SMFA building in 1876

On July 4, the date of the nation’s centennial, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) opens in Boston’s Copley Square, at the site of what is now the Boston Park Plaza hotel.



The Boston School of Drawing and Painting opens in the basement of the MFA. Students may take individual classes or earn a diploma.


The MFA officially takes over the art school, renaming it the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, or the Museum School.


Drawing of Lowell

Drawing of Guy Lowell

The MFA moves to its current home on Huntington Avenue, a grand new Beaux Arts building designed by the architect Guy Lowell. The SMFA takes up temporary quarters on an adjacent lot. 


The SMFA moves into a new 45,000-square-foot home, located just steps from the MFA. The building, also designed by Lowell, houses the school to this day.


The SMFA and Tufts College establish a degree program to educate art teachers.


The SMFA and Tufts begin offering a combined BA/BFA degree.


The SMFA partners with Tufts to offer a Master of Fine Arts degree


The SMFA does away with departments and begins allowing students to learn in any class or studio. The philosophy continues at the school to this day.



Bessie, Rhino statue

The noted architect Graham Gund completes a renovation and expansion project that more than doubles the size of the SMFA’s main building. Alumna Katharine Lane Weems contributes a fiberglass copy of Bessie,one of her famous bronze rhino sculptures. Today, the work stands at the SMFA entrance, a tribute to one of America’s foremost sculptors.


The SMFA increases its studio, workshop, and classroom space in a building in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston. The new facilities expand the school’s offerings for graduate and post-baccalaureate students.


On December 22, the MFA and Tufts agree on the terms under which the university will own and operate the art school, which will henceforth be known as the SMFA at Tufts University.


The SMFA officially becomes part of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University.

Photograph of MFA building: Adapted from original at Boston Public Library
Drawing (Lowell): John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Laura Ferguson

Laura Ferguson, senior writer at Tufts and regular Tufts Now contributor, can be reached at