New SMFA Art Exhibit Highlights Innovations Required of Students and Artists

"Artists/Innovators," an online exhibition from SMFA Continuing Education students, demonstrates how creativity can help us during difficult times

"Rose" (pictured left) by Susan Prentiss was created with graphite on drawing paper, and "Isolation" by Christopher Hannigan was painted with acrylics on Masonite.

Continuing Education students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts launched their first online exhibition: Artists/Innovators, a reflection of the innovation required of artists and students everywhere to learn and create amid COVID-19 circumstances.

The student-driven initiative was co-organized by Jason Rathman, A17, who suggested the idea as a community-building project to keep SMFA CE students in touch with the school and each other while learning virtually.

Rathman, who works in Tufts University Undergraduate Admissions, didn’t intend to spearhead the project, but he also didn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility when asked. He reached out to fellow student Daria Semco for help. Semco and Rathman were classmates in a digital photo class taught by Joanna Tam, who offered guidance and support as they organized the exhibition, which was open to all spring 2020 SMFA CE students.

Artists submitted their work to Rathman through a shared file, and from there, he spent many hours organizing the artwork and statements in a format that was finally posted on the Tufts Libraries online Omeka exhibition site. He said he learned a great deal from the project, including information about copyrights and organization of images and text.

While he was new to organizing art exhibitions, Semco, a student in the SMFA Graphic Design Certificate program, was not. With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and master’s degree in museum studies, she’s currently the gallery manager at Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston. For the SMFA exhibit, she gathered and edited artist statements and paired them with the corresponding art in the exhibition. She said she enjoyed the role because it allowed her to meet more of her SMFA CE classmates and helped pull students together.

Semco said the overwhelming number of contributing artists made her realize the importance of creating and exhibiting art, even during a worldwide crisis, and she appreciated that the inclusivity gave joy to so many participants and viewers. This project, and the event of moving to online classrooms, taught her what creativity can do for us during a difficult time, and how working with the bare minimum can serve less as an obstacle and more as a way to experiment.

Rathman has studied photography as a continuing education student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts for the past few years, and he called photography his preferred medium because he finds it the most accessible way to explore topical concepts and tell stories. His submission to the exhibit can be seen here.

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