Drawing on Art to Create Community

For SMFA senior Maria Fong, art has been central to her life and identity
Watch a video of SMFA senior Maria Fong talking about her experiences with the Asian American community at Tufts. Video: Alonso Nichols
May 5, 2021

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A couple of years ago, the Asian American Center at Tufts was expanding to include a community gathering space, and students proposed creating a mural there that represented their entire community.

For Maria Fong, who is graduating this month with a B.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the things that matter the most to her.

She and 11 other artists got together to sketch the mural, and then one night invited a couple of dozen other students to come and paint it in. “There are a lot of symbols in the mural,” she says, with themes of dispersal, migration, and coming together.

Fong, who grew up in California with Chinese American and white parents, has been drawn to art since she was young. For the mural, she created an image of a Tufts dining hall table, with a number of emblematic items, such as books by Asian American authors like The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, J94, and a copy of Voices, the Tufts Asian American arts and literary magazine. She decided on the dining hall table because that’s where she first forged her Asian American community at Tufts, having meals together.

“Art has allowed me to work out some of my feelings—drawing the beautiful things and the hard things all together, figuring out who I am and how I can help and be a good friend, and what I can do with my art to help people,” Fong says.

Alonso Nichols can be reached at alonso.nichols@tufts.edu. Taylor McNeil can be reached at taylor.mcneil@tufts.edu.