Department of Art and Art History, 1990-present

The Department of Art and Art History was the name given to the Department of Art and the History of Architecture as of the 1990-1991 academic year. Its art history component grew significantly during the 1990s, with a greater number and variety of courses available. The department offers multiple curricular tracks, including the interdisciplinary museum studies and architectural studies. Studio art courses and fine arts degree programs are offered in conjunction with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The department is closely allied with the Tufts University Art Gallery at Aidekman Arts Center.

History of Department of Art and Art History

The Department of Art and Art History was the name given to the Department of Art and the History of Architecture as of the 1990-1991 academic year. The department had been created as the Department of Fine Arts in 1930.

The name change coincided with a period of growth for the department. The number of courses more than doubled during its first ten years, from approximately 78 in 1990 to more than 200 by 2000. This incarnation of the department continued to offer both undergraduate majors and graduate students a variety of curricular tracks towards a degree. It also sought to serve non-majors who include art history and/or studio art in their liberal arts education. During this period, the subjects and geographic areas covered by the art history courses became more numerous and the architectural studies track brought in more collaborators from within and outside of the Tufts campus. The department continued its association with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, which had been an affiliated school in Tufts' College of Special Studies since the 1940s.

While the department retained its space at 11 Talbot Avenue-its home base since 1975-it benefitted greatly from the opening of a new arts center at 40 Talbot Avenue in 1991. The Shirley and Alex Aidekman Arts Center contained galleries, a sculpture court, and a black box theater. But in spite of the center's natural association with the art department and its function as a site where M.F.A. candidates exhibit their thesis work, the focus of its exhibitions gradually drifted away from fine arts. This changed with the hiring of Amy Ingrid Schlegel as gallery manager in 2004. The space has since been named the Tufts University Art Gallery at Aidekman Arts Center (consisting in 2011 of the Tisch and Koppelmann Galleries, Remis Sculpture Court, media wall, and Slater Concourse Gallery). Schlegel brought in traveling exhibitions, showed work by local artists, and initiated new programs such as gallery talks.

The art history program has expanded significantly since the days that the department was, in the words of one department chair, the "stepchild of the Museum School." In addition to the increase in variety of courses, the orientation of the curriculum has changed, as announced in this statement added to the course-listings introduction in 2008: "In recent years the discipline of art history has been shifting away from the study of great artists and their works toward a more contextual appreciation of how works of art function and are valued in society."

Art history majors may supplement courses in the department with pre-approved art history courses at the SMFA and in the Experimental College. The department welcomes students who want to make art history part of a double major. Majors are advised to take at least one studio art class and are encouraged to participate in study-abroad programs.

Graduate students who focus on art history can choose one of two tracks: M.A. in Art History or M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies. The latter program trains students in the preservation, administration and education skills required for working in museum and historic settings. It's a collaborative effort with the Departments of Education, History and Classics (there is also a Museum Studies certificate program that is associated with, but not administered by, the Department of Art and Art History). M.A. candidates must have reading knowledge of at least one foreign language. During their second year, they serve as either teaching assistants or research assistants.

Although an architectural studies track had existed since the 1980s, a major and minor program for undergraduates in the Department of Art and Art History was not officially established until 2000. According to the department's website in 2011, "Multidisciplinarity is the signature of Tufts' architectural studies program, representing a liberal arts approach to architecture and distinguished by the concentration's requirement that students take classes in multiple disciplines from architectural history and studio design to engineering, the humanities, and social sciences."

For students who wish to emphasize the technical aspects of architectural studies, there is a separate architectural studies major, resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.), jointly offered by the department and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering.

Architectural studies students are eligible for a year-long placement at the University of London's Bartlett School of Architecture through the Tufts-in-London program.

Studio art as an area of pursuit for Tufts students began with, and continues to depend upon, the affiliation with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Classes take place at the SMFA, or at Tufts in studios at Lane Hall and Jackson Gymnasium. While there is no Tufts studio art major (there is only a minor), students can pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the SMFA (through the College of Special Studies) and take courses at Tufts. A five-year program through which students can combine a B.F.A. with a B.A. or B.S. degree in any subject they choose was launched in 1979. The program is administered jointly by Tufts and the SMFA, and graduates receive both degrees from Tufts.

Master of Fine Arts candidates enroll at both Tufts and the SMFA and, after a two-year program, receive their degree from Tufts. They are required to take a certain number of courses, including art history, at Tufts.

The association between the art school located in Boston and the university located in Medford has been mutually beneficial; however, it also has been and continues to be difficult for some students to maneuver, intellectually as well as physically. As far as logistics go, a shuttle bus between the two locations makes it easier now that it was at the beginning of the affiliation. For students in the combined degree program, building a schedule in which requirements can be met and that allows for travel time has long been a problem. According to a 2008 Tufts Daily article that examined the advantages and disadvantages of the combined degree programs with the SMFA and the New England Conservatory, students in these programs are allowed to register for courses before students who attend only one of the schools involved.

But there is also a contrast in terms of temperament and tone. Whereas Tufts functions in accordance with traditional methods of evaluation such as grades, the SMFA changed in the late 1960s to a system in which students work much more independently, have a looser schedule, and don't receive grades. Their artwork is judged at the end of the term by a review board made up of faculty and students.

Student-run organizations associated with the Department of Art and Art History include the Tufts Art History Society and the Tufts Architectural Society.

  • Undergraduate honors theses
  • Art and Art History Newsletter
Part of: Associated with:
  • School of the Museum of Fine Arts (1990-present)
Preceded by:
  • Department of Art and the History of Art and Architecture (1987-1990)
  • Department of Fine Arts (1899-1987)