will host six class visits from Stew Stuart’s musical theater collaborators. Students will create a work of musical theater that is unique to their own life experiences and tastes.  

Theater, Dance & Media 1174B: Nonprofit Producing

Theater, Dance & Media 174B: Nonprofit Producing: Resourcing Creativity and Innovation
Diane Borger (Theater, Dance & Media) FALL

This course will explore theater-producing models in the nonprofit sector and imagine ways to break boundaries and produce work in new ways.  Nonprofit theater in the United States has historically been a predominately white institution that has been built on and benefited from racist policies.  Working to dismantle those structures and build anti-racist practices into producing theater will be at the core of this course.  The course will be undertaken with guest collaborators Dayron J. Miles (A.R.T.) and Maria Manuela Goyanes (Woolly Mammoth Theater, Washington D.C.), in addition to five professional theater-makers who will work directly with students in small groups with particular attention to new models of producing that embed anti-racist practices.

Students will learn about the history of theatrical producing and the evolution of the job of the producer. The course will examine the role of the producer in facilitating creative development and providing dramaturgical support, as well as resource allocation, budgeting, and contract negotiation and writing. Additional units will focus on labor negotiations and collective bargaining agreements, financial analysis, artistic mission and vision, commercial vs. nonprofit producing, and the role of the audience in performance - and how all of these must change going forward.

As a culminating project, students will apply what they’ve learned over the course of the semester and work with the professional artists to develop producing plans and strategies for a range of theatrical performances and experiences, centering anti-racist practices.

Arts Integration Component: Groups will be assigned a practicing professional artist who they will study and interview, with the goal of creating and producing proposal for a piece of work in the artist’s repertoire or an upcoming project.