There’s a new kid in town.
A nine day arts festival in Boston called Outside the Box.
Its mission? “From July 13th – 21st, the first annual performing arts festival will turn public spaces like the Boston Common and City Hall Plaza into performance spaces, with over 200 events showcasing the best of Boston and Massachusetts.” Oh yes, and it’s free.
I am of two minds. It is really great to have things to do – to watch, learn, and participate in – during the hot days of summer. I’ll admit My Husband and I took our folding chairs and a picnic, and camped out in the shade of the trees to listed to jazz – Dave Koz and Summer Horns – for awhile.
For a parent with children in the city, this is probably wonderful. Some of the musical performances are good fun. Whether storytelling, face painting and America’s Got Talent like acts are bringing arts to the people is another question.
And Celebrity Chefs at a food festival called Fork Lift – art? Okay, possibly.
Maybe it is really just a festival, with some performing, less arts. What is also clear is that Boston Common is seeing a lot of people.
It is great to see urban spaces well used; it is more difficult to see them used so hard that they will be a wreck for the remainder of the summer, and a heartbreak to those who donate to maintain them for all. In this July week, with ‘Heat Dome’ temperatures, Boston Common will take a beating.
But meanwhile on Boston Common there is storytelling,
and blissful water play in the Frog Pond.
The balloon men are having a seasonal bonanza.
Even the Mounted City Police are being entertained.
Boston is a city that already sees active use of its public spaces in the summer. A weekend stroll through the Public Garden will show you a line waiting to board the Swan Boats, and multiple brides and grooms being photographed, along with their wedding parties.
Wonderfully gowned Quinceañera birthday girls and their entourages pose for photos as well, full of youth and joy.
There is even a martial arts class in session.
Elsewhere on this city weekend, Huntington Avenue is shut down for the Circle the City event.
Bikes and strollers replace cars and buses.
My slow walk along the avenue did not find it crowded with bikers and fitness activists, though there were a number of small tents erected to share information, bunches of bright balloons, and some groups of people enjoying the novelty of this new one day biking and walking artery.
My walk brought me back to another summer treasure of the Back Bay, The Church of Christ, Scientist’s Plaza.
Cool water, wonderful perennial gardens, and an expanse of contemplative space. There were two men operating a motorized model sailboat and motorboat on the reflecting pond, to the delight of small children passing by.
And a sculpture installation keeping guard over the dancing fountain that provided an urban water park for small people.
During the winter months this open plaza can seem a blasted arctic wind tunnel, to be avoided.
On this sweltering day, with a Caribbean steel drum band playing in the shade of the allée of bordering trees, it seems an oasis of calm.
Perhaps I will be sad if the Plaza’s redevelopment means the loss of any of these summer amenities.
So much to see and do. Inside or Outside the Box
Summer in the City indeed.