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Tufts University

Gallery History

The Tufts University Art Gallery was founded in 1952 as Gallery Eleven, occupying a 27 x 34 foot room in the basement of the Cohen Arts Center. Gallery Eleven was considered to be an experimental "laboratory" space at the University at the time. In addition to presenting student and faculty work, Gallery Eleven played a major role in the life of the joint program between Tufts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From the mid-1970s onwards, Gallery Eleven presented all final thesis exhibitions of Master of Fine Arts candidates from the inception of that program, as solo or two-person shows. For most students, this was their first professional gallery experience.

In the mid-1970s, the Gallery's first professional curator, Nancy Doll, developed a broader program of exhibitions featuring regional and nationally known artists. In particular, the exhibitions of Somerville and Medford artists served an important community function, because although the towns housed many artists' studios, there had been no formal exhibition opportunities for them at Tufts before. For seven summers in the 2000s, the Gallery again spotlighted the work of 5-10 artists from Tufts' host communities in the form of annual juried exhibitions each year.

In the mid-1980s, the Gallery hired its second professional curator, Erika Ketelhohn. She expanded the range of exhibitions, focusing on political issues such as Apartheid and women artists. Exhibitions of emerging regional artists continued in the tradition of the Gallery, as well as displays of works from the University's permanent art collection.

From its founding, Gallery Eleven also mounted special exhibits in conjunction with the teaching programs and research interests of members of the Art History department. Although this led to exhibitions such as a recreation of Alfred Stieglitz's "291" gallery, the size of the space was limiting and many exhibitions were forced off-campus, often shown at either Harvard University or Northeastern University's exhibition spaces.

The Shirley and Alex Aidekman Arts Center opened in 1991 and was designed by CBT Architects (Boston, MA). Elizabeth Wylie was chosen to be the first director in the greatly expanded gallery spaces within the Arts Center, adjacent to what was then renamed Cohen Auditorium. Gallery Eleven then ceased to exist. The first exhibition in the new Arts Center was Modernism: American Prints of the 1930s and 1940s. Wylie left in 1995 and Joanna Soltan served as Interim Gallery Director until Susan Masuoka, an anthropologist, was selected to become Gallery Director in 1996. Masuoka stepped down in late 2002 and Amy Ingrid Schlegel was appointed Director of Galleries and Collections from 2004-2016.