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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Margaret Rose Vendryes to become new SMFA dean

Margaret Rose Vendryes, the next dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, is pictured.

Accomplished artist and longtime educator Margaret Rose Vendryes will become the next dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in June, theuniversity announcedlast month. Vendryes was chosen following a months-long search that began after the school's inaugural dean, Nancy Bauer, announced she wasstepping down last May.

Vendryes is the director of the Fine Arts Gallery at York College in Queens, where she has taught for more than 20 years. She will take over the deanship at SMFA from Dean Nate Harrison, the school's interim faculty dean. 

Vendryes earned her doctorate in 1997 from Princeton University, where she studied African American art history. She holds a master's degree in art history from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Amherst College

According to James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, the appointment process was extremely in-depth and required input from the entire community.

“[It] takes time to identify and solicit candidates to apply for the job. … It takes work and active searching to have a deep, strong, diverse pool of candidates to choose from which is really important," Glaser said. "We put together a sizable search committee that was comprised of faculty, staff, and students at SMFA, as well as a couple of other important partners.”

Ultimately, the committee decided that Vendryes' artistic experience and vision would best lead the school as it continues to grow. 

“We're very excited and think we have come up with a new dean who will … be able to advance the school even further, take this fantastic legacy and move it forward,” Glaser said.“[Vendryes] is a visual artist herself, a painter. She's an art historian, … a curator, …  an educator … and has demonstrated her effectiveness as a leader in her present position. … She stood out in the crowd because she had this diverse set of experiences.” 

Vendryes' artistic and leadership skill set has attracted similar praise from many faculty, staff and students within the SMFA community. Dr. Kelli Morgan, director of curatorial studies, spoke about the way that these roles and experiences can help integrate different departments and connect the school. 

“I remember her giving this example about linking the engineering students to theater in set production. … She basically has the tools and the experience of finding those through lines in unconventional ways,” Morgan said. 

Given this unique approach, many are excited about what Vendryes has to offer in terms of her administration, curation and expertise in art history and visual art. The school's trajectory is heavily influenced by Vendryes' vision for SMFA. 

“[She is] coming to integrating those programs from a space of making functionality in a way that just a scholar who isn't a maker wouldn’t necessarily think. … I think she has that hands-on experience, both in the materials that she works with as an artist but also in the kind of materiality of administration,” Morgan said. 

Dina Deitsch, chief curator of the Tufts University Art Galleries, explained how important the dean’s vision is to the myriad of programs, events and developments that happen within the school. 

“When [Vendryes] joins us, … she will be driving the direction of the art school. … The dean is the one who really shapes the direction and vision of the school, and so we really see art galleries as a participant in that,” Deitsch said. “It will be nice to see, because [Vendryes] does have such deep experience in university galleries, how we can build a program together, especially at the art school.” 

However, the magnitude of this appointment's impact on Tufts is not limited to SMFA. Deitsch emphasized that Vendryes' impact will reach the Boston community.

“[The appointment] is really important for leadership roles for the school but [also] for the greater community in Boston,” Deitsch said. “[The school] has deep roots in being one of the core founders of the art community in Boston. It is the SMFA faculty, the graduate students that [are] very much what makes up Boston’s art community.”

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