The Visual Arts Program and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies merged in the summer of 2009. In December of 2009, the combined group was renamed the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). A celebration of the new program was held on April 15, 2010 with exhibitions, conversations, and performances. In 2021, ACT was rebranded as the Art, Culture, and Technology program at MIT.

In the summer of 2010, the program moved into the Wiesner Building (E15) and the newly constructed Media Lab Extension Building (E14).

Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS)

CAVS Fellows test the “Centerbeam” kinetic sculpture collaboration in 1977.

Though the fine arts at MIT have a long history, contemporary art made its effective entry in the form of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS). The CAVS was created in 1967 by György Kepes and situated within the School of Architecture and Planning. Hungarian-born Kepes, collaborator of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, emigrated to the U.S. in 1937. He taught at the New Bauhaus in Chicago and then at the Illinois Institute of Design alongside Mies van der Rohe before coming to MIT.

A community of innovators. CAVS provided long-term appointments to a wide range of important innovators in the visual arts, environmental arts, dance, and new media: composer Maryanne Amacher, avant-garde filmmaker Stan van der Beek, artist and educator Lowry Burgess, video artist Peter Campus, performance artist Charlotte Moorman, artist Nam June Paik and many others.

CAVS leadership. Otto Piene, a member of the ZERO group, succeeded Prof. Kepes as director in 1974. Following Piene’s retirement in 1994, the internationally-known artist and VAP faculty member, artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, became director of CAVS. Steve Benton, inventor of the white-light “rainbow” hologram, directed CAVS from 1996 until his death in 2003; and in 2004, Wodiczko returned as director with the goal of emphasizing critical engagement with the intellectual and ethical questions posed by the social construction of advanced technologies. With the appointment of Associate Director Larissa Harris, and under the leadership of Krzysztof Wodiczko, the Center embarked on a revitalization program which included creating a visiting artist program and strong focus on transdisciplinary production embedded in MIT’s scientific and technological community.

Visual Arts Program (VAP)

The MIT Visual Arts Program was created in 1989 in the Department of Architecture by Professor Ed Levine. Its initial impetus was to provide instruction in the arts to MIT undergraduates as well as to provide courses for graduate students from the Department of Architecture. Though called ‘a program,’ the VAP was technically one of five discipline groups or “sections” in the Department of Architecture, the others being: Architectural Design (AD), Computation (Comp), History, Theory and Criticism (HTC), and Building Technology (BT). Ute Meta Bauer was appointed director of the Visual Arts Program in the summer of 2005. Under her stewardship, the undergraduate and graduate components grew in size, student labs expanded, and the program organized a highly-visible lecture series.