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Altman's contribution to MIT appreciated and irreplaceable

(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Associate Provost for the Arts Ellen T. Harris.)

It has recently come to my attention that China Altman plans to leave her position as director of Arts Communication in the Office of the Arts. As one who has worked with Altman for many years I wish to express my alarm at this news and tell you from the perspective of an MIT alumnus, employee and graduate student the impact this would have on the arts here.

I began working with Altman in 1983 as a photographer taking free-lance assignments for the MIT News Office. In addition, as a self-described arts advocate and participant, I came across Altman's arts reporting frequently over the next three years. I grew to appreciate Altman's skills as a media communicator and her enthusiasm for arts activities at the Institute.

As you no doubt know by now, the arts at MIT occupy a unique and subtly unusual place in the minds of the MIT community at large and present (partially as a result of this) an unusual reputation and image to the outside world. Altman understands and relates to both MIT's arts community and the general MIT community as no one else I've met in my nine years of association with the Institute.

Her rapport with students is especially good, and it is no exaggeration to say that she knows and is respected by everyone in the arts here. These qualities, along with her media skills, result in a truly potent force for MIT arts.

The arts page in Tech Talk has been just one result of Altman's work. Another example is her Student Photography Project. In fact, a careful look at her activities in the past eight years reveals a deliberate, meticulous and successful campaign to bring credibility to the arts at MIT -- within the arts community here, as it relates to MIT as a whole and as it is viewed by the greater public.

Perhaps most compelling of all, especially in light of these accomplishments, Altman exemplifies one of the highest goals of the arts as a societal priority, humanism. She is a warm, caring, creative individual with a sense of human values and an ability to communicate them that is truly unique and exceptional.

The Primrose Path, an installation conceived entirely by Altman and executed with the help of students, is a particularly brilliant example of how this humanism has been manifested in a way uniquely suited to the MIT environment -- physically, artistically and psychically.

It would be a great loss to the arts at MIT were Altman not persuaded to stay. Her unique combination of talents and qualities is irreplaceable. I hope and trust that you will do everything in your power to keep Altman involved as the arts at MIT continue to flourish.

Frank Revi G->