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Andrea Frank
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Larissa Harris
Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies

What are you working on?

I’m the associate director of an art organization called the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Since its establishment in 1967, CAVS has been a center for art making here at MIT. I came onboard in July 2004 and have instituted several new programs. One is a visitor series intended to raise our profi le, create an audience, and generate interest in what we do here. The second is a long-term fellowship program which is where artists come for a year or more and make a new project at MIT, with people from MIT. Another is a local artist’s program which provides studios for selected promising young local artists and, fi nally, there is something we call the Graduate Affi liate Program in which MIT students––graduate students who are also artists––get a studio from us so they can work out their artistic visions on our turf. We provide them a place to do that and they provide a link back to their own departments for the visitors, the fellows, and the locals.

The way the visits work is that the artists come for a couple of days and we try to give them a really good impression of what MIT is about. We set up meetings with labs, give them tours, and basically try to match-make based on what we know about them and what we had talked about prior to the visit. They present their work to our audiences and at the end of the year we ask them for a proposal for a longer project. That then is the pool from which we select the fellows.

So, in terms of what the relationship of the Center is to the rest of MIT, we are first and foremost an art making organization. We are not an art and technology making organization. The people we bring in are artists. Naturally though, the proposals we receive have interesting and provocative takes on MIT as a site. And that’s what we’re looking for, somebody who is interested in coming here, contributing to the culture, and either raising questions we think aren’t raised often enough or reframing ideas that can use reframing. MIT as an institution is a tremendously exciting place for artists because when they come here, they can just smell that everybody else is working on crazy ideas too. Because MIT is an organization populated by makers, artists––who are makers themselves––feel quite comfortable here. Of course, people always ask, “Why here? Why art at MIT?” We constantly have to justify our existence. But as they get to know us, they come to realize why. It’s actually a natural fit.

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for full text see VISIONS - MIT Interviews book

Andrea Frank