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Summer arts in Boston: Off the beach, Outside the Box

ESPECIALLY AFTER last Sunday’s epic traffic jam on Cape Cod, Bostonians should give their own city a second look. Summer cultural offerings here are flourishing and expanding — and don’t even require sitting through six hours of soul-crushing traffic.

Indeed, every Independence Day, it becomes clear that out-of-towners know something about Boston in the summer that Bostonians generally don’t. Over the long Fourth of July weekend this year, when many city residents left for the beach, the parts of town that tourists visit — Copley Square, the Common, the waterfront — teemed with activity. And with good reason: In addition to the year-round attractions that the city has to offer, free public events abound in July. Beyond the fireworks and the accompanying Boston Pops concert on July 4 itself, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has begun its summer performances on the Common.

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And the schedule of possibilities keeps getting denser. Saturday marks the debut of the Outside the Box Festival, which will run until July 21 and is the handiwork of philanthropist Ted Cutler. He’s determined to put on a Boston equivalent of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a world-renowned cross-disciplinary arts event in Scotland. Cutler’s version takes place on the Common and City Hall Plaza and will include music performances from a variety of genres; a food festival; dance groups; and other events. Outside the Box is Cutler’s singular vision, built on the instinct that the city deserves a higher artistic profile around the world and has the capacity to offer a free major summer event.

Cutler isn’t alone in that sentiment. We should note here that, on July 26 to 28, the Globe and WGBH are organizing a free Summer Arts Weekend in Copley Square; it too will feature a broad spectrum of music performances, plus food and cultural programs. What all of these events showcase are the endless possibilities created by a deep local arts community, an often glorious New England summer, and Boston’s iconic shared public spaces — assets that those who see them every day might easily overlook.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, in the residential neighborhoods next to Boston’s major tourist areas, parking was strikingly easy to find, and a sense of quiet prevailed. Amid last week’s heat wave, the beach undeniably beckoned. And yet in the coming weeks, as during the holiday weekend, Boston will have plenty of charms of its own.

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