In May of 2017, Dina Deitsch was hired as the director and chief curator of Tufts University art galleries. The newly plural title of the institution, which was previously the Tufts University Art Gallery, suggests that Deitsch’s administrative involvement will work to creating a curatorial dialogue between the Medford/Somerville and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA) campuses.
“One of the big shifts in my hire is actually a structural shift,” Deitsch said. “I’m the director of the Medford gallery and exhibitions and public programs at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. So initially, we’re looking at a two city, two campus program, one that is directed towards the education of studio artists and art practice, and the other one towards a broader campus of academia and scholarship.”
This newly conceived position weaves two slightly different positions into one, making it easier for the new director to organize events on both campuses.
“Initially, the big change will be an integrated program between these two specific spaces. The Medford gallery has a strong legacy, and the museum school exhibition and public programming have [their] own history — equally important,” Deitsch said.” The SMFA specializes in bringing contemporary artists in every semester, to meet with students and to give public lectures.”
Deitsch explained that, at the SMFA, exhibitions garner very specific audiences, while galleries on the Medford/Somerville campus connect both classic and contemporary art for viewers of diverse backgrounds.
With the merging of the SMFA, the administration has taken steps to integrate the two campuses and to boost the visibility of arts on the Medford/Somerville campus. Before coming to Tufts, Deitsch served as the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family interim director of the Harvard Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, an institution that combines exhibitions with artist-in-residence programs and in-gallery classes.
She also hopes that the gallery, like the university’s permanent collection, will be integrated into the campus environment as more than just a physical space.
“How can we think about public art on the Medford campus across the board? How can we think about the art that lives outside of the Aidekman Arts Center as well? How can we also reframe how people understand the gallery as not a stand-alone entity, but one that is more diffuse and now also an entity that can become the public face of the museum school?” Deitsch asked. “All of these will be top of mind as we develop new programming in the coming year.”
Deitsch also gave a preview of the galleries’ upcoming shows.
“We’re opening up an exhibition this week. Thursday, September 14 is the public opening and reception for a large mural by artist Yuan Yunsheng, a Chinese artist who came to campus in the 80s and was commissioned by Tufts to make a large mural for the former library, the Wessell Library, which was then converted to the Tisch,” Deitsch said.
Deitsch explained that the exhibit was split up and displayed in pieces due to space issues in the past.
“This exhibition celebrates the first time in 20 years that this work has been fully united and conserved,” Deitsch said. “The mural is a retelling of the Cultural Revolution in China and the aftereffects of it through ancient myths and stories.”
In thinking about the artist’s retelling of political narratives, Deitsch organized a small video exhibition, Dream States, that looks at contemporary video and film using narrative conventions to rethink political moments from the 1970s to today.
The two exhibitions, with their politically charged works, suit the civically engaged Tufts campus. They showcase how students studying different subjects could potentially interact with the gallery, and with art on campus in general.
The future of the gallery promises to be a more interactive one, in which art will live outside of the Aidekman Arts Center. In the future, the galleries will become a more vital part of the Tufts experience, and not just for students interested in art but for every member of the community.