fb-pixel Skip to main content

With $750,000 grant, The Jar aims to expand its conversations around culture

The Jar's previous salons have connected strangers through their appreciation of art.Anna Olivella

Attending shows and cultural events by yourself can feel isolating. But at The Jar, this is impossible.

Events organized by The Jar adhere to the “convener model” — you’re either inviting other guests or you’re an invitee yourself. A convener buys the tickets and is asked to bring along someone close to them, two people they enjoy spending time with, and two people they wouldn’t regularly “experience culture with,” said executive director Guy Ben-Aharon, who founded The Jar in 2019.

In December, the Boston group was awarded $750,000 by the Mellon Foundation to multiply its impact over the next three years, bringing many more people together in conversation around culture.


The Jar — whose mission is to “level the playing field” in the arts realm — has committed to doubling its impact each year for the duration of the grant. Ben-Aharon said this means hosting twice as many “experiences” next season. The current season, in which it will have created 5,000 “experiences,” runs through June 30.

“An experience is a person attending an event, so 5,000 [experiences] might be 500 people attending 10 times or 1,250 people attending four times,” he said.

Next season — July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024 — with the help of the Mellon grant, The Jar has committed to producing 10,000 experiences.

“We know how important it is to experience different ideas, perspectives, ways of thinking,” said board member Samantha Tan. “The Jar brings that to fruition, and offers different ways of relating, seeing, and being with one another.”

The Jar’s “convener model” proves that there is no “usual or unusual” at its events, said Ben-Aharon. The Jar makes art accessible to people from all backgrounds, bolstered by a governing board that is 80 percent people of color and socio-economically diverse.


“The Jar takes a crazy mix of people,” said board member CJ Jean-Louis in a press release. “I’m talking Latinx, atheist, disabled, rich, White, working-class, Asian, LGBTQIA, Black, Muslim — you name it, they’re showing up — and gives them the chance to meet people they don’t know, to look them in the eye, share a few words, and maybe even ask a question that starts to open the door to deeper understanding.”

On Feb. 3 conveners can attend a “One Nighter with Usama Siddiquee,” a stand-up comedian and actor based in New York.

The Jar will also be putting on more intimate events through its “Winter Salon Series” Feb. 8–11. Over those four nights, it’s hosting conveners and three of their guests at homes in Dorchester, Watertown, Milton, and the South End. Ben-Aharon described the salons as “the ultimate dinner parties.”

At each house, someone will share an artwork that is meaningful to them. The Jar will then serve a vegan-friendly meal while the attendees discuss questions related to the art. Ben-Aharon said the experience fosters not only a love for art but creates community among strangers amid the “pandemic of loneliness.”

“We recognize it’s hard to make friends as an adult,” he said. “[We tell them] please feel free to go up to someone who said something interesting and exchange phone numbers.”

He said 75 percent of past salon participants swapped numbers with someone they hadn’t previously known.


“In a world recovering from a pandemic and virtual programming, the dissonance our communities are feeling is amplified,” said board member Asiyah Herrera. “The Jar is healing us.”

For more information about The Jar, go to www.jumpinthejar.org.

Maddie Browning can be reached at maddie.browning@globe.com.