Results tagged “Harvard” from ARTicles

sebphoto-thumb-200x280-39131.jpgSebastian Smee, the chief visual art critic for The Boston Globe, was on a furlough day enjoying the beaches of Miami last Friday when executive editor Marty Baron called to say the writer had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. When Smee landed in the newsroom on Monday, he gave a speech that praised his editors for holding to "a belief that the arts matter, and that good writing about the arts is going to be an important part of newspapers as they evolve.'' When I called to congratulate him this week, Smee reiterated the passion he has for his work in New England, spoke of the importance of value judgments in reviews and explained why he believes arts coverage is necessary to the future of journalism. 
 

In your 2008 article The Mind of the Critic, you mention three categories people tend to associate with criticism: to judge, to educate and to entertain. What is the role of criticism?

It may not be the most interesting part of a critic's job, but it is the most important: that he or she expresses an opinion. That's what people are expecting from a critic. There's a tendency out of politeness or good manners or fear for critics to sit on the fence sometimes. I understand that, and sometimes I succumb to it myself. But I do think you need to form and express an opinion about the merits of something. Of course, that opens onto a whole world of much more interesting questions, and you can delve into ambiguities and mixed feelings and a certain amount of education.

You're not talking about stating that something is good or bad. You're talking about expressing an opinion. 

Yeah, but good or bad is part of that. That's a critic's job: to make a value judgment on what they see. It's not imposing that value judgment as the only possible judgment about the thing. I see it very much as starting a discussion, but the discussion is going to get off to a much less interesting start if the critic hasn't actually said whether he thinks the thing he's looking at is good or bad.

What do you think about Boston generating two Pultizers in the arts this year? We might expect such numbers from New York, but what does it say about Boston right now?  

April 20, 2011 12:15 PM |
Rob Orchard.jpg

Rob Orchard stood on the stage of Boston's historic Paramount Theatre last week to announce the inaugural season of ArtsEmerson, a new initiative that will see him programming four venues -- three in the newly renovated Paramount complex and also the Cutler Majestic Theatre, all under the Emerson College umbrella. Last year, Orchard made a quieter announcement: that he was leaving his post as executive director of Harvard's American Repertory Theater in Cambridge after 30 years. He was retiring. I had visions of Orchard out on a sailboat off the coast of Maine basking in a career well done and a wind effortlessly ridden. But Boston had another plan for Orchard. Organizers at the Paramount, one of the last great movie palaces of the 1930s, took him on a tour of the $92 million renovation of the complex -- a 590-seat theater, a flexible black-box theater that can hold up to 150 seats, and a 170-seat screening room. That was the end of the sailboat fantasy. Orchard is now Emerson's executive director for the arts, and the lineup for the four spaces is a combination of new works, international groups and, eventually, a film series. Boston is experiencing an exciting stage in its arts identity, and ArtsEmerson is the newest cultural activation that combines academic mission with civic duty and a broad artistic vision. "This was not a career move on my part," Orchard told me. "There's something liberating about having a job you don't view as a stepping stone to something else. You can give yourself to it entirely." What follows is an edited version of the rest of our conversation.

This may seem like a crazy first question but what is the role of the performing arts in a city?

Whether it's a performing arts center or a facility, it's a crossroads. It's a place for people to get out there and experience great works and to be transported and to be better citizens. How idealistic do you want to get?

Well, how does art make someone a better citizen?

It's a democracy, and part of what art can do is communicate ideas and open up dialogue in a nonthreatening, non-ideological way. I don't think an artist should ever be burdened with the responsibility of changing society. The only thing you can ask artists to do is to tell the truth from their perspective. An audience knows when it's being told the truth -- whether or not it's a truth they want to hear. But they can sense sincerity and that gets the mind thinking in ways that are productive in a culture. Art does play that role of catalyst.

June 8, 2010 4:48 AM |


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