Find Treasures and Support Artists at the SMFA Art Sale

The SMFA Art Sale helps artists while also raising needed funds to provide financial aid to deserving students and support faculty
View from above of people looking at art for sale. The SMFA Art Sale helps artists while also raising needed funds to provide financial aid to deserving students and support faculty.
Patrons at the annual Art Sale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, held from November 21 to 24 at the SMFA. Photo: Caitlin Cunningham
November 4, 2019

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Boston residents Tim and Judi Ritchie always look forward to the annual art sale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA at Tufts), to be held this year from Thursday, November 21 to Sunday, November 24, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each year they find pieces they love among the thousands of original works by students, faculty, and alumni on view at the largest art sale in New England.

“Collecting contemporary art by emerging artists is a passion of ours,” said Tim, “and the sale brings together an incredible variety of work.”

They also enjoy, said Judi, “how the sale connects us with young artists. Knowing that we can help jumpstart their career is meaningful to us.”

There’s another benefit that speaks to the steady pulse of creativity that goes on year-round at the Boston SMFA campus. As members of the SMFA at Tufts Board of Advisors, the Ritchies appreciate that a portion of all proceeds also further the mission of the school, which is to educate students who think through making.

“Over the years, we’ve come to understand the challenges faced by students who wish to become artists,” said Tim. “SMFA supports these students and the art sale plays an important part in making this possible.”

“Working with SMFA has brought a lot to our lives,” said Judi, who has also long volunteered at the sale. “It’s rewarding to know we are helping not only an individual artist, but all artists who are part of the school’s legacy and its future. That perspective adds a lot to our experience.”

The Ritchies are not alone in seeing the larger impact of the sale. Among the SMFA alumni featured at the sale this year is Soojin Kim, an accomplished multidisciplinary artist who graduated from the school in 2018. She has been contributing to the sale for the last six years, and finds it extremely rewarding. “It helps support artists like me in so many ways,” she said, “and it connects us with the people who buy our work; I can’t think of any other school that does that.”

Kim also sees the sale from a perspective rooted in gratitude. She first came to Boston in 2000 from Korea to earn a master’s in electrical engineering, but she knew that her passion was the visual arts. She recalls how seeing a retrospective of paintings by the late Barnet Rubenstein, a longtime SMFA faculty member, provided clarity.

After finishing her master’s in electrical engineering, she devoted herself to becoming a successful artist, receiving a studio diploma and an M.F.A. from SMFA at Tufts. She has been recognized with numerous awards from the school, including the highly-competitive Traveling Fellows Award. This award provided critical early career support for her and other notable SMFA graduates who will be featured at the sale, including Mike and Doug Starn and Daniela Rivera.

Today, Kim is best known for her renderings of candies—tributes to her late father, who used to chase American GIs who shared sweets with him. For her dad, these candies meant relief from hunger and a glimpse of the American dream.

“SMFA gave me the ability to start challenging conversations through my art; it made me the artist I am today,” she said, “and selling my work at the art sale gives me the confidence to stay on my path. I like that the sale not only supports me and my fellow artists, but also supports the school. I love that it can do both.”

For Taylor McNeil, who works in Tufts Communications and Marketing, the sale “is like going to a gallery opening—so much to appreciate—and with pieces that are accessible to virtually anyone.” Last year he brought home a bowl he admires for its muted green glaze and copper rim. “It’s elegant and simple,” he said. “I use it at least once a week, and each time I appreciate its beauty anew.”

It’s also an appreciation, he said, that is framed by his connection to Tufts. He knows that educating young artists, and supporting the faculty who inspire them, would not be possible without philanthropy.

“The best part of the SMFA Art Sale,” he said, “is that it benefits the school. In buying art, I am doing something good for SMFA at Tufts.” 

Admission to the SMFA Art Sale is free. School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, 230 Fenway, Boston. November 21–24, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Laura Ferguson can be reached at laura.ferguson@tufts.edu.