New Programs Reflect Renewed Commitment to Presentation of Ideas through the Lens of Art

BOSTON (June 6, 2017)—A slate of ambitious programs marks the start of a new journey outlined by MFA 2020, a three-year Strategic Plan that guides the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), into the future. Culminating with the MFA’s 150th anniversary in 2020, the plan encompasses more than 50 initiatives launching over the next three years, boldly combining art and ideas with a commitment to welcoming new and diverse audiences. A wide range of programs, exhibitions, partnerships and events transforms the role of the Museum, bringing the MFA to the forefront of timely dialogue in Boston and beyond. The spirit of the plan will come to life this summer, as new citizens are welcomed with special memberships, late-night films take over the lawn, and curators collaborate on exhibitions that reflect and animate the times in which we live.

Programs & Events

In an effort to expand and diversify MFA audiences, new programs will extend beyond the Museum’s walls—creating outward-facing events reflective of the community. Whether it’s expanding a series of forums where thought leaders and activists address issues of our time, or offering social events that bring generations of people together to discuss art and ideas, the MFA will evolve into a gathering space for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Examples include:

Sunset Cinema (Summer 2017)

As the sun sets on Boston this summer, the MFA’s campus will transform into an open-air theater. Thanks to support from an anonymous donor, visitors will be invited to picnic on the Huntington lawn, create their own plein-air artwork and socialize over lawn games before settling in for “Sunset Cinema.” Three outdoor film events will showcase the diversity of the MFA Film program: Divorce French Style (July 13) marks the opening night of the Boston French Film Festival; Cool Hand Luke (August 17) is part of the series Feed Your Head: Films from 1967 (shown in conjunction with the MFA’s Summer of Love exhibition); and Get Out (September 14) is presented with the Roxbury International Film Festival. The series is part of “Summer at the MFA” programming that also includes revitalized Concerts in the Courtyard and innovative special exhibitions ranging from Japanese prints to Modernist photography.

Late-Night Signature Series (Launches Fall 2017)

Looking for a unique night at the Museum? This October, the MFA will introduce a new signature late-night event series funded by Trustee Dr. Jeffrey Leiden and his wife Lisa. The MFA shook up Boston’s nightlife scene in 2016 when it hosted four #mfaNOW overnight parties, drawing more than 23,000 visitors and changing the city’s perception of the Museum. This new series will once again create a lively destination for friends to gather, socialize and engage with art and current events—in addition to making art themselves! Collaborations with Boston-area artists and community partnerships will bring together thought-provoking programs and activities in galleries and gathering spaces throughout the Museum.

The City Talks (Fall 2017)

In a world filled with unrest and uncertainty, museums can become a space for dialogue—confronting issues of today and exploring art within different contexts. “The City Talks” series—created in 2016 in conjunction with the Megacities Asia exhibition—brings together Boston-area thinkers, entrepreneurs, activists and artists for free public forums. Visitors have the opportunity to engage in open discussions based on prevalent ideas within exhibitions that affect the citizens of Boston. Held in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, upcoming themes and voices will expand the range of these programs, with topics including climate change, education, immigration and intersections between art and medicine.

Performance Art

Unfolding in unexpected spaces inside and outside the Museum, performance artworks engage the MFA’s collection and present-day community in socially engaged and aesthetically charged experiences. To strengthen the Museum’s long-term commitment in this area, Honorary Overseer Lorraine Bressler, a longtime supporter of performance art at the Museum, has endowed and named the Lorraine and Alan Bressler Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and Special Initiatives. In a future project, New York-based Chilean artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña (born 1948) will create a room-sized installation that pairs ancient and colonial objects from the Andes with a new sculptural commission by the artist. Over the course of the exhibition, Vicuña will carry out frequent performances, during which she envelopes the audience in webs of raw wool and song.

Education & Community

As the MFA’s role in serving the public through art and education increases, community programs encourage lifelong learning and engage new audiences. This not only includes expanded opportunities for membership and visitation, but also the creation of new resources and opportunities for a variety of constituencies to develop an ongoing relationship with the MFA, such as:

MFA Citizens (Launches July 2017)

As an institution dedicated to world cultures and the connections between them, the MFA has created an innovative membership program that will invite new United States citizens from around the globe to experience all the Museum has to offer. “MFA Citizens” will launch this summer, offering complimentary family memberships to every newly naturalized U.S. citizen living in Massachusetts. Through the generous support of Larry and Atsuko Fish, this program will enable the Museum to become a place for new Americans to gather, make connections within their community and create bridges across cultures—making the MFA part of their American experience while helping the Museum achieve important institutional goals of diversifying audiences and adding new perspectives and voices to programs.

