Spring into Summer in Boston Arts

May brings with it a long-awaited thaw in Boston as the city transitions into summer. So begins the most vibrant season in the city, packed with events as everyone takes advantage of the warm weather to get out and about. Missed the Met Gala? May and June bring some of the Boston arts community's most anticipated annual events. Stay in the loop!

April 28 - May 7: ArtWeek Boston

ArtWeek Boston is already in session! Experience art events all over Boston. View their full calendar of events.

May 6 - 7: SoWa Art Walk
11 am - 5 pm

The SoWa Arts and Design District, Boston's premier destination for artist and design studios, fine art galleries, and artisan boutiques rings in the season with its annual Art Walk. All studios, shops, and galleries will have their doors open, and the SoWa Vintage Market will be up for the whole weekend starting this year.

May 13: Somerville Porchfest
12 - 6 pm

Every year Somerville opens its porches to one of the most unique music festivals in the city. This decentralized celebration travels across Somerville throughout the day, with nearly a hundred acts in every genre imaginable, all performing, quite literally, on porches. 


May 19: ICA Gala
7 pm

Image Courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art

Image Courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art

The ICA's annual fundraiser at the Drydock brings together the contemporary art community in Boston. The event transforms the Drydock into an immersive arts experience, including dinner, drinks, pop-up performances, and a live DJ.

June 3: Cambridge River Festival
11 am - 6 pm

The Cambridge River Festival is a public, open festival of the arts, featuring multiple stages with live performances across genres, public and participatory art, family-friendly activities, food vendors, and art markets. All of this along the Charles at the East Cambridge Waterfront.

June 10: MFA Summer Party
9 pm - Midnight

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston's annual black tie fundraising gala, hosted by the Museum Council in the Shapiro Family Courtyard. A full night of art, dancing, and celebration in support of one of Boston's oldest and most established arts institutions. The night will include a private viewing of "Matisse in the Studio" and a juried silent auction.

The Whitney Biennial

The Whitney | Courtesy of The Whitney

The Whitney | Courtesy of The Whitney

The seventy-eighth installment of the Whitney Biennial has finally arrived at the museums new location in the Meatpacking District in New York City. The exhibition includes sixty-three participating artists which together provide a complete gamut of mediums ranging from painting, installation, performance, film, video game design, sculpture and much more. The participants were carefully selected by the Biennial’s co-curators, Christopher Lew and Mia Locks.

 The Whitney Biennial put a stamp on this moment in history and invites its viewers to be a part of it. Sixty-three artists display their interpretation and mood on inequality, social structure, political climate and racial violence. The exhibition challenges and pushes viewers to create a relevant dialog to these times. Questions of self-identity come to mind while walking through the exhibition. Standing in a room packed full of concept driven works among such a cultural diverse group of people makes you ask yourself; What part do I play in all this? It’s easy to feel alienated from artwork. That little grey piece of tape separating you from the work. Allowing yourself to feel like it doesn’t represent you or the state you live in is a simple way to push the artists concept aside. Participation is important while viewing the Whitney Biennial.


 Dana Schutz Elevator, 2017. Photo by Henri Neuendorf.

 Dana Schutz Elevator, 2017. Photo by Henri Neuendorf.

After arriving and getting your ticket scanned, you are directed into a large-scale elevator with as many people that can fit. When the doors open to the fifth floor, you are greeted with a Dana Schutz painting approximately as large as the elevator you are stepping out of. The painting depicts a group of people and large insects packed in an elevator. It was truly comical and an unexpected surprise to be experiencing something that you and everyone around you is suddenly relating to.


The initial walk through is exciting, creating an overwhelming feeling of not having enough eyes. Robotics, installations, films hidden around several corners, interactive pieces and of course, paintings. Knowing nearly all these works deserve time and attention is overwhelming. It became clear that galleries with particularly heavy content were often complimented by galleries that relieve you of possible heart ache or anxiety.

Asad Raza. Root Sequence, Mother Tongue, 2017. Photo by Henri Neuendorf.

Asad Raza. Root Sequence, Mother Tongue, 2017. Photo by Henri Neuendorf.

Jordan Wolfson’s virtual-reality installation Real Violence has been reported to be shocking and horrifying. The VR piece displays a person getting brutally beaten with a baseball bat in broad daylight on a city street. I personally chose to forgo this piece, but I understand why it is followed by Asad Raza’s Root Sequence, Mother Tongue.

