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SMFA at Tufts Graduate Community Uses Performance Art as an Engine for Social Activism

At SMFA at Tufts, students, alumni, and faculty are working collaboratively to break down cultural gaps and engage underrepresented artists and audiences in the art world.

Haley House Bakery, Boston, 2017: “For(giving),” performances by Danielle Abrams, Silvi Naci, Bryana Siobhan. Organized by Gabriel Sosa (© Aníbal Martel)

Institutions of art can often seem like they exclude the residential communities that surround them — but SMFA at Tufts students, alumni, and faculty are working collaboratively to break down cultural gaps and engage underrepresented artists and audiences in the art world. By staging performances within these communities and addressing social, racial, and economic injustice, these artists are transforming a medium often considered high-art into a rallying cry.

Gabriel Sosa (MFA ’16) recently brought together socially-engaged women of color, including Danielle Abrams (SMFA Graduate Faculty), for an evening of performances titled Three Acts For(giving). In a Roxbury, Massachusetts bakery and soup kitchen, Abrams performed ‘Rules to Follow When You Are a Really Light-Skinned Black Person’; her personae embody disparate parts of her racial identity while reflecting society’s assumptions about what those identities mean. Sosa’s work as an artist and curator draws on his background as a court interpreter, taking the cultural misunderstandings he experiences in the courtroom and mining ideas of memory, language, and translation.

Abrams often works to include her students in exhibitions such as STAND UP which emphasized artist groups that disproportionately lack visibility in galleries and collections. These practices produce a vision of performance art reaching beyond the traditional representation and audience. SMFA students and faculty are making genuine connections and building a broader creative community that is not exclusionary, but promotes inclusive and emancipatory conversations.

Learn more about pioneering social change through art with the SMFA at Tufts interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts program at smfa.tufts.edu.