Metro, Arts

Shopping Center ‘The Street’ Serves As Venue For Arts And Music

Even at 2 p.m. on a weekday, The Street at Chestnut Hill was alive with action. Shoppers meandered between various fashion boutiques, and couples sat outside in the sun as they ate their burgers and fries from Shake Shack. Although weekday afternoons are not the busiest, The Street still has the feel of a popular destination for shoppers in the Chestnut Hill area.

The Street is a shopping center that stretches from the Star Market on the corner of Hammond St. and Boylston Ave. to the Showcase SuperLux on the corner Hammond Pond Parkway and Boylston Ave. In between are numerous restaurants, clothing boutiques, health and beauty retailers, and countless other shops.

To differentiate itself from other malls, The Street has initiated various summer programs, called Summertime at The Street, which add a buzz to the mall around the clock. There are arts and crafts programs for kids on Tuesdays, live music on Thursdays, and classical concerts performed by students at the Berklee College of Music on Sunday afternoons. The Street also utilizes the 2,000-square-foot green space in front of Shake Shack for yoga on Sunday mornings and fitness classes on Tuesdays.

But since Summertime at The Street only runs between June and September, The Street has initiated a series of art installations that is making its debut today. The organization is working with a group out of New York called the Art Production Fund that will help it find popular artists of this generation who are willing to have their work on display.

“The art will be here for a while, but this is the first of, hopefully, many to come, and we want to keep things fresh and exciting and rotate the series to keep people’s attention and make them want to come back to see what else we have to offer,” said Bill Hamilton, general manager of The Street.

Hamilton said that he and the organization wanted to come up with a unique way for shoppers and diners to interact with the art, and for that reason there is no featured art gallery. Instead, prints of the artists’ work will be displayed as banners on light poles with which people will continuously interact as they walk around The Street.

Thursday is the kick-off of the inaugural art installation, featuring works from Deborah Kass. Kass is known for drawing inspiration from different mediums and genres and mixing them together to produce a work of art that is an exploration of the intersection of art and pop culture.

“I am inspired by the world around me,” Kass said in an email. “It is what I think about all the time, and my work is my conversation with the world. I look to other great art for inspiration, as well. And, it inspires the language I use to have this conversation with the world.”

The installation will consist of 39 banners and one billboard, all featuring some of Kass’ most iconic works from her Feel Good Paintings For Feel Bad Times collection, such as C’mon Get Happy, Forget Your Troubles, Sweet Thing, Let The Sunshine In, and OY YO. Kass has taken fragments of lyrics from Broadway musicals Hair and Summer Stock and rendered them in bold, colorful designs in pop and abstract expressionist styles, resulting in popping, eye-catching banners that are impossible to miss.

Despite the bright colors and abstract compositions, Kass says that the artwork is a response to all the issues troubling this world. Drawing from the lyrics of great classics, Kass attempts to recreate some of the optimism in her paintings.

“Popular culture, pop music, and art are some of the greatest and most meaningful exports America ever produced,” she said. “It made people from other places want to come here and be part of it. But I, like most people, am really worried about the state of the world. The work would be dishonest if it didn’t reflect this concern.”

The penultimate night of Summertime at The Street will feature a lineup of events beyond that of the art installation. The night will also have a performance by The Grownup Noise as part of Acoustic Thursday, as well as a Boston Globe co-sponsored event called Third Thursdays—Boutique and Beauty Block Party Series—where participating boutiques on The Street offer incredible perks, savings, and parties to Thursday night shoppers and diners.

Saturday, Sept. 20 will be the last day of entertainment as part of Summertime at The Street, featuring a performance from the Newton Philharmonia. Celebrating its 20th year, the 50-piece orchestra will perform an All American Pops concert from 12 to 2:30 p.m., effectively kicking off its 2014-15 season, while simultaneously bringing Summertime at The Street to a close.

On Saturday, the New Philharmonia will perform. “They are going to play a Pops concert for families, and we encourage families to come out and have picnics on The Green,” Hamilton said. “People can kind of hang out and get food at Shake Shack or on the patios, or get food at other restaurants. It’s going to be a really great event.”

Featured Image Courtesy of The Street

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article quoted Bill Hamilton as saying that the Newton Philharmonia will perform on Saturday—the group is actually called the New Philharmonia.

September 17, 2014