Students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts have been taking academic classes at Tufts for about seventy years, since 1945. So what really changed when we merged officially with Tufts this past summer?
Surviving as a small, private art college in this economy is extremely difficult and it became essentially impossible for the school to continue running. Tuition prices were going up and up and we weren’t getting the funding we needed. So the SMFA reached out to Tufts and proposed that they take the relationship to the next level. Tufts loved the idea and began the process of merging with our school, but the politics were complicated and the trustees of Tufts and the Museum of Fine Arts spent months working out the details (which they’re still doing even now). Finally, they signed an official agreement in July and that’s when the true changes began for us.
The students, staff, and faculty all received new emails and new IDs; renovations began at our school building along the Fenway in Downtown Boston; half of the school’s staff became redundant – there were employees at Tufts who were doing the same jobs – and many staff members were let go. It was scary – we wanted to be excited about the transition but so much was changing and we were afraid of losing the spirit of the SMFA in the shadow of a much larger university.
In the spring, Nancy Bauer was appointed as the new Dean of SMFA. She started a series of Town Halls to open up communications between Tufts and the SMFA students and to create a greater transparency. Her involvement in the transition empowered us to speak up and be agents of the type of change we wanted (or did not want) to see.
The persistence of Tufts in supporting us and in making conscious changes that improve our school in this transitional semester has shown that we can trust in this new establishment and begin the journey to feeling more comfortable. Of course I cannot speak for the whole of the SMFA student body, but through my own experiences, I feel excited by the new opportunities this merger will afford and by the possibility of our school growing stronger and more capable. The SMFA is a place full of true thinkers, expressive artists, and incredibly bright minds – and though we, as its members, are still wary and frightened by the constant change, we are now present in the Tufts community and are ready to hear and be heard! We would love to show you what we are all about.