The answer is… possibly. Let me fill you in on some history of the SMFA at Tufts, the Museum of Fine Arts, our programs, and what it means to be a student at a Museum School.
Interesting fact, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston wasn’t always in its present location of the Fenway. Did you know that it was founded in the heart of Copley Square? Also, Copley Square wasn’t always filled with the hustle and bustle of a major city. In the late 1860’s, the city of Boston began to see overcrowding and needed more room to expand. The Back Bay area of Boston was just coming under development due to a plan from Arthur Gillman that would turn the space into residential and institutional areas. The city hired trains to bring in gravel into the Back Bay, and what would come to be known as Copley Square, to create more landmass, and the resulting filling began turning the water into land.
On February 4th, 1870, the Massachusetts Legislature incorporated the “Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts for the purpose of erecting a museum for the preservation and exhibition of works of art, of making, maintaining, and establishing collections of such works, and of affording instruction in the Fine Arts.”1 Less than four months after this incorporation, on May 26th, the city of Boston awarded the museum trustees 91,000 square feet of land as a building site for the future museum, in what is now Copley Square. The museum officially opened its doors on July 4th, 1876. During those first six years of planning and collecting, the museum trustees reserved rooms for an art school in the basement of the MFA.
A year after the museum opened, in 1877, the school began its first day of classes, with only 8 enrolled students; by 1879, the school had grown to 160. That same year, the school saw its first graduating class and the founding of what would become the Copley Society: the oldest non-profit art association in the nation. Historically known as the Boston School of Drawing and Painting, the school changed its name to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts when it became fully incorporated with the MFA in 1901.
The museum and school eventually relocated from Copley Square, to its current location on Huntington Avenue in 1909. Many factors played into the relocation, but a majority of the concern was creating space and more lighting for the museum’s collection and eventual expansion. The museum hired architect Guy Lowell to design this new Neo-Classical Beaux Arts style building. Between May and November of 1909, they moved the entire museum collection with two horse drawn wagons. For 18 years, the school was housed in a temporary building on the museum lot, before moving into its own Lowell designed building across the street in 1927. In 1945, the SMFA and Tufts College began to collaborate on developing a joint degree program, bringing us to our long standing relationship as an educational institution.
Shoo mercy. That’s a bunch of history in a quick minute, huh? I’ll leave you to digest that for the moment, but don’t worry, we’ll get to even more excitement in my next blog.
Image Credit: MFA building around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.
1 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Boston, May 26, 1870. An act to incorporate the
trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts…” American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I, no. 12906, (Boston, May 26, 1870), 1.
In my last blog HERE, I gave you a little low down on the history of the SMFA at Tufts and the Museum of Fine Arts. Now I’m back to talk a little more…
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