Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
The Department of Art and Art History was established in 1930, then officially entitled the Department of Fine Arts. Although the first art class was offered at Tufts in 1899, it was not until 1930 that Tufts committed enough money to fund an entire department.
The first classes in fine arts began at Tufts in 1899. Professor Whittemore, who was designated as "Instructor in the History of Art", taught the classes, which at the time totaled only two. Tufts continued to offer various art classes throughout the early twentieth century, and in 1930 the Department of Fine Arts was formally established under the leadership of Professor Edwin H. Wright.
Wright was a professor of architecture and city planning in the Department of Civil Engineering, but also had expertise in the fields of art and art history. When the department began official operations in the spring of 1931, Wright opened up the courses to both liberal arts and engineering students.
In 1966, the Department of Fine Arts underwent the first in a series of major changes. The course requirements for a major in arts were shifted to make it easier for students to distinguish between a path in studio art and a path in art history. The shift emphasized courses focusing in the more academic areas of art, but did not decrease the number of creative art classes.
During this period, students had to take creative and studio art courses at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and those who focused on art history had to take all their classes at Tufts. Unfortunately, however, one could not major in art history specifically, but instead had to take fifteen credits in art history, and fifteen credits in studio art. This required all art majors to schedule their classes with enough time between to commute to and from the Museum School. Tufts also did not offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, and the Wessell Library had only very limited art history materials. As a result, students raised a number of complaints about the department in 1967, including a group of art majors who signed a petition demanding a number of improvements.
The student petition called for more studio space at Tufts, a bus to the Museum School, and a readjustment of major credits. Although slight improvements were made, students remained unhappy with the department. In 1972, Tufts established a visiting committee to investigate student complaints and make some recommendations about improving the department. The committee recommended that the department be allocated more space and library facilities. They also recommended that more faculty be hired, and that the department's relationship with the Museum School be clarified.
In an attempt to meet one of the committee's recommendations, the Department of Fine Arts vacated its former home in Cohen Arts Center and moved to 11 Talbot Avenue in 1975. The new department home held more office space, a forty-person classroom in the basement, and a large seminar room on the top floor for classes and discussion sessions. Their old space was converted into soundproof practice rooms for the Department of Music.
The Department of Fine Arts received a grant of $35,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work on a project entitled "Stained Glass in New England," in 1977.The grant provided funding for two seminar courses in the subject, and was the first grant ever awarded to the department.
The Department of Fine Arts became the Department of Art during the mid-1980s, only to be renamed the Department of Art and Art History in the following decade. As of 2001, the Department of Art and Art History still maintains its offices at 11 Talbot Avenue, along with studio space in Lane Hall.
Source: TW, OBS, TD
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