Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, chartered and incorporated (1870) after a decision by the Boston Athenæum, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pool their collections of art objects and house them in adequate public galleries. The first building was opened in 1876; the present one, designed by Guy Lowell, in 1909. The museum's West Wing, designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1981. The museum is supported entirely by private contributions and endowments.

Its collection of art from India is considered to be the finest in the United States. The museum's collections of Chinese and Japanese art are also outstanding. The Egyptian wing, housing the Way Collection, includes Old Kingdom sculpture unrivaled except in Cairo. The painting galleries are notable for many examples of Spanish art and are particularly strong in works by American artists; 18th-century portraitists, especially Copley and Stuart, are magnificently represented. The museum owns many canvases by John Singer Sargent as well as his mural decorations in the rotunda. The silverwork of Paul Revere is shown in quantities unequaled elsewhere. There is also a rich collection of graphic art.

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (also known as the Museum School or SMFA) is an undergraduate and graduate college located in Boston, Massachusetts and is dedicated to the visual arts. It is affiliated with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in partnership with Tufts University and Northeastern University. SMFA is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), a consortium of thirty-six leading art schools in the United States.


The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA), is dedicated to educating artists and focused on fostering creative investigation, risk-taking, and individual vision. Everyone at the SMFA recognizes that disciplines converge and influence each other and that contemporary art is truly interdisciplinary. The School does not have a mandatory foundations program nor does it have majors. Instead, all students are encouraged to build solid foundations and acquire skill sets in numerous disciplines in order to create new possibilities and forms of artmaking. Students are given the freedom to design a program of study that best suits their needs and goals. This freedom comes with strong support and guidance from faculty advisers.

One of the unique attributes of SMFA are there are no grades in studio classes; credit is awarded through a "review board" which is a review of all of the art work that a student has done during the semester. Review Boards are led by two faculty members of the students' choice and two fellow students. There are many opportunities for students to exhibit their artwork at both the main building and the Mission Hill building; there is the annual December Sale, the juried "Student Annual Exhibition," as well as various galleries and spaces that are available to students around the School buildings and in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The School's main campus is adjacent to and just to the west of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Most classroom space is located there, as well as the Cafe des Arts, the library, the School's store and the Grossman Gallery. The Mission Hill building, located about a mile from the main building, recently has been renovated and includes studio spaces for Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate students as well as classrooms, workshops, the Writing Center, and the Registrar's office. The SMFA intends to further expand the Mission Hill building vertically to accommodate its growing student body. The school shares on-campus housing at The Artist’s Residence Hall, located just down the street at Massachusetts College of Art.


From 1876 to 1909, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was housed in the basement of the Copley Square building. When the Museum moved to Huntington Avenue in 1909, the School moved into a separate, temporary structure to the west of the main building. The permanent building, designed by Guy Lowell, was completed in 1927. The 45,000 square-foot red brick building provided improved classroom, studio and library facilities.

In 1987, a newly renovated and expanded school building, designed by architect Graham Gund, more than doubled the size of the existing structure and provided an auditorium, enlarged library, expanded studios and classrooms, a spacious new entrance, cafeteria, and increased gallery and exhibition spaces. Gund's expansion included the central atrium, known as the Weems Center, that connects the two buildings.


Degree programs available at the Museum School include:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts: A 4-year BFA in Studio Art, with a self-designed curriculum, offered through Tufts University.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts: A 4-year BFA in Studio Art, with a self-designed curriculum, offered through Northeastern University.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education: A 4-year BFA in Art Education, offered through Tufts University.
  • Combined Degrees: A dual degree program (BFA/BA or BFA/BS) in which you major in Studio Art at SMFA and another major of your choice at Tufts University.
  • Master of Fine Arts: A 2- to 3-year MFA in Studio Art, with a self-designed curriculum, offered through Tufts University.
  • Master of Fine Arts: A MFA in Studio Art, with a self-designed curriculum, offered through Northeastern University.
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (Art Education): A 2-year MAT in Art Education, offered through Tufts University.
  • Post-Baccalaureate Certificate: An intensive graduate certificate one year program, this is an opportunity for those who wish to obtain an MFA to strengthen their portfolio or those who wish to set up their own studio practice. Many people in this program have undergraduate degrees in non-art related fields, others are changing careers, and many are recent art school graduates looking to further their education.
  • Diploma: A four-year, all-studio program for both high school graduates and career changers interested in spending concentrated time in the studio.
  • Fifth Year Certificate: A program only open to graduates of the Diploma Program that provides one year of access to the school's resources and equipment while working as a professional artist.

Noted artists affiliated with the school

  • Doug and Mike Starn, photographers. Diploma, 1984; Fifth Year Certificate, 1985
  • Nan Goldin, photographer. Diploma, 1977; Fifth Year Certificate, 1978
  • Shellburne Thurber, photographer. BFA, 1976; Diploma, 1982; Fifth Year Certificate, 1983
  • Francis Golden, illustrator. BFA 1938
  • Jan Brett, illustrator. Attended 1969-70
  • Larry Poons, painter. Attended 1957-58
  • Joan Jonas, performance artist. Attended 1958-61
  • Jim Dine, painter/printmaker. Attended 1950-53 and 1955-58
  • Cy Twombly, painter/sculptor/printmaker. Diploma, 1949
  • Ellsworth Kelly, painter/sculptor/printmaker. Diploma, 1948
  • Marie Cosindas, photographer. Attended 1947-50 and 1955-56
  • Richard Scarry, illustrator. Diploma, 1942
  • Allan Rohan Crite, painter. Diploma, 1936
  • Will Barnet, painter/printmaker. Attended 1928-1930
  • Lois Mailou Jones, painter. Diploma, 1927
  • Frank W. Benson, painter. Diploma, 1883
  • Edmund Tarbell, painter. Diploma, 1882


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