As a student in the School of Arts & Sciences, I am used to spending most of my time on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus. But we also have a campus at the Fenway in Boston that is home to our School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), and with my time at Tufts rapidly coming to a close, I knew I couldn't graduate without visiting! That is how I found myself taking my first ride on the SMFA shuttle at the end of April. To make the most of my trip into Boston, I had also secured a ticket to the special exhibition “Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression” at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) – a nice perk of being a Tufts student is free tickets to the MFA and discounted entry to the special exhibitions!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once the shuttle dropped everyone off at the Fenway, I entered the SMFA and marveled at the colorful, light-filled atrium; I wandered through the halls, peeking through windows into studio spaces for woodworking, screen printing, pottery, painting, and more. I stumbled across the SMFA portion of the Tufts University Art Galleries (also located in the Aidekman Arts Center on the Medford/Somerville campus) and stopped at several installations throughout the SMFA to read about the artists’ works. I was in awe of our student artists’ ability to be creative with purpose, to showcase global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic through art. All the while, the Tufts signage and colors I am so accustomed to (and even the smells of Tufts Dining!) ran throughout the building, making the space feel familiar.
Before I knew it, it was time to head around the corner to the MFA for my timed-entry ticket to the special exhibition. From the moment I walked up to the main entrance, so many of my worlds collided - my elementary school years, my time at Tufts and the Boston area, and my semester in Madrid. My first-grade teacher used to spend every Friday teaching us French and all about Monet, and here I was, fifteen years later, seeing his paintings in Boston. And the MFA’s grand entrance, which so mirrored that of the Prado Museum in Madrid, transported me back to the days of my art history class there. As I put my headphones in for the free audio tour, I was reminded of the headsets we wore at the Prado to hear our professor; walking through the exhibition, I felt a sort of déjà vu to the two special exhibitions we had the chance to visit during the class. Even seeing one of Monet’s famous haystack paintings reminded me of the day in my Sketchbook class (also in Madrid) that I tried my hand at drawing those haystacks for myself.
Once I had finished at the special exhibition, I wandered through the winding halls of the rest of the MFA and came across all sorts of gems, including paintings by Velázquez and El Greco (both of whom I had studied in Madrid), the very portrait of George Washington that now graces the one-dollar bill, a few Picassos, and even a Jackson Pollock. I am not sure what I expected to find at the MFA, but its varied collection of art from across continents, time periods, and styles far exceeded anything I could have imagined. Once I had had my fill, I meandered back to the SMFA to catch the shuttle. Back on the Medford/Somerville campus, I reflected on the more complete picture of Tufts that I now have thanks to my visit to the Fenway campus. Visit the SMFA and the MFA, and visit them often – you’ll be glad you did!