MFA Announces Plans to Celebrate 150th Anniversary

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When the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA) first opened its doors in 1870, it was home to 5,600 works of art. Today, the museum holds nearly 500,000 pieces—one of the most comprehensive and diverse collections in the world. More than a million visitors frequent the gallery halls each year, and to make sure that number grow this year, the MFA is throwing a yearlong celebration. 

To honor the 150th anniversary of the museum’s founding come 2020, the MFA announced a series of events and initiatives for the coming year on Thursday. Dual looking, the anniversary is designed both to celebrate the museum’s past and lay groundwork for the future, with a specific focus on promoting a deeper commitment to inclusion, community, and generosity.

“The MFA’s 150th anniversary is a moment to honor our past and, more critically, anticipate our future. The Museum was founded with a spirit of generosity and belief in the power of art and artists—values that remain among the pillars of today’s MFA,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund director, in an official press release. 

“As we look ahead, we must also address the changing role of museums in society, amplifying our efforts toward becoming a truly inclusive institution and committing to a new sense of urgency in engaging with the issues of our time.”

The MFA also released a strategic plan to the public, which outlines museum priorities to anticipate organizational growth 10 years from now.  

“In ten years we will be central to an international conversation about the role of art and artists in ways that influence museums around the world,” the report says. 

“We will lead in framing a national dialogue about the role of museums in our communities. We will be linked to a new generation of supporters, collectors, and advocates who share our commitment to the excellence of our collections. In pursuit of this vision we will invite, welcome, and engage expanded audiences.”

This commitment is reflected in the diversity of upcoming exhibits, which boast the immense growth of the museum’s global collection. Planned exhibits range from from Ancient Nubia Now, set to open in October and highlight more than 400 pieces excavated from the Sudanese Nile Valley dating back to 2400 B.C. and 300 A.D., to an exhibit planned for April revolving around the post-graffiti movement of the 1980s. 

On Thursday, the first special exhibit of the series, Women Take the Floor, opened to the public, which offers a seven-gallery “takeover” of nearly 200 artworks by more than 100 women to promote gender equity and pay tribute to the centennial of the women’s suffrage amendment. 

In addition to emphasizing the growth of global collections, the Museum plans to forge deeper connections with the local community—it is launching a free first-year membership program to encourage Boston residents to visit more frequently and become more involved.

Throughout the year, community events will be held in coordination with local artists to highlight the creative talent of Boston. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the MFA will unveil an exhibition of 20th century art by artists of color, curated by teen fellows from organizations throughout the city. In April, plans for a community mural project led by Boston artists Rob “Problack” Gibbs and Rob Strull is also already underway. 

Celebration will culminate in late 2020, when the museum will host a final fundraiser in which the proceeds will benefit future diversity and inclusion efforts at the MFA. For a list of upcoming events, visit the museum’s website

Featured Image by Alex F. / Wikimedia Commons