Our Arts Renaissance
I am thrilled to share with you the news that the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will become part of Tufts University this summer. The acquisition of the SMFA heralds a renaissance for the arts at Tufts and will create myriad opportunities to enrich our fine arts curriculum and to infuse our community with new energy and perspectives.
This is a significant moment in the history of three venerable institutions—an alliance of a major museum, a top-ranked university, and the oldest art school in the country. The university’s association with the Museum School actually goes back to 1945, when the institutions established a joint degree program to educate art teachers; other programs followed. Now, students in the combined degree (B.A./B.F.A.) program take all their liberal arts courses at Tufts, and students in the B.F.A.-only program take at least half of their liberal arts courses here.
Our seven-decades-long relationship was the main reason that Tufts was the top choice of the Museum of Fine Arts when it sought an academic institution to acquire the SMFA. The missions of the university and the Museum School are closely aligned. Both are strong proponents of an education that values intellectual depth, cultural and intellectual diversity, and strong engagement with the world. Both believe in the transformative power of education, whether that occurs in front of an easel, in the laboratory or classroom, or out in the community.
The addition of the Museum School will enable us to expand our offerings in painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, graphic design, and other fine arts. We’ll be able to enhance our graduate program in museum studies and build a new program in curatorial studies. We will strengthen our new interdisciplinary major in film and media studies—Tufts has fine pre-production capabilities to complement the high-end post-production facilities at the SMFA. Our engineering faculty and students are also excited—the SMFA brings additional 3D printing capabilities that will help the school pursue its goal of developing makerspace so they can create, invent, and learn.
The arts are essential for developing society’s creators and critical thinkers. They encourage us to examine the world through a different lens, whether we work in a gallery or in a makerspace. The astronaut, dancer, and physician Mae Jemison frames it this way: “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin … or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”
Tufts has long embraced the arts as indispensable to a liberal arts education. The university is a founding member of the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a Mellon Foundation–funded partnership of more than thirty institutions that support the spectrum of arts and arts-integrative research, curricula, and programs. The arts, and the Museum School, will figure prominently in our plans to expand our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) platform. We’ll also be exploring new possibilities for our art gallery program. The MFA has more than 600,000 pieces in its collection—some of which have been catalogued by our digital humanities program—so we may be able to develop a teaching collection to integrate into some courses.
These are exciting times for Tufts. I am extremely proud, and fortunate, to lead an institution whose agility enables us to take full advantage of opportunities such as the SMFA acquisition. That aspirational culture has allowed the university to repeatedly raise the bar and inspire all of us—alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends—to marvel at where we’ve been and anticipate what is yet to be done.
Anthony P. Monaco
President, Tufts University