My first trip to the Museum of Fine Arts was completely unplanned.
It was a Friday night in January, and a couple friends and I were going to a jazz club in Boston. We decided to take the free SMFA shuttle that runs regularly between Granoff Music Center and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and walk to the jazz club from the SMFA campus. It was about 7 PM when we stepped off the shuttle and decided to completely reverse course—I had never seen the MFA before, and my friends were excited to show it off to me at one of the most unpopular times of day to visit a museum. All Tufts students get into the MFA for free, so we flashed our student IDs, stored our heavy winter coats in the coat room, and ventured into the first exhibit we found.
There was a special kind of exhilaration and adrenaline that came over us as we found ourselves almost completely alone in a massive building, surrounded on all sides by an incalculable amount of priceless art. We couldn’t control our giggles as we walked too quickly through the Art of the Americas exhibit, pausing for long periods of time in front of American Impressionist paintings that took our breath away and cracking jokes about the facial expressions of people whose portraits were painted before this country was self-governing. When the museum closed at 9 PM, we hopped on the last SMFA shuttle of the night and came back to campus having taken in much less jazz music and much more American art than originally planned.
My second trip to the Museum of Fine Arts took place in October, in a completely different world.
There was zero spontaneity about it. I reserved my free ticket online a week in advance, only a couple days after the museum opened for the first time since March. My friend and I took the SMFA shuttle to Fenway and stopped to get coffee before lining up. After a quick symptoms check, we scanned our tickets and were once again released into the Art of the Americas exhibit, the only wing of the museum open. This time, I walked slower, taking my time to absorb the art and its history while skirting six feet away from other museum patrons. The building was similarly empty to my trip in January, but that was due to the museum’s limited capacity, not the time of day. I revisited some old favorites and discovered some new ones, and we were on the SMFA shuttle headed back to campus by 4 PM.
Although the circumstances around them could not be more different, I loved both of my trips to the Museum of Fine Arts. It turns out that art is just as easily digested with a mask on as it is without. I’m very thankful that the museum is open again and is taking precautions to protect its patrons, and that my Tufts affiliation allows me to visit whenever I want (even if I do have to reserve tickets in advance now). The free rides on the SMFA shuttle that take me from Somerville to the heart of Boston in half an hour are just the cherry on top—the only money I spent during this Saturday adventure was on coffee! After spending the majority of the semester so far holed up in my dorm room, it was nice to get away from campus for the day and break up the monotony in my schedule—sometimes, all you need for a mental reset is to spend some quality time with good art.