Guest Blog: Finding—and supporting—the artist in all of us

Thomas Lee is director of the OFA’s visiting artist program, Learning From Performers, and also director of Office of the Arts communications.

Author Thomas Merton once wrote, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“Losing ourselves” is a concept not readily embraced in a community like Harvard, where discipline and structure are prized as key ingredients for success. And yet, there is something fundamental about the urge to create, to express oneself, to get lost within the stanza of a poem, the recitation of a dramatic monologue, the movement of a symphony or a piece of choreography. It’s how we identify ourselves, how we learn who we are by experimenting with forms and genres, making molds and breaking them, finding out what works and what doesn’t.

It’s art making. And the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) is in the business of making art making happen for undergraduates and the entire Harvard community.

At its essence, the OFA champions artists—whether first-year Harvard undergraduates or master innovators. Forty-five regular employees and fifty professional instructors comprise the staff of specialists across arts disciplines. Traditional and contemporary aesthetics are integrated into the teaching of co-curricular courses, as well as in the artistic direction of our music ensembles, exhibitions and guest artist programs. The OFA creates connections among practice, theory, and history. It also strives for state-of-the-art practices in the management of many Harvard arts venues.

Taking classes in dance, ceramics and figure drawing, creating theater, working with professional artists from a range of disciplines, playing in an orchestra, singing in a choir, obtaining funding for arts projects and subsidies for music lessons—all of these are in the OFA’s portfolio, which is waiting for you to open and explore.

What’s striking about the artistic community at Harvard is its diversity and the passion of its participants, many of whom will never go on to careers in the arts. That saxophonist in the jazz band who takes on a solo in a Duke Ellington composition? He’s pre-med. The actor tackling Gertrude in Hamlet? She’s got her sights set on law school. And the young woman working with the master artist in the OFA’s ceramics studio might end up running a major corporation some day.

Of course, Harvard has educated hundreds of accomplished artists over the years. When Tommy Lee Jones ’69 received the Harvard Arts Medal in April in recognition of his acting and directing career, he noted, “My experience here [as a Harvard student] is the best thing that’s happened in my creative life, and the reason for that is not simply what I learned, but that I learned how to learn, and I will be grateful for that as long as I live.”

(And don’t just take Mr. Jones’s word for it—to learn more about the importance of the arts and creativity in the lives of Harvard students, visit the OFA’s Harvard Arts Blog:

Whatever your creative journey, we’re here to help you find your way—and to lose yourself, too.

Students work on a project at the OFA ceramics studio during the annual fall "Clay All Night" event.

Students work on a project at the OFA ceramics studio during the annual fall “Clay All Night” event.

Members of the Harvard Jazz Band perform a concert at Sanders Theatre, April 2011.

Members of the Harvard Jazz Band perform a concert at Sanders Theatre, April 2011.

You can follow the OFA on Facebook at Harvard Arts; and on Twitter, @harvardarts. Visit the OFA’s main headquarters at 74 Mt. Auburn St., Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm, and contact us at or 617.495.8676.


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  3. Polishpedia’s avatar

    I love art. My cavas is a little different than traditional artists but I still consider it art. Thanks for having this blog.


    ~Jocelyn (Nail Artist @ Polishpedia)

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