Whether you’re completely new to MIT or a self-proclaimed lifer, there are always plenty of ways to get involved with the arts at MIT, or in the surrounding community. Here’s a brief guide to what kinds of arts opportunities are available at MIT. If you’re hoping to get off campus for a bit and explore arts in the city, there’s even more out there to satisfy your craving. This article isn’t intended to list every group at MIT nor every concert hall in Boston, but rather to give a small sampling of what you could enjoy here. Exploring on your own is always an encouraged avenue for finding out about art at MIT and in the city!
Music at MIT is extremely strong whether you’re into the traditional or the contemporary. In addition to a successful chamber chorus and symphony orchestra, many students also join smaller ensembles, which are typically organized through the music department. MIT also boasts two outstanding world music ensembles, Gamelan Galak Tika (playing Balinese music) and Rambax (a percussion group celebrating the music of Senegal). MIT DanceTroupe always puts on a spectacular show, featuring a number of dance styles and an overwhelming student participation. Actors may enjoy joining the Shakespeare Ensemble (which just performed Pericles), Dramashop, or even Musical Theatre Guild. Students also direct one-act plays during the year. Singers have no problem joining one our many highly-acclaimed a cappella groups — and they are often caught rehearsing under our beautiful dome in building 7!
If you’re not much of a singer or an actress, then head over to the Student Art Association (SAA) on the fourth floor of the Student Center. Students at all skill levels register for inexpensive classes throughout the year in ceramics, painting, and even photography (a class that will give you access to an on-campus darkroom!). Budding photographers can also be found working with Technique, MIT’s yearbook and photography club, and The Tech, the newspaper you’re reading now. The Wiesner Student Art Gallery usually displays the works of students in the SAA classes. If you like looking more than creating, then the List Visual Arts Center is the place for you: its exhibits showcase the work of rising contemporary artists as well as seasoned photographers, sculptors and filmmakers. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is a pleasant bike ride down Mass. Ave, and also provides student discounts.
A number of bands form at MIT, and in recent years have played big concerts at Senior House, Bexley Hall and East Campus. More “professional” bands play at Boston venues such as The Paradise and the Orpheum Theatre, both of which are smaller halls. Symphony Hall, besides being the home of the BSO, brings a number of world music, jazz, and folk acts to town. You can even get a BSO student card to receive discounts and special offers every season. If you’re really into jazz, the Regatta Bar in Harvard Square and Sculler’s (at the Double Tree Hotel) have hosted names like John Scofield, McCoy Tyner, The Bad Plus, and Michael Brecker. Within walking distance from MIT are The Middle East and TT The Bear’s Place, which are smaller clubs that invite local bands, indie acts, and alternative rock groups. Some shows are 18+, and some are 21+ — remember to check ahead (or to bring your “ID”).
Silver Screen and Stage
Kendall Square Cinema, located near MIT, is the place to go to find popular movies, as well as acclaimed foreign and independent films. If you’re already in Boston for the night, the AMC Loews near the Boston Common is an option. Opera fans might want to check out the Majestic Theatre, the Shubert Theatre, and the Wang Center. Student rush tickets are usually available, but call ahead to ask for availability. The American Repertory Theater puts on a variety of works, and the Central Square Theater in Cambridge is currently showing The Life of Galileo.
If you’re a visiting prefrosh, take the time to check out the myriad performances and exhibits from student groups and ask questions about arts at MIT. Walking through dorms, you may even hear a campus band practicing for their next big show, or see someone coming back from a cappella rehearsal. Using this guide as a starting point, you’ll see that there’s always a chance to immerse yourself in the arts in multiple capacities when you’re an MIT student.