President's Newsletter: MassArt Pride

Dear MassArt Community,

With our 150th Anniversary year well underway, I am so thrilled to see our MassArt pride on full display throughout campus. Everywhere I look, I see fun 150th stickers, window clings, and buttons. Our wonderful Inauguration volunteers sported the first round of 150th beanies and T-shirts with our bright green mastodon. It is so energizing to see the campus buzzing with this community pride, and we really have so much to be proud of – and boast about – as members of this extraordinary College.

Earlier this month I was fortunate to share some reflections in CommonWealth on the role of MassArt as a creative leader and economic driver in Massachusetts and the nation. From the day we opened our doors to the present, we continue to demonstrate the power of art and design, and the great rewards that come with investing in them. As we celebrate our founding and our future, I am honored to share the MassArt story far and wide, to shine light on the incredible work of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and to advocate for the arts as a transformative resource for all. 

We were thrilled to see Board of Trustees Chair Elisa Hamilton featured in a front page Boston Globe article this past Saturday. The article showcases her current work, Jukebox, a community-centered "percent-for-art" public art commission for the City of Cambridge. Elisa transformed an original 1960 Seebur jukebox into a machine that plays stories of Cambridge community members, many of them recorded in partnership with the Cambridge Black History Project. You can read the article here and sample some of the incredible stories from the project. Congratulations Elisa!

Whether mentioned in the press or happening on campus, I am continually in awe of the innovative, cutting-edge work of this institution. Recently I joined the Board of Trustees on a tour of the Digital Fabrication Labs – or FABLABS – with Studio Manager Adam Zapotok. The space is dedicated to supporting the creative process, developing problem-solving skills, and empowering the community through emerging technologies. All MassArt students have access to the Labs, regardless of major, and there are a host of trainings available to help our students. Thank you to Academic Affairs, Facilities, Institutional Advancement, and other colleagues for their stewardship in creating this hub of innovation and creativity – and to Adam, along with Julia Benevides (‘25 BFA Animation/Sculpture) and Luke Pinkham (‘25 M.Arch) for giving us the grand tour – so inspiring! 

MassArt Board of Trustees tour the FABLABS with studio manager Adam Zapotok (at far right).

Speaking of student resources, I’m pleased that this month the Academic Resource Center (ARC) was able to host the annual “Meet Your Major” event in person after two years of virtual programming. Student and faculty volunteers from MassArt’s 18 majors and 4 minors met with the first year students as they toured studios and asked questions. Our wonderful ARC Peer Academic Liaisons (PALs) also handed out maps to the studios and guided first year students as they navigated their way around campus. Thank you to our volunteers, ARC organizers Dan Szabo and Marie-Claire Dumornay, and the entire ARC team for their hard work on this important event. 

It’s Spring semester at MassArt, and that means we have numerous current and upcoming exhibitions that put our community members’ creativity and ingenuity on full display. The Illustration and Ceramics departments recently showcased the incredible breadth of work produced by current students, and the Black Artist Union annual exhibition displayed a wide variety of work from both current and alumni members of the BAU community. 

You can still catch the work of MassArt furniture design certificate students through March 1 in Joint Effort, and through March 5th, MassArt x SoWa’s fifth alumni curatorial project, The Hour of Lead, will display work that explores the burden of loss and opens up space for healing. At Boston City Hall, March 1st – April 14th, you’ll want to visit the Mayor's Neighborhood Gallery for the 5th Year Retrospective of “why i write. why i create,” which showcases the expressive voices of artists and designers. Our thanks to Jeanette Eberhardy, Director of First Year Writing, for curating this show.

On view until March 1, 2023, Joint Effort showcases the final collections of graduating MassArt Furniture Design Certificate students alongside continuing students, faculty and staff, and current Sculpture students working in furniture and wood. 
Now on view through March 5 at MassArt x SoWa, The Hour of Lead explores the burden of loss and opens up space for healing.