The MFA will work in collaboration with agencies across the city that are assisting immigrants on the road to citizenship, including the largest naturalization program in New England—Project Citizenship. Other partners include the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Boston Public Library. The MFA will actively reach out to these new citizens, welcoming them through revitalized orientation packages available in multiple languages, and engaging them through convening opportunities that encourage the sharing of stories and personal narratives.

ASL Night (September 2017)

In September, the MFA will collaborate with DEAF, Inc., as well as other partners, to host its first ASL Night, offering free tours, performances and activities in American Sign Language and celebrating Deaf culture. The event will add to the MFA’s schedule of annual community events and cultural celebrations, which includes Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, Nowruz, Juneteenth and Diwali. ASL Night builds upon the Museum’s long-term commitment to access for all visitors, including an Access Advisory Board made up of a wide range of members of the access community who have informed ongoing services and programming at the Museum.

STEAM Team (July 2017)

Over the past decade, the Teen Arts Council has been a constant at the Museum—creating poetic labels in a new voice for works of art, leading programming in conjunction with contemporary artists, and even mounting an exhibition of work by their peers. Starting this July, the MFA’s commitment to this young generation goes a step further with a pilot program that focuses on career development: the “STEAM Team” program will launch thanks to generous funding from long-time benefactor of community arts at the MFA, Joyce Linde. The program will offer paid summer fellowships for Boston-area teens that build upon the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education platform. Over a six-week period, Team members will interact with staff mentors from departments throughout the Museum, including conservation, exhibitions and design, creative and interactive media, facilities and finance, among others. Team members will participate in hands-on activities that will foster workforce development skills and introduce them to a range of academic and professional options at the Museum.

Community College Access Pass (Launches Fall 2017)

The MFA offers Boston-area college students the unique opportunity to learn from artworks that span a range of cultures and time periods—from ancient to contemporary. Thanks to a gift from MFA Patrons Liz and Bob Pozen, a pilot initiative launching this fall will provide free Museum access for community college faculty and students. This program serves as a first step in exploring ways for the MFA to partner with community colleges and serve their students, building upon the existing University Membership program, which currently welcomes more than 100,000 students annually. To further engage the student population, the Museum will create an Academic Coordinator position to work with college students and faculty to encourage and increase attendance and curricular integration.

Collection & Exhibitions

The MFA has developed an ambitious vision for the display of art, preparing an array of thought-provoking exhibitions while also re-imagining the presentation of its historic collection. By making connections across cultures, and unpacking stories that span millennia, the Museum will create installations responsive to the times in which we live. Initiatives include:

Conservation Center (early 2020)

In the last few years, the MFA’s renowned conservation team has undertaken the restoration of many great works, including Benjamin West’s monumental painting Devout Men Taking the Body of Saint Stephen (1776) and its exceptional gilded frame, the Chinese masterpiece Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion (12th century), and Frida Kahlo’s compelling double portrait Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia) (1928). Supported by the largest fundraising effort for conservation in the Museum’s history, the MFA will construct a state-of-the-art Conservation Center—a 22,000-square-foot space that will set a new standard in the field. With an open and flexible plan, the Center—complete with advanced technology that will include a cutting-edge Scanning Electron Microscope—will encourage collaboration and sharing of techniques and ideas across the institution and with colleagues from around the world. Following the opening of the Center, which brings together six laboratories currently scattered across the Museum, 12,000 square feet of display space will be renovated into new galleries for the display of many additional Museum treasures.

Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (Opens September 2017)

This fall, the MFA will re-imagine the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art as a place of respite, leading visitors on a journey of introspection. Works spanning three galleries will showcase the various methods and spaces used by artists such as Agnes Martin (1912–2004), Hiroshi Sugimoto (born 1946), Edward Weston (1886–1958) and Martin Puryear (born 1941) to both seek and inspire self-reflection. Highlights of the MFA’s historic holdings, including the Italian Mannerist masterpiece The Dead Christ with Angels (about 1524–27) by Rosso Fiorentino and ancient Chinese paintings, will be displayed in dramatic new ways alongside the modern and contemporary works, repositioning the Museum’s collection and offering surprise encounters. The meditative atmosphere will carry over into an adjacent exhibition of 11 extraordinary paintings by Mark Rothko (1903–70), on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The immersive display will open with a side-by-side comparison of Rothko’s early painting Thru the Window (1938) and Rembrandt’s Artist in the Studio (about 1628) from the MFA’s collection—both portraits of artists reflecting on the act of painting. The Rothko exhibition will invite visitors to contemplate the power of art to inspire emotion and awe.

