Peering into the Fogg

first_imgThe much-anticipated renewal of the Harvard Art Museums is nearing completion, and last week officials offered a sneak peek at the massive project’s progress.Wearing hardhats, protective gloves, safety goggles, and bright yellow vests, a small entourage led by museum director Thomas W. Lentz wove its way through the beams and boards of the construction site that is steadily morphing from a dark hole in the ground and a hollowed structural shell to a teaching and learning museum for the 21st century.“What has driven this entire project is our mission,” Lentz said, is “innovative teaching and learning,” developing new experiences in that field for students, faculty, and the community.When it opens next year, the new 205,000-square-foot building, which unites the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum under a spectacular glass roof, will include two entrances, five floors above ground and three floors below, a café, a museum store, an expanded art study center, a 300-seat theater, lecture halls, and teaching galleries.Function and form hold equal place in the ingenious design by Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano, who is known for works that include the sky-piercing, glass-covered tower called the Shard in London and the San Nicola Football Stadium in Bari, Italy, which blooms from the landscape like an enormous concrete flower.But one function was particularly vital to the Harvard project. For art lovers and worried experts alike, the main drawback to the original Fogg was its lack of climate controls. “Our internal joke,” said Lenz as he stood at the bottom of the steps of the 1927 Fogg’s original Quincy Street entrance, “was we would never lend to ourselves.” Now, he said, the climate-regulated galleries will be “what a collection of our stature really deserves.”For Lentz, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums, the collection also deserves the chance to be seen — and engaged with — in innovative ways. Spatial constraints in the old facility meant only a fraction of the museum’s expansive collection could be exhibited. When the renovated and expanded facility opens next year, visitors will have 40 percent more gallery space to explore. And viewers will be able engage with that material in new ways.Standing in a smaller gallery on the dusty third floor, still empty and smelling of paint, Lentz explained that the new museum will not offer narrowly dedicated galleries for paper, photography, prints, or drawings. Instead of consigning such materials to a “paper ghetto,” these media will be displayed side-by-side with paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, offering visitors a more “contextual presentation.”The museum also will mingle works provocatively. For instance, American works of art will stand alongside European and Native American material. “In many ways, that’s a reflection of how American art history is now taught,” said Lentz. “In our view, that’s going to make for a more compelling presentation. We expect to see lots of interesting juxtapositions.”The galleries will remain small in scale, “human and intimate,” said Lentz, to encourage viewers to slow down, look, and truly connect with artworks. That intimate engagement will be strongly encouraged on the fourth floor.One level below the museum’s Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies is the art study center, where visitors can request up-close viewings of works of art. The center’s layout includes three study rooms, one each for the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museums, as well as two seminar rooms that can accommodate smaller groups of students.“The power, we believe, of an art study center,” said Lentz, “is it’s essentially art on demand. What you can have in here is an experience that is fundamentally different from walking through the galleries, sitting in a classroom, or looking at slides or PowerPoints.”There will be teaching galleries on the third level, including one that will function as a curatorial laboratory where students can study the art of installation and how to craft an “argument” by using works of art.Capping the building’s fifth floor is Piano’s glass lantern, a shining, slanted rooftop fitted with a complex series of mechanical shades that allow museum workers to control carefully the amount of light that flows into the space. The giant skylight disperses light through the conservation lab, study center and what now will be the central circulation corridor of the building, diffusing sunshine into the galleries and arcades and the beloved old courtyard below, and creating what Piano calls the “Light Machine.”According to Lentz, that courtyard, modeled after a 16th-century façade in Montepulciano, Italy, is now truly the emotional and symbolic heart of the museum. Previously, the space, which was only open on three sides, was “gloomy and static,” Lentz recalled. Thanks to Piano and his architectural team, the courtyard has been pushed open on all four sides and now includes 16 points of entry, along with a bluestone floor.The ground floor also serves as a pedestrian thoroughfare. The public will be able to stroll from the Quincy Street entrance through to a new, expanded entrance on Prescott Street, taking advantage of the café and store without paying admission. “We wanted to make it much more transparent, much more accessible,” said Lentz.Various flourishes contribute to the museum’s visual delights. For example, the new wing’s wooden façade, when seen up-close, surprises a viewer with its grain of rippled waves. The undulating clapboard made of Alaska yellow cedar will weather over time to a light gray hue. Another welcome and unusual detail can be seen in the museum’s winter gardens: small niches on the second floor of the new wing that will serve as intimate glass sunrooms populated with art that is not sensitive to light.Throughout the building, a vertical glass window becomes a transparent seam allowing visitors to see where the old Fogg structure and the new wing merge. Glass-tipped galleries at either end of the first floor facing Prescott Street will allow passersby to peek inside. “The porosity of this building,” said Lentz, “is radically different.”Ever-conscious of the building’s famous neighbor, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, the only North American structure by the renowned modernist architect Le Corbusier, Piano has extended that structure’s graceful curving concrete ramp along the edge of the museum, bringing it under the cantilever of the new wing down to Broadway. Charles Klee, the principal at the architectural firm Payette, which is collaborating on the project, said Piano likes to say, “It’s a little bit like Le Corbusier putting his arm around the Fogg.”“A lot of people, when we began this, thought that we were just sort of rebuilding a very beautiful, static treasure house,” said Lenz. “My message is this is going to be a very different kind of art museum … I think the experience for viewers is going to be much more dynamic and much more integrated.”last_img read more

