An independent Catholic school for young women in grades 7-12

Art teacher Caroline Rufo to host immersive exhibit exploring structural racism
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UA Communications

Over the past two weeks, with the help of her students, Ursuline Academy art teacher Caroline Rufo has been laying out the pieces and carefully assembling an immersive art experience on the stage of Angela Hall on the school’s Dedham campus. Throughout the month of March, the Academy will be hosting “Intervisible: Redlining and Blind Stitching in the Fabric of Greater Boston,” an immersive art installation that explores the experience of white blindness to structural racism.  

Using cotton batting, thread, twine, and paper, Rufo has created a “deconstructed quilt” to critique historical redlining practices in Boston and across the country. She conceived of the piece when she started to learn the history of redlining, real-estate covenants, and predatory lending practices. “I saw how people like me are encouraged to focus on our kids, their advancement and just a small sphere around our lives. It’s easy to miss the subtle promotions that have helped me to get ahead, while less subtle discrimination has held others back.” 

Originally hosted by the Bromfield Gallery in Boston in 2020, plans to customize and bring the exhibit to other cities were stymied by the pandemic. When Ursuline Academy began laying out its special events to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary this year, Rufo’s exhibit seemed to be a natural fit.  Mary-Kate Tracy, Ursuline’s Director of Mission, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Globalization, notes that “Caroline’s installation uses the common language of art to explore challenging but essential conversations about inequality in the Boston area. This beautiful artistic expression literally pieces together a painful history of racism in order to extend learning and relationship building. It is a remarkable tool of education.” To that end, this week, all of the students at Ursuline participated in a presentation by Rufo on the exhibit and will spend time physically exploring the installation with their theology classes in the coming days.

Kate Levesque, Head of School, was eager to bring the exhibit to Ursuline. “Caroline’s installation is a remarkable, creative and educational opportunity that prompts each of us, whether student or adult, to reflect on our personal beliefs and responsibility as global citizens.  It is our privilege to showcase Caroline’s talents and share this quietly powerful and reflective artistic experience with the wider community.”  Likewise, Rufo was happy to share her creative response to her personal reflection on systemic racism. The installation uses fabric maps arranged in the shape of the redline map of Boston from the 1930’s with lace cut paper obscuring the view of the maps. “The images cut from the paper represent the many ways I have been lured away from knowing about systemic racism.  Maybe if I put that out in the world it will help other people dismantle these things in their own minds.” 

Caroline Rufo has been a member of Ursuline’s Department of Fine Arts since 2012.  She earned her BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art's Studio for Interrelated Mass Media. Learn more about her at carolinerufo.com.

A reception for parents, alumnae and the greater community, including remarks from the artist, will be held on Thursday evening, March 10, at 6:30 p.m. Those who would like to attend the reception are asked to kindly RSVP for planning purposes to specialevents@ursulineacademy.net.