Gaining Perspective: A Visual History of MassArt
gaining perspective
A Visual History of MassArt


President’s Gallery

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

621 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA, 02115 USA


February 19 — March 20, 2015

opening reception

Thursday, February 19, 2015, at 6:00 p.m.

closing reception

Friday, March 20, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. RSVP →

Gallery talk: Join curator Paul Dobbs at 7:00 p.m for a gallery talk providing additional context and an in-depth look at the important contributions MassArt alumni have made to the creative economy.

Laser cutting demonstration: When you arrive, sign up for a laser cutting demo (15 minutes long and offered throughout the evening) in the architecture and industrial design studios. Space is limited.

Presented in conjunction with Boston Design Week.

about the exhibition

Gaining Perspective: A Visual History of MassArt is the first attempt in a long time to step back far enough to get a good view of MassArt’s whole history.

Some already know that MassArt is a unique institution with unusual roots: the country’s only free-standing college of art and design that has been a state institution since it was founded in 1873. It was the first institution to provide wide, public access to professional-level art education.

Most people will be amazed to learn the degree to which MassArt has impacted our world, from everyday matters, like the design of all kinds of consumables and environments, to larger societal matters, like voting rights, sustainability, and the art that inspires and changes us deeply. The history makes you wonder, how did it happen, how did this little upstart school manage this? The exhibition probes for answers.

Since “the proof is in the pudding,” we’ve made something like a TV cooking show. Displaying gorgeous roasts and soufflees, as well as the original recipes, and, between the two, the work inside the kitchen, the subtle techniques of preparation – you know, where Julia drops it on the floor and tosses it back in the pot.


To spell out the allegory...

  • The roasts and soufflees are our alumni/ae and their achievements.
  • The recipes are the principles that seem to have guided the founding of the school and its evolution.
  • Finally, the kitchen work is a rough sketch of the campus, curriculum, leaders, and administrative initiatives, how it all fell together at various moments.

Those recipes were written down in Boston in the 1870s, just after the civil war and the Great Boston fire, a time of economic and cultural explosions, a time, like our own, when almost anything, good or bad, seemed possible. Those who agitated for, and those who built, MassArt spelled out four recipes:

  • Creative economy. Art education fuels the economy.
  • Personal growth. Underlying the creative economy is the care and feeding of imaginations. The artists and designers who enable economic development are not die-casted, but nurtured.
  • Accessibility. Providing professional-level education in creative-process skills to all regardless of gender, race, and economic wherewithal isn’t just equitable, it’s optimal.
  • Centrality/Proximity. Art, design, media, craft, art education, history of art, cutting edge and traditional technologies, each viable as individual disciplines, thrive exponentially when rubbing elbows.

Visit the exhibition in person and online where you can contribute memories and ideas to the historical exploration!

When you view the show and you’re inspired by what you see, we hope you imagine yourself there “on the ground” as the MassArt experiment unfolded. We can help. One part of the exhibit is an installation that capture an images of you as a time-traveling visitor to MassArt’s beginnings.

interactive timeline

View an interactive version of MassArt’s history.

massart memories

This collection of images celebrates the people that have been part of the MassArt community since its founding in 1873. The collection holds a variety of imagery, from events to scenes in studios to portraits both candid and formal. We invite you to browse the collection and reflect on moments from the college’s past as well as share your own moments. These are our MassArt Memories.

browse the database >

contribute a memory >

exhibition credits

graphic design

Colleen Venable

Alexi Drago


Caitlin Pereira

Saul Baizman


Paul Dobbs

Sean Maloney

Greg Wallace

time travel

Cindy Sherman Bishop

Martha Bourne

wall-text printing

J-Hung Graphics

special thanks

President Kurt Steinberg


Dennis Dahill

Sean Maloney

Darlene Gillan

Patrick Luteran


Sally Barkan

Sondra Grace

Christina Hartman

Liz Herring

Kenlyn Jones

Martha King

Gabrielle Reed

Liz Resnick

Rachel Resnik

Ezra Shales

Lisa Tung

Emma F. Wallace

Chloe Zaug

exhibition committee

Saul Baizman

Ellen Carr

Robert Gainfort

Darlene Gillan

Paul Hajian

Lois Hetland

Patrick Luteran

Caitlin Pereira

Andrew Ringler

Greg Wallace

Anne Marie Stein


Mary Ann Stankiewicz

Diana Korzenik

F. Graeme Chalmers

Paul Bolin

(If we got it right, it's a consequence of the years of research and writing undertaken by these historians of art education.)