Margaret Atwood Awarded 2014 Harvard Arts Medal

Acclaimed author Margaret E. Atwood was honored with the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal in a ceremony Thursday to mark the beginning of the 22nd Annual Arts First Festival.

Atwood received a master’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1962 as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. She is well known for her books of fiction and poetry as well as her critical essays on issues from the destruction of the environment to the role of women in society. Her notable works include the books The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale, the latter of which is set in a dystopian Cambridge.

In an interview with The Crimson last year, Atwood described her experiences as a graduate student in a time when women were not allowed in Lamont Library.

It meant that I spent a lot of time in the Widener stacks, where somebody had made a little collection of Canadian Literature which was right next to the Witchcraft and Demonology—so two of my interests were just right there, side by side,” she said.


The Harvard Arts Medal was established in 1995, making Atwood its 21st recipient. The award seeks to honor alumni or faculty of the University that have made a special contribution to the arts. Past recipients include Matt Damon ’92, Yo-Yo Ma ’76 and, Tommy Lee Jones ’69.

When asked what advice she had for aspiring writers at Harvard in an interview with the Harvard Arts Blog, Atwood stressed the difficulties associated with pursuing a writing career.

“Don’t do it unless you really have to, and are very determined, and can deal with disapproving relatives, and are prepared to accept the roles that luck and chance play in such things,” she said. “There’s no boss, but there’s also no pension plan.”

Thursday’s awards ceremony kicked off the 2014 Arts First Festival. The annual festival is a showcase of artistic talent from faculty members and students all across the University produced by the Office for the Arts. The festival will last from Thursday to Sunday and  provides a wide variety of events accessible to the local public, including several free performances.

Some of the notable events at this year’s Arts First Festival include the Party on the Plaza on Friday which features several student and alumni bands such as the Cantab Cowboys and The Love Experiment. Other attractions include a Japanese Tea Ceremony sponsored by the East Asian Languages Department, the 19th Annual Harvard Pow Wow, and a performance by Grammy award nominee and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer.

—Staff writer Indrani G. Das. can be reached at Follow her on twitter @IndraniGDas.

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at Follow her on twitter @jillsteinman.


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