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Above photo: Contemporary Art Practice Seminar, Fall 2016

Graduate Seminars

In addition to studio classes, MFA students take seminars that explore and analyze a range of subjects from within contemporary art.

During the first year of study, students take the Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) seminar. This foundational class is designed for incoming students to engage, explore, and analyze a range of subjects through speaking, writing, research and presentation in ways that are relevant to their own art practice. These conversations will dispute histories and imagine new political futures; they will galvanize connections while building rapport with peers and enhancing leadership skills. In addition to the CAP Seminar, MFA students must register for 3 additional seminars during their studies which will further their understanding of contemporary art practice and theory.

Graduate Colloquia

The Graduate Colloquium is a forum to discuss diverse topics in contemporary art production not necessarily addressed in the graduate curriculum. Typically, the colloquia include a panel consisting of professional artists, faculty, and students that explore timely ideas in the visual arts and art theory.

The SMFA at Tufts Graduate Colloquia are conceived, proposed, and coordinated by faculty, SMFA Curators, advisors, and MFA students. The Graduate Steering Committee reviews and selects proposals. These all-day events, generated around a topic relevant to contemporary art and culture, take place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Speakers include invited guests, Tufts University faculty, and MFA students. Colloquia are an important part of the Master of Fine Arts curriculum; attendance is required for all first and second year MFA students. SMFA at Tufts Graduate Colloquia are open to the general public.

Past Graduate Colloquia


Freedom in Water, Body of Water, Bodies in Water

In collaboration with the Boston Center for the Arts, the 2021-2022 colloquium was an open discussion about the research and experiences behind the Rights Along the Shore exhibition. View a video of the colloquium here.

Artists Mary Ellen Strom and Danielle Abrams invited four esteemed speakers to address the topic of spatial justice in public spaces, particularly the history and present-day struggles to desegregate public swimming sites:

  • Kim Janey, former Mayor of the City of Boston and former Boston City Councilor
  • Margarita Kuleva, artist and sociologist from St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Alonso Nichols, photographer and media artist
  • Leon Rock, journalist and NAACP Youth Affairs Advisor, 1975

The colloquium was held on April 15, 2022, and was sadly the last public appearance by Danielle Abrams who passed away the following week.

The colloquium was organized by professors of the practice Mary Ellen Strom and Danielle Abrams, and Interim Associate Director of Graduate Programs Kenson Truong.


Artists and Curatorial Practice

The 2021 SMFA graduate colloquium panelists discussed curatorial work as an extension of an artist’s artistic practice focusing on ideas, models, philosophies, ethics and the role of site and cultural aesthetics in producing exhibitions as artists. Panelists included Third Person (Zoë Charlton and Tim Doud), Young Chung, and Raquel Torres Arzola, representing sindikit in Baltimore, MD and Stable in Washington D.C.,  Commonwealth + Council in Los Angeles, CA, and an exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico, respectively.

The colloquium was co-organized by A. David Guerra, curator and owner/founder of Á R E A, and Jeannie Simms, artist, director of graduate studies and professor of the practice at SMFA Tufts.


Acting Up

Acting Up examined the intersections of painting, performance, and installation in a time of political and social upheaval. The colloquium brought together artists that use a multidisciplinary practice to addresses racial, class, and gender inequalities and create work within and outside cultural institutions. Presenters included Amy Khoshbin, Shaun Leonardo, and Guadalupe Maravilla.

Organized by David Cruz, professor of the practice in painting and Angelina Gualdoni, professor of the practice in painting at SMFA.


Migration, Art, and Activism

The 2018 graduate colloquium brought together artists and activists who work on multifaceted aspects of migration and who support free migratory movement and work to reframe the language of national borders and suggest new forms of publics and community.


  • Li Adorno is a Volunteer Organizer at Movimiento Cosecha that works to protect undocumented immigrants in the United States.
  • Anto Astudillo, filmmaker
  • Sasha Costanza-Chock is a scholar, activist, and media-maker, and Associate Professor of Civic Media at MIT.
  • Layle Omeran, artist and musician
  • Joanna Tam, artist/photographer

Additional music/poetry performance with Layle Omeran and Hussam Jefee-Bahloul

Organized by Jeannie Simms, Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of the Practice in Photography at SMFA at Tufts in partnership with the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts and the exhibition Resistant Currents.


Civic Practice

This graduate colloquium focused on the intersection of art and civic participation and featured practitioners who address citizenship, mass incarceration, and gentrification through public artworks, civic partnerships, and embedded practices, working through the lens of social justice. Civic practice addresses how a diverse set of artists are transforming the ways we understand the civic realm in collaboration with neighborhoods, city agencies, and public institutions. Guests included: Kade Twist of Postcommodity and Adriana Zavala, Professor of Art History; Sarah Ross and Damon Locks of the Prison neighborhood Art Project in Chicago; Dana Bishop-Root and Ruthie Stringer, Tranformazium, a collaborative in Braddock, PA that is embedded in the Carnegie Library system; and Antonio Serna, Artists of Color Bloc in New York City.

Co-Presented by SMFA at Tufts MFA Graduate Program, Tufts University Art Galleries with support from the Diversity Fund and Tisch College of Civic Life. Organized by Anthony Romero, Professor of the Practice at SMFA at Tufts and Abigail Satinsky, Curator of Exhibitions & Programs, Tufts University Art Galleries.


Drag Face

The colloquium presenters considered the complexities in which performance intersects with identity-forming discourse including gender, ethnicity, race and class. From the history of blackface in late nineteenth century vaudeville to drag in contemporary underground queer clubs, the speakers explored the social and political implications of masquerade. The event featured Danielle Abrams, SMFA Professor of the Practice and performance artist, Edgar Arceneaux, an artist whose work includes drawing, installation and multimedia, Henriette Huldisch, curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Kareem Khubchandani, Assistant Professor in Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at Tufts University, Laine Rettmer, MFA '17, and Jeannie Simms, a SMFA Professor of the Practice whose work is rooted in photography and moving image.

Drag Face was organized by Mary Ellen Strom, professor of the practice at SMFA.


For Giving Time

This colloquium featured Raqs Media Collective, Robert Sember of Ultra Red, Danica Arimany (MFA '16), and former SMFA faculty member and curator Carol Stakenas. The program was facilitated by artist-scholar Dalida Maria Benfield. The program consisted of discussions of the following topics: Art practices regarding distressed landscapes in efforts to recover histories and narratives that are useful for mending and recuperation; and art practices that engage participatory and shared creativity from artists and non-artists to produce work.


Of Color

Color remains a vexed issue in contemporary art. Whether we mean the precise hue on which the artistic success or failure of a work of art depends, or the skin tone that may close or open doors in the cultural field, color is crucial. This Graduate Colloquium explored questions of color, from the aesthetic to the political, through the work of four visiting artists for whom color takes on a host of meanings. Guests included: Jan Mun who engages with nature and environmental science, Christina Seely, a photographer and assistant professor of Studio Art at Dartmouth College, SMFA Professor Ron Rizzi, painter Byron Ki, and painter Mike Cloud. Former SMFA faculty member Magda Campos-Pons moderated the discussion.

Of Color was organized by Patte Loper, professor of the practice at SMFA and Joseph Wolin, art critic and independent curator.

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