Arts for All, Public Performance

What’s Next for Celebrity Series’ Public Performance Projects Initiative

Let’s Dance Boston 2015

Celebrity Series of Boston is continuing its commitment to bringing exciting public performance projects to the Boston community that encourage participation in the arts. As part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide search to find innovative and engaging public art initiatives to bring to the streets of Boston. Artists of all types are invited to submit project proposals that conceive the entire city as a canvas for participatory arts activities in an effort to promote the Celebrity Series’ vision to utilize the performing arts to enrich and transform lives and build better communities.

Celebrity Series launched its first public performance project in 2013 as part of our 75th anniversary celebration, and since then, we’ve engaged Bostonians in a number of successful events such as Street Pianos Boston, Le Grand Continental, and Let’s Dance Boston. The goal of these public performance projects has been to broaden the awareness of Celebrity Series’ activities by taking the artistic experience outside of traditional concert venues to public spaces throughout Boston.

“Our Public Performance Projects amplify our belief that everyone can participate in the arts and that live performance can happen anywhere – not just in the performance halls, but also on streets and in neighborhoods,” says Celebrity Series Executive Director Gary Dunning. “We are eager to build on the successes of our previous public projects, and encourage the development of new projects specifically for Boston. We are curious to see what artists might envision, and we’re excited that Celebrity Series can bring the performing arts to life for all Bostonians.”

Le Grand Continental 2014

To help us in our search, we’ve teamed up with public arts consultant Ricardo Barreto, who brings decades of experience working for a variety of cultural initiatives — among them the Urban Cultural Institute, The UrbanArts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and more — as well as his own experience consulting for cultural nonprofit organizations in the United States, Mexico, and Europe.

What makes this call for new work so unique? With a rich perspective on the subject, Mr. Barreto answered a few of our questions on the importance of this Celebrity Series’ initiative.

Celebrity Series: What made you want to get involved with Celebrity Series on this initiative?

Ricardo Barreto: When I learned Celebrity Series was interested in developing this unusual program for Boston, I could immediately see its potential. The idea itself along with Celebrity Series’ longstanding reputation and track record of high quality events was an irresistible combination. As I have been spending most of my time in Mexico recently, this was also an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues in New England and to work with a terrific team of people.

CS: What makes this particular call for new work unique?

RB: There are several reasons:

At the top of the list is the desire to focus on public performance through the lens of public art. The challenge of sponsoring projects where the criteria is designed to reflect the values of a presenting organization beyond the concert stage and into the community at large is visionary.

The multiyear commitment is also a factor. This is especially true in Boston where sources for public art have traditionally been hard to find. This has been changing in recent years, which is very positive, but this is still unusual. It is my hope this ongoing support provides the opportunity to establish a thoughtful, curated series of events where the whole is greater than the component parts as the initiative develops over the years.

The established budget recognizes the financial requirements of large, community-based projects; it is significant enough to attract some of the best artists and artist groups both locally as well as regionally and nationally.

CS: What current trends are you seeing in public art projects?

RB: The idea of site-specific, performance-based, and interactive temporary public art has been simmering for some time. Celebrity Series’ intuitive grasp of this is one of the very positive aspects of the initiative. It is especially gratifying to see a group of consummate professionals who recognized they would benefit from expert outside help in a related yet foreign discipline. The idea of broad cultural programming for communities is a trend that is evolving rapidly. On a more practical level the influence of technology is tremendous and is changing the landscape in ways unimaginable just ten years ago. A catalog of light-based, sound-based art from this period, for example, shows how this is altering what we think of as art in general along with the real possibilities it brings to the humanization of the built environment in particular.

CS: What are your hopes for Boston and this particular project?

RB: The successful development of this initiative has the capacity to bring national and international attention to the city primarily through the sustained, multiyear commitment. The innovative approach to public art has the potential of creating a replicable model for other cities as well. While conceived to bolster the image of Celebrity Series through a coherent program of community outreach based on public performance art, it will of course also create a draw to Boston itself. I should also note that while the Request for Proposals is national in scope, it recognizes the enormous talent pool in Boston and the resources to be found right here. For the artist community in Boston and Massachusetts this should be very gratifying.

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