Art for Everyone

The annual SMFA art sale, with wide-ranging works by new and established artists, takes place November 15-19
person hangs a framed piece of art at the SMFA art sale site
Monica Manoski oversees installation for the annual SMFA art sale, a fundraising event for financial aid at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. Photo: Alonso Nichols
November 13, 2018


For Rhoda Rosenberg, MFA81, there are many good reasons to visit the thirty-sixth annual art sale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA), where she has lectured for nearly forty years.

Practically speaking, as one of some 600 SMFA students, alumni, faculty, and friends showing their work this year, she hopes patrons will find art they would be happy to live with. She also hopes visitors will see the sale as a “window not only onto the school, but also onto all the creative people who have been connected with it for decades,” said Rosenberg, who is contributing four handmade prints, one of which served as the main campaign image.

Indeed, the sale, which runs November 15-19 at the SMFA campus at 230 Fenway, Boston, will feature an extraordinary range of original artwork—some 2,500 works spanning drawings, photographs, sculpture, prints, paintings, video, ceramics, and jewelry—priced for all budgets.  

Shoppers can go home with a student print priced at under $100 or a hand-thrown ceramic bowl for under $25; the sale also includes a pop-up jewelry shop and an assortment of unframed works in bins. Works by established artists can fetch as much as $100,000. 

Jewelry such as this will be on offer at the SMFA art sale. Photo: Alonso NicholsA first-year art student’s work might well be shown next to a faculty member’s work or that of famous, established artists like SMFA alumni Doug and Mike Starn, identical twins known for melding photography, sculpture, and architecture, said Rosenberg.

“The school doesn’t place any distinction between work by a student or a faculty member, between a young graduate or a well-known artist,” said Rosenberg. “They could all be in one room and even on the same wall.” That representation reflects, she said, “egalitarian respect” for all artists and for the creative process that unites them.

Half of all proceeds from each sale go directly to support scholarships and other creative resources for art students at the School. Last year, more than 4,000 patrons visited the sale, contributing more than $400,000 to financial aid.

“I see what that financial support means to students,” Rosenberg said. “The sale is a great way for people like me, who are connected to the school, to give back. I can’t think of a better way to show my gratitude to a place that has not just given me a career, but become like a family.”

“Art is supposed to involve the viewer and maybe ask the viewer questions that they can’t readily answer,” said Rhoda Rosenberg. “It’s an engagement that is stimulating and complex.” Photo: Laura FergusonRosenberg’s appreciation for the sale’s lively vibe has deep roots. She first arrived in 1979, exploring graduate school options after earning a certificate at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a B.F.A. at Temple University.

“I remember I walked downstairs, and it was like I stumbled onto all these printmaking mice. It was so busy,” she recalled. “And the teachers were so warm and excited to see me; they said, ‘What have you been doing? Let’s see your work!’ I loved the energy.”

One quote that has informed her own journey, and that she shares with students, is “If you know what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time,” a quote she attributed to Buckminster Fuller.

“Once you know how to do something, there is no growth,” said Rosenberg, who creates art in her Merrimac, Massachusetts, studio. “As an artist, not knowing how to do something becomes a path to experimentation. When you experiment you become your own guide to opening up your own doors. Your unknown of your work is really feeding the next piece of work.”

Mallory Ruymann, AG17, and her friend Georgia Feldman take a look at art during the installation of the annual SMFA art sale. Photo: Alonso NicholsVisitors to the art sale, Rosenberg said, will bring their own ideas and expectations about art. Many, she said, may well choose art that makes them comfortable. But she also hopes that visitors will take a longer, deeper look at what art—and the artistic process—can mean. 

“Some people are looking for something unlike anything they have seen before,” she said, art that leaves them “scratching their heads.”

That’s a good sign, she said. “That’s because art is supposed to involve the viewer and maybe ask the viewer questions that they can’t readily answer. It’s an engagement that is stimulating and complex. You go away from it—but you keep coming back to look again. It is saying something to you, and you don’t want to leave it.”

Admission to the SMFA Art Sale and the opening reception is free. School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts , 230 Fenway, Boston. Hours: Thursday, November 15, 11 a.m.–8 p.m., opening reception 5:30 – 8 p.m.;  Friday, November 16, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Saturday, November 17, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, November 18, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.