For three upcoming Thursdays this summer, the palatial Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum invites you to admire its historic architecture and collections for free while partying into the night with local artists and performers. Welcome to Neighborhood Nights, a unique Gardner tradition that seeks to open up this storied Boston institution to the surrounding neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Fenway, Roxbury, Mission Hill and Dorchester.
“It’s about letting the communities around us know that this is their museum,” says Rhea Vedro, director of community engagement. “We want people to bring their fresh perspectives to the museum. These are some of the [most] fun nights of the year.”
Vedro noted that while other Isabella Stewart Gardner community events, such as the monthly Third Thursdays, market to a college-aged, young professional audience. Neighborhood Nights are intended as an intergenerational, family-friendly affair.
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Here's the rundown on what to expect from the series, which kicks off this week.
July 13: The Sounds of Summer
The event focuses on sound in an effort to highlight “Listen Here: The Art of Sound,” one of the museum’s current contemporary art exhibitions, according to Vedro.
Learn art through movement with yoga instructor Marlene Boyette, listen to “Shakespeare to Hip Hop” from spoken word performer Regie Gibson, step into different worlds with storyteller Valerie Stephens and experience the music of bassist Jeff Jones. The artists, all local, were selected by the Dorchester-based organization Epicenter Community.
For those seeking a more interactive experience, there will be lawn games like life-size Connect 4 and Giant Jenga and a seed planting to celebrate Isabella Stewart Gardner’s passion for horticulture. Jamaica Mi Hungry food truck and a bar full of beverages for adult and children (available each Neighborhood Night) will be available to keep museum guests nourished all night.
July 27: Local Worldwide
The next neighborhood night promises another eclectic mix of local artisans and performers. According to Vedro, just as Isabella Stewart Gardner brought in the best art from all over the world, this event seeks to bring together the best local creators originating from the different spheres of the art world.
The event is co-produced by Reynolds Graves, a “luminary” in the Gardner’s Neighborhood Salon, and features a jazz quartet, DJs and a panel on the Boston arts scene led by Outside the Box Agency’s Justin Springer. Families will also have nosh on Latin American and Caribbean cuisine from Fresh Food Generation food truck.
August 10: Block Party
Neighborhood Nights finishes up with an all-out, indoor-outdoor bash, occurring within the museum and in nearby Evan’s Way Park. The main spectacle will be the sculptural costumes of artist-in-residence Laura Anderson Barbata, modeled by the Brooklyn Jumbies stilt-walkers. In addition, a bevvy of other groups will be performing, including an interactive percussion groups, a high school step team and games provided by YouthBuild Boston. Popular Boston chain Tenoch will bring their food truck and dish out their unique Mexican fair.
While the artists at Neighborhood Nights are all contemporary acts, Vedro says the event is not unlike the events Isabella Stewart Gardner would host when she was alive, spectacles featuring the talent of local artists.
“These days are a way to continue her legacy,” Vedro says.
If you go:
July 13, July 27, August 10, 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Isabella Stewart Gardner Muesem, 25 Evans Way, Boston, free, gardnermuseum.org