Much of MIT is quiet during January's Independent Activities Period (IAP), but opportunities for creativity and learning abound -- often in areas not normally associated with academia. You can sculpt with chocolate, consider the literary techniques of Dr. Seuss and examine creativity in a class titled "It's All in Your Head."
The following is a sampling of this year's arts-related offerings. For more IAP listings, see page 1 or visit web.mit.edu/iap.
The Department of Mathematics and the Experimental Study Group are hosting concerts. And a couple of workshops are being offered for drummers: one, on Middle Eastern rhythms, centers on using an hourglass-shaped drum called the dara bukka/dumbeg; another focuses on the traditional Korean art form called Pungmul, which includes rituals, drumming, dance and acrobatics.
Nonmusicians can chime in with sessions on "change ringing," a traditional British style of ringing bells. Participants will visit the towers of Boston's Old North Church and the Church of the Advent near Beacon Hill and will have a chance to make music. A single rope controls each bell, which can weigh up to a ton. Those who want to tintinnabulate with less tonnage can join an introduction to change ringing on handbells.
Theater and dance
Looking for some drama? Learn the basics of improv comedy with Roadkill Buffet. Want something more traditional? Listen for iambic pentameter during Shakespeare Ensemble's scene night. For movement more elegant than stomping the slush off your boots, try lessons in waltz, salsa, tango, swing and folk dancing. Sessions in contra or square dancing can also help ward off the chill.
IAP is always a good time to catch some movies, not only in the theaters but right here on campus -- where they're usually free or dirt-cheap. January offerings range from Anime Club screenings of some of the finest animation in the world to Quentin Taratino's "Reservoir Dogs." Also on tap: an MIT film and video marathon retrospective, which will feature vintage footage of the 1926 frat house gang of Phi Beta Epsilon, profiles of Doc Edgerton and Doc Draper, and more. Hands-on types can create their own films in "Storytelling and Games in the Digital Age." Student teams in that class will develop story concepts for various media, including motion picture visual effects and computer games.
Winter is a good time to tap into your inner artist. IAP courses offer opportunities to paint, silkscreen, create ceramic rattles and whistles, and develop your photographic and darkroom skills. Learn to combine animation, video and sculpture in a three-dimensional space in a course called "Sculpting With Light." Or, get out of the studio for an architectural tour of the Boston Public Library, the magnificent 1895 Renaissance Revival building that features mosaics, wall paintings, and murals by Pierre Puvis de Chauvannes and John Singer Sargent.
Something completely different
White, milk or dark chocolate? Gobble up your creations in such classes as "Experimental Chocolate Truffle-Making" and the "Battle of the Brownies." IAP also offers a chocolate sculpture workshop, a class on how to make chain mail (the flexible armor made from metal rings that was used in combat for more 1,000 years), and the 16th annual salute to Dr. Seuss.
Been to the MIT Museum lately? Now's your chance. Except for Dec. 24 and 25, when all of MIT is closed, the museum will be open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from noon to 5 p.m. throughout December and January.
"COLLISIONbox #2: Cars and Stars," a new multimedia installation, opens at the museum on Friday, Jan. 20. The show features Andy Zimmermann's multimedia installation "Cars and Stars," which projects digital animation and video onto a three-dimensional sculpture with accompanying digital sound composition. Zimmerman describes the installation as "a song cycle; a meditation on the circadian rhythm of traffic jams."
You can still catch the tail end of a couple of other MIT exhibitions in January as well:
Scott Globus' "Scientific Settings: Photos of MIT Labs" is on view at the Compton Gallery through Jan. 6. Postdoctoral associate Max Berniker's exhibition of figure drawings, "10 Minutes With Max," runs through Jan. 11 at the Wiesner Student Gallery.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of campus, poker players, coffee cups, knives, forks and cigars will be among the mundane items portrayed in "Aaron Fink: Elements, and Other Prints," opening at The Dean's Gallery in the Sloan School of Management on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Located in Room E52-466, The Dean's Gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 21, 2005 (download PDF).