All through the weekend, Arts First will celebrate the diversity of Harvard’s campus creators. “In Our Own Words” at noon Sunday, for example, will elevate the lived experience of the Harvard Asian diaspora by sharing first-person narratives. In her contribution, Equity and Inclusion Fellow Leah Porter, who will leave the Graduate School of Design with a master’s this year, will tell of striving to be her multifaceted “authentic self” at Harvard. Noting that Asians are often stereotyped as a privileged “model minority,” Porter will share stories about the poverty and discrimination she faced as an immigrant from Malaysia and a mother.
“In the end, I want this story to encourage other women — especially other moms and first-generation students — to keep on pushing so that they too can have this opportunity and have success,” said Porter.
Vidya Sivan, a Harvard Kennedy School communications specialist, will talk about the tendency of white people to see all brown and Black people as a monolith. Growing up as “a brown person in Minnesota,” she experienced the “casual racism” that not only lumped together people from different Asian nations but also homogenized their foods, such as “curry,” into one dish. The daughter of emigrants from India, Sivan recalled her mother’s many variations on a potato curry alone. “‘Curry spice’ is not a thing,” she said, laughing.
Throughout the festival, five interactive public art pieces will invite visitors to become part of the art. “Self Compass,” for example, will use AI to place viewers in the Yard — and throughout Harvard’s history — from its site by the John Harvard Statue. Using an app (downloadable as “Self Compass” or via a QR code on-site) this pavilion uses mathematics and augmented reality to allow users to see the Yard as it was 100 years ago, while the translucent fabric stretched on the structure’s arching timber ribs also gives framed views of the Yard today. As the app places users in these scenes, viewers can examine their roles “within the Harvard community and the wider community,” said George Guida, a ’22 master’s student at GSD, co-lead artist with Ana Gabriela Loayza, a ’21 alumna of GSD.
“It’s a way of engaging with history today and history and Harvard’s past,” said Guida, who shares credit with Jeff Stevens, Thomas Kuei, Taeyong Kim, all of whom will graduate from GSD this year, and Garvin Goepel, who is a Ph.D. student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “What was Harvard a hundred years ago? How did that look?”
“Self Compass” also takes into consideration our changing contemporary reality, says Guida, asking, “How can the digital space make us think differently about our physical space?” Ultimately, as viewers across the Harvard community see themselves interacting with the Yard past and present, the piece’s scope takes on a more philosophical tone. “How can we move forward in a positive way through inclusion and equity?” Guida asks.
For the full schedule of events.