As an institution, how would you define 'maker culture'?

While “technically” it’s not the definition of maker culture, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is the embodiment of just that. Established in 1876 as a school dedicated to creative exploration in the arts, SMFA has not wavered from its mission to push boundaries, explore, and discover. It is a culture of ideas of all levels, shapes, sizes, a place where, “what if?” is as common as please and thank you. Maker culture is our culture.

How does your institution foster maker culture?

SMFA believes in always asking questions. Why, what if, why not, let’s explore that. We have no majors, but we do have creative discovery. The School is interdisciplinary, not focused on one thing, rather, focused on many, but all with the notion that thought and creation have no boundaries. 

How are you approaching maker education with your current or future curricula?

SMFA offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that requires no majors. Our students explore digital media, photography, sound, drawing, painting, and many other areas of studio are, but do not have to choose just one. SMFA believes in an approach that broadens the creative approach and believes in a holistic creative discovery. The School’s curriculum emphasizes both conceptual and technical skills, and promotes a cross-disciplinary approach to problem-solving.

What are the key programs, initiatives or classes that support the development of maker skills?

Every class at SMFA promotes maker skills, every program does as well. SMFA’s students are encouraged to experiment across mediums, to expand their minds both conceptually and technically, and to be constantly innovative in whatever they do. 

How are your students involved in making? Are there maker groups or organizations on campus organized by students?

Because SMFA is an interdisciplinary arts college, students are making things on a daily basis. Currently, we have no “official” maker clubs or organizations, but we do have many groups, such as SMFarm (growing organic foods and recycling) and the Jewelry Club.

Give a snapshot overview of the primary facilities, technologies and tools that campus makers have or will have access to?

SMFA has many labs and workshops where students can use a variety of technologies and tools: our new Advanced Production Lab (3D printing), Mac Lab, Media, woodshop, printmaking workshop, papermaking workshop, welding shop, video lab, animation lab, film lab, and photo digital suites.

How does your school engage with the maker community at large?

SMFA is in the process of building relationships with the maker community. Currently, the School engages with the arts community on a regular basis, both through open studios, gallery exhibitions, kickstarter campaigns, and various pop-ups.

What partnerships (informal or formal) do you have with makers and/or community organizations outside of campus?

SMFA is a member of the ProArts Consortium, a group of six Boston colleges that offer cross-registration. Colleges include Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, Emerson College, MassArt, BAC, and SMFA.

What has been the impact of maker culture on your campus?

Maker culture on SMFA’s campus means that students are constantly working on new projects, whether in the fine arts studio or in the digital labs. We have area/department exhibitions that rotate on a monthly basis, and students showcase their works/ideas throughout the school. Because SMFA holds review boards at the end of each semester, students are encouraged to create new works, think outside the box, and experiment with ideas, materials, and technology.

What are the success stories relating to your maker culture?

We have many graduates who have opened their own galleries and/or are professional working artists, such as Ridley Howard and Shinique Smith. We also have many who have gone on to commercial success, such as Thom Solo and Reid Krakoff. 

Learn more about Making at School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA)