ArtWeek Provides Interactive Experience for All

Launched in 2013 as part of the Boch Center’s strategic plan to increase its presence in the creative community, ArtWeek has since expanded from a Boston-based festival to a 10-day series of events spanning all of Massachusetts. Running from April 27 to May 6, over 525 events will take place in 155 towns and neighborhoods across the state.

The inspiration for creating ArtWeek stemmed from the popularity of restaurant weeks, according to Sue Dahling Sullivan, the chief strategic officer of the Boch Center. Rather than focusing on the business model of such events, the Boch Center looked to its innovative and experiential aspects to fulfill its goals. The decision to create an innovative, hands-on festival was guided by research from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We were inspired by research that came out from the National Endowment of the Arts that said audiences today are looking for a little more,” Sullivan said. “Today people are yearning for something that is more learning-based, more social interaction, more experiential.”

A regional, nonprofit performing arts center, the Boch Center is best known for its historic Wang and Shubert theaters. The Boch Center, however, sought to expand its influence outside of these theaters to diverse audiences who may never venture inside.

“One of our strategic goals was to be more visible as a champion and leader for creative communities,” said Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, the Boch Center theaters have always strived to be at the forefront of supporting traditional and nontraditional art forms alike. The standard of what is considered art has transformed considerably in recent years, and ArtWeek reflects this shift.

ArtWeek events are designed to be out of the ordinary. They offer interactive, behind-the-scenes experiences audiences couldn’t find any other time of year. Around the Greater Boston area, such events include a virtual reality experience in construction, a historic walking tour of Newbury Street, and an eco-friendly gift wrapping workshop.

In 2013, ArtWeek hosted just 25 events located around the Greater Boston area. This original model, which ran until this year, featured one festival in the spring and one in the fall. Following the immense growth that occurred in the subsequent years, the Boch Center made two major shifts. According to Sullivan, the festival hit a “tipping point” in 2017 when it grew to 260 events across eastern Massachusetts. The festival was also receiving an increased number of requests from the central and western regions of the state, leading ArtWeek to rethink its framework.

In light of this growth, the Boch Center decided to begin holding the festival once per year in the spring and to expand the events statewide. This year’s festival has over 70 partners at the state and regional levels that make it possible for ArtWeek to reach such an expansive scope. Two of the leading partners are the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

“Frankly, it’s exploded,” Sullivan said.

In keeping with the ArtWeek model, Sullivan said the ArtWeek events are “lightly curated.” All events should have an aspect that makes them different from other art-related events throughout the year.

“We really want to say yes to as many people as possible, so we do a lot of coaching,” she said.

The Highland Street Foundation is the presenting partner of ArtWeek. According to its website, the foundation is dedicated to providing access to education, housing, mentorship, health care, and the arts to families in Massachusetts and California.

The Boch Center decided to partner with the Highland Street Foundation because the two nonprofits share similar values and objectives. Within ArtWeek and more broadly, removing the barrier of affordability is of particular importance.

“We share what I call guiding principles of ArtWeek,” Sullivan said, “which is making art, culture, and creativity affordable and accessible to people of all backgrounds, all ages, all resources.”

Featured Image Courtesy of The Boch Center

May 2, 2018

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