Sue Dahling Sullivan has been endorsing arts and culture in and around Boston for a long time. These days, she’s Chief Strategic Officer for the Boch Center, and she’s ArtWeek Lead Champion, the latter a curious but apt title. Enthusiastic and insightful, Sullivan has a perceptive understanding of the benefits ArtWeek offers to the public and to artists.
ArtWeek MA — originally called ArtWeek Boston — is a 10-day festival produced by Boch Center and founded in 2013 that celebrates the arts across the Commonwealth. The festival has grown from a Boston-based collection of 28 arts events, to this year’s lineup of nearly 600 events in 125 communities across the state.
For audiences, ArtWeek offers programming that runs the gamut from family events to sophisticated collaborations to hands-on workshops. Events take place April 26 through May 5 inside and out — in theaters, museums, landmarks, galleries and studios — and include theater, music, art, dance, film, poetry, culinary arts and more.
“More and more people in the general population are looking to engage in arts and cultural activities in new ways,” says Sullivan. “There is a desire to experience interactive, behind the scenes, and/or learning-based events. At ArtWeek, one can enjoy world-class events and discover hidden gems.”
The Boch Center has done its due diligence, studying relevant research produced by the National Endowment for the Arts and others. The findings indicated people desire deeper engagement, wanting to learn, understand and reflect on the arts in more personalized ways.
In turn, ArtWeek is committed to making it easy for people and whole communities to engage. Offerings are affordable, if not free; in fact, 72 percent of events do not cost, 92 percent are priced under $25, and none cost more than $50. ArtWeek’s comprehensive website and its database allows patrons to search by genre, region, price, date or keywords.
Sullivan’s career, having taken place in and around Boston, is one example of a perfect set of experiences as background for her current position. Describing herself, she uses the phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ but that depends on how one defines ‘master.’
As a manager, organizer and administrator in long-time positions at Harvard and Boston Lyric Opera, among others, this Dartmouth MBA is a master actualizer of this complex festival. She’s jazzed about this year’s lineup.
Sullivan is aware that simply making a choice on what to attend might be overwhelming and encourages people to explore ArtWeek’s website.
“We’re excited about a group MonkeyHouse that is creating site-specific events under the heading of ‘Malden Dance Mile’ on the public bike path Malden’s Community Trail, with pop-up events spaced along the route,” she says. “It is so creative and fun.”
Sullivan also suggests a few events by and about women, including an April 27 gallery and workshop at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, inspired by Congresswoman and trailblazer Shirley Chisholm, on the exhibit “A Seat at the Table”; an April 28 open orchestra and choral rehearsal of Eureka Ensemble’s “Through Struggle to the Stars,” among other pieces at Church of the Covenant; an April 29 reception at Massachusetts Historical Society for“Can She Do It? The Fight For and Against a Woman’s Right to Vote” exhibition; and a May 2 tribute to award-winning poet Mary Oliver at WBUR’s new Commonwealth Avenue venue CitySpace.
For organizations and artists, ArtWeek offers the obvious advantage of being part of a festival. While none of the individual event producers are paid by ArtWeek, they are included in its calendar listings, marketing and press. Sullivan, aware of these practical advantages for the artists and institutions, is much more excited about the creative invention organizations often bring to their ArtWeek events.
“Producing an ArtWeek event is a great opportunity for an organization to try out pilot programs or unique partnerships,” she says. “One successful example took place between deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and the Boston Society of Architects. The two organizations coordinated a free, outdoor family event, asking the public to create an entire city, using cardboard boxes as the medium. Hundreds of people attended.”
In addition to the Boch Center, ArtWeek has other benefactors including Highland Street Foundation, the Mass Cultural Council and Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
Leading up to the 2019 festival, Sullivan is already thinking ahead to 2020, mulling over how to help more people, both the public and artists, experience meaningful arts and culture events.