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MIT Promises To Put More Arts In ITS DNA

Leaving aside the List Visual Arts Center, we don’t usually think of the arts as foremost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But today it announced a forward-thinking inititative — a new Center for Art, Science & Technology — intended to propel MIT’s goal of integrating the arts into its curriculum and research. CAST, as it will be known, is “A joint initiative of the office of the Provost and the schools of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.” Evan Ziporyn, a music professor of Music, has been names as CAST’s inaugural director.

The Mellon Foundation provided $1.5 million in funds over four years for the center, which will be used to give

awards to faculty, researchers and curators seeking to develop cross-disciplinary courses, new research or exhibitions that span the arts, science and technology….supplement[s to]  MIT’s existing Visiting Artists program…to embed artists’ residencies in the curriculum and create a platform for collaboration with faculty, students and research staff in the development, display and performance of new and experimental artwork or technologies for artistic expression.  In addition, the grant will support the participation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the activities of the Center. 

MIT, meanwhile, has pledged to mount “a major, bi-annual international symposium on art, science and technology,” with the first set for the 2013-14 academic year.   CAST will be part of the Office of the Provost, which signals it as a priority, I think.

A year ago, MIT held “FAST, the Festival of Art, Science and Technology” as part of its 150th anniversary celebration, and published a report called “The Arts at MIT.” CAST builds on that. (There’s more in the press release here.)

All of this is great; my only worry is that $1.5 million may not go that far.

Other art things are happening at MIT, too. On May 3, the MIT Museum will open the1,650 sq. ft. Kurtz Gallery for Photography, whose first exhibition will show 75 photographs by Berenice Abbott, plus letters and documents — Photography and Science: An Essential Unity.

And on May 10, MIT plans to dedicate Ring Stone by Cai Guo-Qiang — a monumental white granite sculpture and his first public work for a university. (There’s another picture here.)

Consisting of twelve “individual, but indivisible links cut from a 39 1/2-foot-long single block of white granite” — and weighing about 14 metric tons — the piece will be accompanied by seven Japanese Black Pine trees, planted inside the rings and nearby. It will be positioned on the lawn of the MIT Sloan School of Management, observing the principles of Feng Shui. Cai Guo-Qiang will give the keynote speech at MIT’s China Forum the same day as the dedication.

I’m sure there’s much else going on at the List Center, too, under its new director, Paul Ha.

Photograph: Courtesy of MIT



  1. Martha Ullman West says

    I would hope that dance would be included as a discipline in CAST; I do think of choreographers and dance writers in connection with MIT because of Gus Solomon who has an MIT degree in architecture, and dance critic and historian Thomas DeFrantz who taught there for some time, and is now in Durham. What choreographers Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown and many others have done with technology to further their art form is phenomenal; developing choreographers I’m sure will do wonders as well. I agree, however, that the money allocated for this is pretty small, as much as I applaud the endeavor.

    • MIT helping to provide a platform to focus on the inner workings of organizations – comparing notes among start-ups and artistic teams on how to apply principles of entrepreneurial science in their daily management and how to position themselves within their communities as more highly visible economic actors would stretch and leverage the funds, I think.

  2. This is great, and shares much with the new Logan Center at the University of Chicago. It’s wonderful to see colleges with a focus on the sciences realize that science has creativity and that scientists can benefit from being creative. As higher ed realizes this, perhaps we can see a shift in K-12 back to including the arts as a core component in education. That being an educated person means understanding how to read, AND write, AND do math, AND read music, AND understand drama AND dance AND visual art. That all of these things lead to productive humans and a vibrant society.

    • I think it is even more basic then being an educated person and understanding. The Arts are at the core of everything! The arts (when taught correctly) teach you how to see, how to think, how to expand your mind and are what make us human. When you listen to Einstein talk/write about his research and how he came to his ideas, it is similar to the thinking process of an artist. I hope what Heather wrote about in the comment above happens. If the top universities are beginning to integrate the arts into their programs, then maybe K-12 curriculum will stop removing (and/or devaluing) the arts from their programs. Heather, where can I find out more about the Logan Center at U of C?

  3. Norman Sasowsky says

    The sculpture might as well have been a :”hero” on a horse for all the visual interest, creativity, imagination, inventiveness absent.

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