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Tufts Art Gallery: A Hidden Cultural Gem on the Tufts Campus

By Pamela Sosnowski

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts is known for its medical, dental, and veterinarian schools, but it is not so well known that it also houses an art gallery. Since the early 1950s, the gallery has been presenting contemporary art exhibitions by students, staff, and local artists. Lissa Cramer, Exhibitions Coordinator, says, "The Tufts University Art Gallery animates the intellectual life of the greater university community through exhibitions and programs that explore new, global perspectives on art and art discourse. The Gallery is also the steward of the University's permanent art collection."

The art gallery's roots actually began in 1952, occupying a small room in the Cohen Art Center's basement. Back then it was called Gallery Eleven, and acted as an experimental space for artists at the time. Throughout the decades Gallery Eleven featured a range of exhibits, until its space proved too limiting, with shows being forced off-campus. In 1991, under the directorship of Elizabeth Wylie, the gallery was reincarnated inside the larger Arts Center to meet the demands of participating artists and patrons.

The Tufts University Art Gallery enjoys a strong connection with the local community, thanks to the wide range of free programming it offers. "From artist presentations, to activity nights, these programs are free and open to the public," says Cramer. "Also, the Slater Concourse Gallery acts as the Tufts University's community gallery. Students, staff and local artist send in bi-annual proposals for an opportunity to show their artwork and research through these month-long exhibits."

Tufts students also have several opportunities to get involved with the art gallery's success. According to Cramer, "Through the Student Advocacy Council, Gallery Guide, and Visitor Services Ambassador programs, Tufts students play an integral role in the planning and daily operations of the gallery."

The permanent art collection of the gallery is an impressive display of approximately 2,000 works that span ancient Mediterranean and pre-Hispanic cultures to modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, engraving, and photography. It has existed since the mid-19th century and has grown through the years thanks to donations. Some of the notable artists whose works are on permanent display include Auguste Rodin, Elaine De Kooning, Andy Warhol, Isamu Noguchi, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Emile Bernard, and John Singer Sargent.

This summer the gallery launched a new free web app called Museum Without Walls, allowing its users to explore a single work of art or a particular building through their mobile device. The app also gives the public virtual access to the gallery while it is closed during the summer months.

There's always something new for visitors to explore at the art gallery, thanks to a refreshing array of new exhibits, according to Cramer. "The Tufts University Art Gallery exhibits thought provoking, dynamic shows which change with every academic semester," she says. "Our exhibitions range in theme, bringing new perspective and teaching opportunities to the Tufts community and local neighbors. The constant rotation of exhibitions keep visitors engaged and interested in our gallery."

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