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Brody to step down as arts provost

Alan Brody
Alan Brody

MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif has announced that Associate Provost for the Arts Alan Brody will step down at the end of the academic year after 10 years in the position. Brody will return to full-time teaching in the music and theater arts section and to his own playwriting.

In making the announcement, Reif called Brody an "unswerving and passionate advocate of the arts at MIT," who had worked with faculty, students, staff and alumni to "guide, support and enhance MIT's dynamic arts community."

President Susan Hockfield said, "The arts at MIT are simply extraordinary -- reflecting the creativity and insight that are hallmarks of the Institute. As associate provost for the arts, Alan Brody has fostered a climate where the talents and imagination of our faculty and students can find their fullest artistic expression."

Brody, a professor of theater at MIT since 1988, was elevated to the position of associate provost for the arts in 1996, succeeding Ellen T. Harris, the first person to hold the post at MIT.

Reif said, "Under his leadership, artist-in-residence programs expanded and flourished in a number of areas, including the List Visual Arts Center and the Office of the Arts. In addition, he fostered a sense of community and identity among students and faculty engaged in the arts, through such activities as the creation of the Freshman Arts Seminar and Advising Program and the MIT Arts Scholars Program. With his guidance and perseverance, the MIT Museum acquired inspiring new leadership; the Museum Loan Network expanded as a major national resource; and the vision of a Laboratory for Performing Arts began to take shape."

A noted playwright, Brody has won numerous awards, most recently including the Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP) Reva Shiner Full Length Play Contest for "The Housewives of Mannheim." The drama, set in 1944 working-class Brooklyn, deals with homosexuality, anti-Semitism and gender roles and will be staged Feb. 9-25 at the BPP's theater in Bloomington, Ind.

During Brody's tenure as associate provost for the arts, he has championed both arts for their own sake and the synergistic relationships between arts and science. He inaugurated a monthly series of arts colloquia in 1997, designed to introduce all members of the MIT arts community to the work of individual members in different disciplines. He also initiated the Council Scholars in the Arts, a program sponsored and supported by the Council for the Arts at MIT, which brings together student artists from all parts of the Institute for events and the exchange of creative work and ideas.

In 2001, he piloted the Freshman Arts Seminar and Advising Program (FASAP), designed to introduce MIT freshmen to the rich arts resources at MIT and in the Boston/Cambridge area.

The associate provost for the arts also assumed responsibility for MIT's Student Art Association and facilitated the cross-registration programs between MIT and the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

In his national engagements, Brody took a leadership position with Teachers as Scholars (TAS), which offers K-12 teachers content-based, two or three-day seminars in the humanities, arts and sciences as well as interdisciplinary topics, led by university faculty. He also served as the MIT representative on the board of trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts and as a member of the board's Education Committee. He also participates in the Cultural Task Force of the Boston Foundation.

In 2004, Brody helped initiate the STAR Conference ("Science, Theatre, Audience, Reader: Theoretical Physics in Drama and Narrative"), an ongoing discourse on theater and science. He also launched a series of videoconferences with the Center for Fine Arts at the National University of Singapore in 2004, to introduce the arts as a component of the MIT education in the Singapore-MIT Alliance.

On campus, Brody moderated high-profile events such as a symposium on the Michael Frayn play "Copenhagen," featuring actors, physicists, family and colleagues of the play's protagonists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and a staged reading and panel discussion on "Q.E.D.," a play by Peter Parnell about MIT alumnus Richard Feynman.

"As associate provost, Alan Brody has done a terrific job of strengthening and integrating MIT's various arts programs," said Philip S. Khoury, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "In so doing, he has helped to ensure that the Institute will remain a truly creative force in the performing and visual arts for years to come."

The associate provost for the arts is the senior administration official responsible for the oversight of creative arts activities throughout the Institute. A member of the Academic Council, the associate provost for the arts advises the provost and the president on all nonacademic activities related to the arts and is the senior officer responsible for resource development in the arts. The associate provost for the arts chairs the Creative Arts Council, which consists of the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science, the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, and department heads and leaders of programs in the arts.

Reif announced he is in the process of meeting members of the MIT community interested in the arts as part of the process of identifying Brody's successor. He invites confidential comments and/or advice to be e-mailed to

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 25, 2006 (download PDF).

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