The Boxed Art Gallery provides opportunities for artists amid pandemic

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts' main building, 230 The Fenway, is pictured. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

Second-year Tufts-SMFA combined-degree student Ned Carlson has teamed up with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts over the past year to create the Boxed Art Gallery, a virtual forum for artists in the Tufts and greater Boston communities to display their work. 

The Boxed Gallery is currently holding a competition called the “Boxed Contest.”  A monetary prize will be awarded to the top three artists. In the first edition of this contest in the fall, third-year Tufts-SMFA combined-degree student Quinn Luong took home first prize with her digital painting titled “Resilience.” 

Carlson launched the program with the help of a grant from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. He used this grant to create the virtual gallery, which displays pieces  on their website.

Carlson’s inspiration for starting the gallery was his hope that artists could still have their work viewed by the public despite the pandemic limiting outreach for the arts community.

“The Boxed Art Gallery was something I created to address the lack of opportunities that a lot of students faced during COVID,” Carlson said. “The Boxed Gallery was kind of a way to lower the barrier of entry [to the art industry] and make it a little more egalitarian.”

This fall, submission to the contest was limited to members of the Tufts community, including students, alumni and faculty. However, with the next iteration of the Boxed Contest, for which submissions are now being accepted, Carlson hopes to spread the reach of the gallery beyond Tufts and into the greater Boston area.

“The previous open call was open only to Tufts University,” Carlson said. “This time around we’re partnering with Medford Arts Council, the Somerville Arts Council, Pao Arts Center and possibly Arts District Boston, as well as the Office of Government and Community Relations at Tufts to push [the gallery] to community members.”

Carlson hopes the Boxed Art Gallery will continue after the pandemic ends.  

“The Boxed Art Gallery is a project that I want to see live past my time at Tufts,” Carlson said. “I would like to see it be something that we can secure funding for to last beyond my time here, because I think it’s really important that everyone has the chance to share their artwork and their creativity.”

Included on the board of jurors for the Boxed Contest is Nancy Bauer, dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and dean of academic affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences. Along with other university administrators and board members of local arts councils, Bauer will judge submissions for the contest in its next open call.

“I am honored to serve as a juror for the Boxed Art Gallery,” Bauer wrote in an email to the Daily. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight the art of people in and outside of the Tufts community, and once it’s underway I will be excited to see the work of talented artists.”

Bauer referenced the interconnectedness that the Boxed Art Gallery has brought to the local arts community, and the numerous benefits it brings to the SMFA.

“Projects like the Boxed Art Gallery are great ways to connect people from a variety of backgrounds over the shared love for art,” Bauer said. “The gallery is also a great way to increase exhibition opportunities for developing artists at the SMFA and beyond.”

Nandi Bynoe, Tufts’ associate dean of diversity and inclusion, is also a juror for the contest. Bynoe emphasized the importance of the gallery’s mission to recognize racial and socioeconomic injustice through art. 

“It is incredibly important, now and always, to promote the voices of BIPOC artists that may otherwise be underrepresented in the art world,” Bynoe wrote in an email to the Daily. “BIPOC artists and artists who chose to highlight issues like systemic racism and economic inequality have the ability to reflect the society we live in and imagine worlds better or different than our own.”

Bynoe said she sees the gallery as an opportunity to not only start a meaningful dialogue about racial injustice, but to uplift underrepresented artists in the Tufts and greater Boston communities.

“By continuing to seek out submissions and uplift artwork from artists of underrepresented identities, the Boxed Art Gallery can drive meaningful change to the makeup of the local art scene,” Bynoe said. “These artists provoke important conversations, challenge societal norms and influence public opinion.”

The current open call for submissions to the Boxed Art Gallery is open until April 2 at midnight. Submissions to the Boxed Contest will have the chance to win a $500 prize if selected.