Over at MAAM, you can now view the provocative work of MassArt alumna May Stevens (Painting ‘46) in May Stevens: My Mothers. A founding member of the Guerrilla Girls, Stevens understood the connection between politics and artmaking, and used her creative voice to criticize patriarchy, champion the Civil Rights movement, and imbue Marxist ideals into everyday life. I also hope you will explore the cutting-edge work of Jace Clayton, who produces multisensory experiences that consider the unexpected and conversational nature of music from around the world. Jace Clayton: They Are Part brings together three of Clayton’s works that interweave memories, sound, and public spaces. The work is truly one of a kind, and you won’t want to miss experiencing it.

President Grant with Lisa Tung, MAAM Executive Director, and artist Jace Clayton at MAAM's Winter Party celebrating current exhibitions, May Stevens: My Mothers and Jace Clayton: They Are Part.
President Grant with Lisa Tung, MAAM Executive Director; Jeff Lee of Ryan Lee Gallery; Patricia Hills, Professor Emerita of American Art and African American Art at Boston University; and Katie Block, art advisor and member of MassArt's Foundation Board, at MAAM's Winter Party. 
Students at MAAM's Winter Party celebrating current exhibitions, May Stevens: My Mothers and Jace Clayton: They Are Part.

In countless ways, MassArt representatives are engaging with the larger community through new and long-standing partnerships. On February 19th, our Ceramics Department along with the Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP) and Clay for Change celebrated the 15th Annual Souper Bowl in collaboration with Haley House. We also recently partnered with the Boston Pride, the Isobel Cup-winning professional women’s hockey team, to hold a contest to design a special limited-edition T-shirt. I had the pleasure of participating in the ceremonial “dropping the puck” at a recent game, and I can’t wait for the March 3rd unveiling of the winning t-shirt designed by Tina Rea (‘23 BFA Painting), and poster designed by Ayden Samoylov (‘23 BFA Fashion Design). Congratulations to Tina and Ayden, and thank you to Joyce Linehan who made this fantastic partnership a reality. 

Ceramic bowls on display at the 2023 Souper Bowl at Haley House. 

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s latest installment of the Medical Inclusion and Diversity Art Program (MIDAP) lecture series. MIDAP is a collaboration between Harvard University Medical School and MassArt to have students and faculty work together towards making medical illustrations more diverse. Dr. Ellis Monk, Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University and Visiting Faculty Researcher at Google, will discuss his work regarding colorism, skin tone, and machine learning. This project powerfully illustrates the far-reaching impact of art and design and the important role of MassArt in the broader community. Please join us!

As we look at the days and weeks ahead, I also want to highlight a few items of note at the state level. We expect to hear soon about Governor Healey's state budget priorities, particularly regarding higher education, when she releases her proposed budget to the MA legislature House Committee on Ways and Means. The submission of the Governor's first-round budget begins a months-long process, which we will monitor closely. The Advocacy Day on Beacon Hill planned for February 28th, an event designed to advocate for state budget allocations to support higher education, has been postponed due to the weather forecast. We will share more as information about both the budget and Advocacy Day as it becomes available.

Finally, I hope you will join us for our Town Hall to hear updates from campus leaders, connect with colleagues, and join in a Q & A session. We’ll start with some surprises and end by enjoying refreshments together. The gathering will take place on March 2 in Tower Auditorium, 3:00pm - 4:30pm, with a virtual option available to those unable to join us in person (email for a zoom link). 

Wherever you look at MassArt – in our studios, classrooms, labs, and exhibitions spaces, in our committed partnerships around the City and beyond – we are dedicated to making a difference in the world, to cultivating innovative solutions, and to using our creative perspective and talent to lead our community forward. As we mark our 150th Anniversary, I hope that all of you will take pride in all that we have to celebrate together. I know I will. 


Mary K. Grant, PhD
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Photo credits: Michelle Jay, Melissa Ostrow, Mike Ritter