Artists and educators explore the questions that inspire, with help from Yo-Yo Ma, Silkroad, and a global musical ensemble.
“Works of art are designed to take us as quickly as possible to our most important questions,” Senior Lecturer Steven Seidel told an audience of artists and educators gathered in Harvard’s Farkas Hall on Monday night. It was the start of the 2015 Arts and Passion-Driven Learning institute, three days of workshops, performances, and conversations hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Silkroad, the cultural organization founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
By now, in its fourth-annual iteration, the institute has acquired the air of a soiree — or a barn-raising. A celebratory buzz filled the hall, fueled by the particular energy of nearly 100 creative people coming together from around the world to trace connections between passion, inspiration, and learning.
Those powerful questions that Seidel evoked were asked, answered, then asked again — both in his opening conversation with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and in the exhilarating performance that followed, as the Silk Road Ensemble seemed to enact the notion of passion-driven learning right there on stage. As professional conferences go, there’s none with a better soundtrack.
“One of the things I think a lot about is, What does the imagination consist of?” said Ma, when Seidel asked about particular works that had inspired him. As the institute’s faculty director, who also directs HGSE’s Arts in Education master’s program, Seidel had framed the gathering as an open-ended exploration of art’s power to disrupt — to vanquish pat certainties and conventional explanations.