Mary Margaret Steedly, 71

first_imgAt a Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Oct. 1, 2019, the following tribute to the life and service of the late Mary Margaret Steedly was placed upon the permanent records of the Faculty.She was “a displaced southerner in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” she once wrote. Though born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Dec. 16, 1946, Mary Margaret Steedly grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, where her father taught at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. In 1968 Steedly got a B.S.S.A. in business education at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, but she subsequently gave up working as an administrator to study folklore at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her 1979 M.A. thesis was on healing practices among the Lumbee, a Native American tribe of North Carolina.The topic was formative of her Ph.D. research, which she pursued in cultural and medical anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and completed in 1989. Her years-long fieldwork was in a remote area known as Karoland, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Friends who knew her there describe an indefatigable fieldworker who was also a bit “wild,” hitching rides, for example, on careening motorcycles as she went from village to village seeking out people who would talk to her about the healing practices of spirit-mediums or “Karo curers,” for the most part women.One of these women, a charismatic and eccentric figure, became the central subject of her first book, the award-winning “Hanging without a Rope” (1993), though it was really the stories that people told about her and more broadly about Karoland — indeed, stories about stories — that fascinated her the most. In her book she wrote, “It seems to me (and here I am perhaps putting a bit of my own history into the story, my southern background as well as the cold New England winter in which I write) that, of anyone, William Faulkner has most compellingly conveyed a sense of the dense, heterogeneous entangling of lives, stories, and desires that I mean by narrative experience.” A profound listener to what people said, including their silences, she did not interpret stories as information about what had happened in the past but as an ever-shifting personal and collective memory of colonial and post-colonial Karoland, much of which was steeped in violent encounters between men and women or between ordinary people and the state. Given her commitment to narrative experience, it may not be surprising that her theoretical engagements with gender and feminist studies as well as with post-colonial theory, to which she was an early and important contributor, were often implicit in her multi-layered, open-ended, and beautifully written text. The book is not easy to “use,” if one is trying to skim it for its theoretical nuggets, because of the narratives one is enticed to read and re-read.Steedly’s second book, “Rifle Reports” (2013), is again about stories, this time about the role women played in the War of Independence against the Dutch, a gendered version of events that was not always heard, let alone told in Indonesia or historical scholarship for that matter. In between her first and second book, she published important articles in all of the leading journals in her field, but she refused to let go of her second book until she felt she had gotten it right, meaning not only beautiful sentences but the larger structure they serve, which in Steedly’s texts is always an intricate latticework of narrative, analysis, and criticism. It was at this time, too, that she went back to The Citadel to do what is called an “ethnography-at-home,” the fieldwork for which she completed but the writing for which she had only just begun before her untimely death. It had promised to be a major analysis of the production of U.S. “military culture,” but she wanted it to remain unfinished after her death. She also embarked on a study of Indonesian visual culture and completed an influential co-edited volume on the analysis of images and media in anthropology.Steedly imparted her lessons on listening, writing, and looking to her many devoted students. In the undergraduate course Ethnography as Practice and Genre, they read and analyzed examples of experimental ethnographies in preparation for their senior theses, many of which she went on to supervise. Her interventions in the dissertation-writing workshop were legendary, and more than one graduate student remembers being told that their opening sentences were awful and had to be rewritten or, conversely, their beautiful sentences were no good if they didn’t cohere in a cogent argument or clear analysis. She supervised countless dissertations in the department on a wide range of subjects, many of them by Indonesian and Southeast Asian students. After listening to what students said about their interests, she helped them formulate a focus and an approach that suited them and not necessarily her own agendas.Steedly was promoted to full professor in 1998. During her 20 years in this role, she had very few female colleagues, and at one point she was the department’s only female tenured professor, a dubious distinction. She was a tireless advocate for and promoter of female students and faculty in both the department and the university at large. Though she did not live long enough to see all her efforts bear fruit. She took on every leadership role in the department except chair, and though ironically she was the most qualified to assume it, given her degree in business education, she said to one colleague, “In a former life, I was an administrator for nearly 10 years—why would I ever want to do that again?”Friends and colleagues found Steedly to be an approachable if also intensely private person, who rarely revealed much about her life. What she was unabashed about was her love for dogs, and she devoted many joyful hours to agility training two of her Australian shepherds, one of which was a blue-ribbon champion.Mary Margaret Steedly passed away on Jan. 4, 2018, after battling breast cancer for a year and a half. She confronted her painful end with stoicism and courage, demonstrating an old southern trait that can only be called gallantry in the face of death.Respectfully submitted,Theodore BestorByron GoodMary-Jo DelVecchio GoodMichael HerzfeldSteven Caton, Chairlast_img read more

Coaches Corner

first_imgBefore you know it, another season of Coaches’ Corner will begin.  I have lost track of what year this will be.  It has been at least 30 seasons.  I did not do it for a couple years, but I know I had the program in the mid-80’s.During this time span, I have done it from the station, from McDonald’s (on Saturday mornings), at the site of the former Feltz’s, and I even did it while recovering from knee surgery at Hospitality Hall.  WRBI then moved it to the truck stop at New Point because they were sponsoring the show at that time.  From there we went to Ison’s Family Pizza where it has been ever since.  Cecil has been a very gracious host since moving to this location.When we start a season of Coaches’ Corner, it always requires a lot of research because the field of coaching changes so rapidly these days and a new list of guests must be obtained.  When an athletic director changes at a school, this further complicates the process.  Unless the new director was a guest on the show themselves, they are not sure what the process involves.  It is through them that I obtain the names of those new coaches.  No matter what, I am always glad when a new season rolls around.  See you on Coaches’ Corner in August!last_img read more