One room I found particularly compelling was on the sixth floor. Deana Lawson and Henry Taylor work together to bring us one of the most cohesive rooms in the Biennial. Large-scale paintings by Henry Taylor depict black history, life, and injustice. Taylor’s paintings are complimented by Lawson’s staged photographs. Her subjects and context extend pieces reminiscent of family photographs. This room brought a little bit of clarity to my question; What part do I play in all this? Lawson and Taylor built a bridge, inviting their viewers who may not have experienced such injustice and hardship to relate and sympathize with people who have.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Carasella

Photo courtesy of Matthew Carasella

Curators Christopher Lew and Mia Locks made a choice to only include living artists. The lack of purely aesthetic art is telling of the 2017 biennial. Living in the height of historical turmoil, these artists have utilized their platform. They have sought to connect people through their work by addressing the real issues this country is facing today. That in itself left me feeling optimistic about the future of art.

Keenan Derby: Secrets of the Sea

Keenan Derby’s abstract paintings develop in a carefully negotiated discourse between formation and collapse. What begins as a clearly articulated under-drawing, structured by a grid, undergoes multiple transformations, alternately concealing and rediscovering its original composition. The artwork is an amalgamation of the artist’s initial vision and the unpredictability of the paint itself, which acts an agent in its own application.

Growing up in a household of biologists, Derby traveled through diverse environments, learning to view the world with a scientist’s sense of observation and wonder. He sees nature as an endless stretch of raw material to inform his artwork, its inherent cycles of destruction and renewal representative of the impermanence of all forms. The work presented in Secrets of the Sea explores this concept through the theme of water and tides. Derby’s process breaks apart and unravels familiar images, like the sea picking away at the coast with time. His choice of medium—paint turned textural by the incorporation of sand—lends itself to this disintegration, turning an otherwise smooth line or shape into a corrugated ripple.

Installation view of Secrets of the Sea

Installation view of Secrets of the Sea

Secrets of the Sea, Derby's exhibition opening April 7th, 2017, was inspired by a 17th century depiction of a Dutch whaling expedition painted on ceramic tiles, reproduced in an eponymous issue of Reader’s Digest. The ceramic tiles form a grid not unlike the ones Derby uses in his own work. Combined with the natural degradation of the materials, they dismantle the scene. Drawn to the intersecting lines and and luminous seascape colors, Derby used fragments of this piece as a basis for his under-drawings for the series.

The finished work is only suggestive of its source material, deconstructed through layers of paint and sand. The coarse topography of each painting is reminiscent of decomposed organic material, like mossy, mildewed wood. The apparition of a mast or hull lingers in certain lines, cracks and whorls allude to stormy skies and choppy seas. Derby leaves no surface undisturbed. The irregular planes and mottled colors give every piece the impression of perpetual motion.

Keenan Derby in front of Grizzly, 2015.

Keenan Derby in front of Grizzly, 2015.

Keenan Derby's studio in Los Angeles, CA Large painting: Wave Maker (2016

Keenan Derby's studio in Los Angeles, CA
Large painting: Wave Maker (2016

Wave Maker 2016 Acrylic and sand on canvas 59 x 43 inches

Wave Maker
Acrylic and sand on canvas
59 x 43 inches


Keenan Derby lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He received his MFA from Boston University and his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has exhibited in galleries nationally, including Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, and Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and at the 2017 Art Market San Francisco art fair. His work is included in a number of private collections across the country.

5 Upcoming Art Events in Boston

1.   Art Affair

Image courtesy of Alpha Gallery and BADA

Image courtesy of Alpha Gallery and BADA

Where: Adelson Galleries Boston
When: Thursday, March 30, 6-8PM
Cost: Free

Boston Art Dealers Association collaborates to bring you an exhibition from eleven galleries under one roof.  


2.   Boston LGBT Film Festival  

Image courtesy of the ICA Boston

Image courtesy of the ICA Boston

Where: The Institute of Contemporary Art
When: Thursday, March 30, 8PM
Cost: $26 for members + students / $30 for nonmemebers

Returning for it’s 33rd edition, The Boston LGBT Film Festival returns to the ICA celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with a screening of Signature Move.

3.  Caron Tabb at Newton Open Studios  

A Home Called A House, Caron Tabb, Mixed-media on canvas

Where: Newton Open Studios, 859 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02459
When: April 1-2, 11AM-5PM
Cost: Free

Cindy Cuba Clements, Adrienne Shishko, and Caron Tabb invite you to visit their PopUprising open studio.

4.   MassArt Auction Preview Evening with MA-NMWA

Where: Massachusetts College or Art and Design
When:  Wednesday, April 5, 6-8PM

Cost: $30 for members / $50 for nonmembers (Buy tickets here)

Join MA-NMWA (Massachusetts Chapter of The National Museum of Women in the Arts) for a unique evening to preview art works to be offered in the MassArt Auction on April 8th.

Photo courtesy of https://massart.edu/auction

Photo courtesy of https://massart.edu/auction

5.   MassArt Auction

Where: Massachusetts College or Art and Design
When: Saturday, April 8, 6:30 PM
Cost: Varied by ticket (MassArt Auction Tickets)

Celebrate the 28th MassArt Auction with a live and silent auction, cocktails and more. Proceeds go to scholarship aid and academic program support.