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Introduction - Harvard University

The principal educational goal of the Visual and Environmental Studies Department (VES) is to provide students in a liberal arts college with an opportunity to gain an understanding of visual art and expression through both study and practice. The department aims to foster a dialogue among makers, critics, and theorists, and accordingly its faculty comprises individuals representing all of these areas. The courses they offer fall into several areas, including the studio arts, photography, filmmaking, film studies, environmental studies, and critical theory. The department’s symbolic and functional home is the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, built in 1963, and is the only building designed by Le Corbusier in North America. The building contains art studios, photography darkrooms, film and video screening facilities, faculty offices, and departmental administrative offices. Additionally, the department occupies space in the top floor and the lower level of Sever Hall, which contains faculty offices, film and video editing equipment, film and video screening facilities, as well as an extensive Film Study Library.

All curricular areas within the concentration begin with an introductory program, then move to more advanced courses and may culminate in a thesis or senior-year tutorial. A course of study can be tailored to accommodate the demands of any visual or theoretical approach to art practice.

Students apply to concentrate in VES; and in order to be accepted students must do two things. 1. They must take a course in the department, preferably one related to their area of interest. That course must be taken in advance of the application. 2. They must also maintain a B average. For those wishing to apply to the studio and film/video areas, an introductory studio or production course is required in advance of the application. For assistance in choosing an appropriate first course, students are encouraged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Film Studies (for those interested in a focus on Film Studies), or the department’s the Academic Services Coordinator.

Ordinarily, introductory-level courses in VES are designated with 2-digit course numbers and more advanced courses with 3-digit course numbers. Those interested in the studio area can choose from among several introductory courses in the studio arts and photography, which are generally course numbers VES 10-49. Students interested in the film/video area should take a course in photography, video, or animation, which are generally course numbers VES 40-59(Note: VES 50, the year-long introductory filmmaking course, is ordinarily taken by concentrators in their sophomore year). Students interested in Film Studies should take Literature & Arts B-11, (The Art of Film); VES 71 (Silent Cinema), or VES 72 (Sound Cinema). These three courses are required and either offers an excellent introduction to the Film Studies track.

There is no formal tutorial program in VES. Since most VES courses are small studio courses or seminars with close interactions between students and faculty, preparation for a senior thesis is begun in these studios and seminars and is often carried to completion in a VES 99 tutorial during the senior year.

If you are interested in talking with someone in VES about specific courses, constructing a Plan of Study, or the possibility of concentrating, you should speak with either the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Robb Moss, 617-496-6614,, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Film Studies (JD Connor, 617-496-6799,,) or, Academic Services Coordinator (Michael Lawrence,, 617-496-4469). They are available throughout the year to discuss any questions you might have or any plans you are considering. (JD Connor will be on leave of absence in the fall term 2006-07).

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