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Gear up for spring edition of ArtWeek

Sinha Capoeira school practice in Brookline. Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

What do Keith Lockhart, welding, “Mary Poppins,” and churros have in common? They’re all part of ArtWeek Boston’s spring edition, Friday through May 4.

More than 140 arts groups and community partners are involved in the event, which aims to bring some buzz to the Greater Boston cultural scene.

“Here was a way that you could do all kinds of really crazy things and really show off the city and show off the economic impact of the arts,” said Josiah Spaulding Jr., chief executive of Citi Performing Arts Center, which produces ArtWeek.

The schedule more than doubles the two dozen programs of last fall’s inaugural ArtWeek, with a total of nearly 90 performances, classes, and other events, partnering artists and arts groups with businesses and venues. A complete schedule is available at www.artweekboston


The original thought was that “Restaurant Week is so popular, we should have something that brings that kind of attention and galvanizes people to go out and experience art,” said Sue Dahling Sullivan, chief of staff/chief strategic officer of the Citi Center and the day-to-day architect of ArtWeek.

More than half of the events are free, including a student performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School and an open rehearsal by the orchestra and chorus of Emmanuel Music as they prepare a Bach cantata at Emmanuel Church. On Saturday, Boston Ballet will host a variety of free workshops, from “Make Your Own Costume” to “The Business of Ballet.”

Smaller charges accompany events such as the $5 Cat Mountain Performance and Family Workshop by the Behind the Mask Studio and Theatre at Harvard’s Peabody Museum on Sunday afternoon, or $15 for Saturday night’s Feria De Abril at the Democracy Center in Cambridge, evoking the annual spring fair in Seville, Spain, with Spanish traditional and classical music, flamenco dancing, and those churros.


ArtWeek “is a wonderful way to connect Boston artists in partnership to the greater community during a really festive week,” said Linda Papatopoli, pianist and director of the Boston Arts Consort, which is organizing the Feria De Abril event. “It’s made us connect with people we might not have connected with before.”

Larger price tags come with such events as a learn-to-conduct workshop with Boston Pops conductor Lockhart that includes a Symphony Hall tour by Peter Fiedler (son of former Pops conductor Arthur) for $30, and the seven-course Fork and Tune dinners inspired by Prince’s “Purple Rain” album at Treats on Washington for $40. You’ll pay $50 for a welding workshop at Stonybrook Fine Arts, but you get to make your own “critter sculpture” — and retreat across the street to cool off with a 21+ Samuel Adams Brewery tour afterward.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for my businesses to get involved, and get some citywide advertising and be part of something larger,” said Jennifer Effron, executive director of the nonprofit Washington Gateway Main Street group in the South End.

Neighborhood groups Effron encouraged to get involved range from the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts and Cathedral High School to the architectural salvage retailer Restoration Resources. An art walk, concerts, spoken-word events, and a fashion photography workshop are among events planned.

Already organizers are committed to two more ArtWeeks, next fall and in spring 2015. And the event has stretched beyond Greater Boston to include a couple of events in Lowell. Organizers hope that in subsequent seasons, ArtWeek could add venues in places around the state like the Berkshires.


The presenting sponsor is the Highland Street Foundation, which is responsible for the summer Free Fun Fridays program at Massachusetts cultural institutions and was a lead sponsor to keep First Night going this year when its organizing nonprofit shut down.

Chelsea Revelle and Katherine Ziskin Levesque decorate windows.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

Nearly two years ago, Citi leaders learned about a new national arts funding source called ArtPlace America, supported by large foundations, businesses, and the government. They applied for and won a $150,000 grant to create ArtWeek, one of only 54 awards made from 1,200 applications.

Each ArtWeek costs about $100,000 to put on, with marketing the largest expense, as none of the events are underwritten. Highland is contributing $200,000 over two years, and Citi is absorbing some of the administrative costs, Sullivan said.

The hope is to create a tradition that could be replicated around the country like First Night or Restaurant Week, both of which had years of success before facing changes recently.

ArtPlace “saw this as a city that could really look at how to birth this and grow it, in hopes we would create a model that would capture the imaginations of other cities and towns across the country,” said Sullivan. “The long-term goal is that ArtWeek would happen everywhere.”

And what’s in it for Citi? The organization runs the Wang, Shubert, and Emerson Colonial theaters, hosting Broadway tours and other large national events, and hosts educational and community events.


“What’s in it for us is really what we have always said, which is, our strategic plan is going to define us as a nonprofit community leader beyond the four walls of our own theaters,” Spaulding said. “One of our top-level strategic themes is to lead as civil and cultural champions.

“This is simply what we think we ought to be doing, so we’re doing it,” he said.

ArtWeek will help raise the profile of the arts, attract some people who may never have ventured to the downtown theaters, and dovetail with cultural initiatives by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Spaulding added.

“This is a way in which you can make the statement that the arts are an economic engine and important in the cultural life, in the simple fact of keeping us a civilized society,” Spaulding said.

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.