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Festival celebrates artists among support staffers

Writer Herman Melville spent his days as a clerk in the New York custom house, artist Paul Gauguin worked as a Paris stockbroker for 11 years, and world-class cellist Carlos Prieto graduated from MIT and worked as a steel company executive.

Many of MIT's support staff employees also devote their non-working hours to artistic pursuits. This often-hidden talent pool will now 'strut their stuff' during business hours as the Artists Behind the Desk series returns for a third round from October 3 through November 14.

The festival showcasing 14 musicians, 13 visual artists, two dancers and six authors gets underway on Friday, Oct. 3, as pianist Nicholas Altenbernd, administrative secretary in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, performs in Killian Hall from noon-1pm. On the same day, a juried art exhibition opens at Compton Gallery with a reception from 4-7pm. Mr. Alten-bernd's other talent as a photographer is also represented in the Compton exhibition.

"When I see the wealth of talent and intelligence that MIT attracts to its support staff, I must say I'm reconciled to being a secretary at MIT in order to support my performing habit," said soprano Marion Leeds Carroll, senior secretary in aeronautics and astronautics, who will present a recital in Killian Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Designed by the Working Group on Support Staff Issues to increase awareness of the artistic abilities of some of the more than 1,200 members of MIT's and Lincoln Labor-atory's support staff, the series' mission is to "acknowledge, celebrate and display otherwise unsung artistry and enhance the artistic, social and work environments at the Institute." Working Group members hope that the project will also boost the morale of employees who, while attracted to the Institute because of its worldwide scientific and technical reputation, also seek to bring an artistic flavor to the campus.

The series is partially supported by the MIT Council for the Arts, the MIT Museum, the music and theater arts section and the Working Group on Support Staff Issues. Watch the MIT Tech Talk Arts Calendar for complete listings and upcoming performances.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 24, 1997.

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