Murakami x MFA (Opens October 2017)

This fall, works by Takashi Murakami (born 1962) will be juxtaposed with masterworks from the MFA’s distinguished collection of Japanese art, including treasures such as the Heiji Scroll—one of the most famous Japanese works of art outside of Japan. The exhibition will reveal how Murakami’s contemporary vision is richly inflected by a dynamic conversation with the historical past, framed by a creative dialogue with the great Japanese art historian, Professor Tsuji Nobuo. Together, Murakami and Professor Tsuji have chosen the objects that will be on view, including a number of works created by the artist in direct response to masterpieces from the MFA’s collection, such as Soga Shōhaku’s dramatic Dragon and Clouds (1763). Through the lens of Murakami and Professor Tsuji Nobuo’s long-standing effort to reveal how the past is always connected to the present, the exhibition honors the MFA’s great historical collections; Professor’s Tsuji Nobuo’s intellectual commitment to it; and the complexity and urgency of Murakami’s own work. Lead support for the exhibition is provided by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation.

(un)expected families (Opens December 2017)

From the families we’re born into, to the ones we’ve chosen for ourselves, this exhibition will look at the definition of the American family. Reflected in images taken by American photographers and drawn primarily from the MFA’s collection, (un)expected families will challenge visitors to consider what family means to them. The photographs, taken from the 19th century to today, depict a wide range of relationships—from multiple generations to romantic unions to alternative family structures. The show will include archival, vernacular and fine art photographs, illustrating that family has taken diverse forms for centuries—a fact photographers have documented since the birth of the camera. Organized in partnership by curators of photography and contemporary art, the exhibition will include works by Nan Goldin (born 1953), Carrie Mae Weems (born 1953), Nicholas Nixon (born 1947), Elsa Dorfman (born 1937) and Gordon Parks (1912–2006).

Daily Life in Ancient Greece (December 2017)

The art of storytelling comes alive in a new gallery dedicated to ancient Greece—a strength among the MFA’s historic holdings, and one of the leading collections in North America. Building on the premise that the past has something important to teach us about the present, the new gallery will offer rare glimpses of marriage and death, infancy and old age. More than 200 works on view will encourage visitors—including the many schoolchildren who make these galleries part of their study—to satisfy their curiosities about ancient culture and consider how daily life has evolved. Made from ceramic, stone, bone and bronze, the newly conserved objects include household items, trade tools and images of everyday scenes on painted vessels—objects that create narratives and provide insight into who the ancient Greeks were and how they lived. This gallery will be part of a multi-layered experience in the MFA’s Art of the Ancient World, complementing spaces themed around “Homer and the Epics,” “Dionysos and the Symposium” and “Theater and Performance” to create a more complete view of the past through the lens of art.

Art of the Americas exhibitions (series launches April 2018)

Collective thinking and outward collaboration is at the heart of a new project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Over the next three years, the foundation’s support of a multiyear effort by the Museum’s Art of the Americas department will bring together people, ideas and the display of works from the Museum’s renowned collection, while also working in partnership with colleagues at the Worcester Art Museum. Three sequential, one-year exhibitions that highlight select areas of the MFA’s collection form the cornerstone of this new endeavor. These shows will address critical themes in American art and the formation of a modern American identity as they evolved in the context of the museum, including: the display of Native American Art at the time of the Centennial; art and design from the interwar period; and paintings and sculpture produced between 1945 and 1955. All three will include new narratives that run counter to the traditional art historical canon. Critical to developing each of the three projects are several “think tanks” with curators and historians from a range of museums and universities, exploring the inclusion of voices previously excluded from the museum setting, engagement with innovative forms of display, interpretation, programming, and building creative partnerships for measuring success. Integral to this project is a curatorial position for a rising historian of American art, as well as three undergraduate summer internships for museum diversity. Native American Art: 1876 will focus on the MFA’s early collecting in this area, exploring the Museum’s history and probing debates about immigration and American identity.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, representing all cultures and time periods. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia; Art of Africa and Oceania; Art of the Ancient World; Prints and Drawings; Photography; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–5 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–10 pm. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and youths age 17 and younger. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25), while five Open Houses offer the opportunity to visit the Museum for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, call 617.267.9300, visit mfa.org or follow the MFA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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