New Impressions

Explore Boston’s cultural institutions through immersive exhibits and offerings.

people on thier desk working

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Cunningham Photography

Throughout Boston and beyond, arts organizations are branching out in bold, interactive ways to reach fresh audiences. Autumn is an ideal time to sample the city’s vibrant cultural life, as the sidewalks swell with college students returning to campus and summer travelers shake off the sand.

On Thursday, September 21, the MFA (www.mfa.org) transcends visual art with a Latinx Heritage Night, partnering with local nonprofits Amplify Latinx and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción. Enjoy live music, dance performances, and gallery talks. Friday, October 20 marks the start of sartorial celebrations with an after-hours party celebrating their “Fashioned by Sargent” exhibit in conjunction with Tate Britain that explores John Singer Sargent’s complex relationship with his affluent clients and their elaborate, whimsical wardrobes. There’s a DJ, dancing, food, and drink.

Speaking of whimsical: The Boston Ballet (www.bostonballet.org) takes to the streets this fall, appearing at Open Streets Boston (www.boston.gov). Urban thoroughfares will turn into public stages and gathering spaces, closed to cars and designed for foot traffic, so the Ballet can showcase ÜNI—Finnish for “dream state.” This multimedia, portable pop-up dome offers an intimate, 360-degree viewing sanctuary for dance films and audio-visual art. Visit on Sunday, September 17 in Dorchester or on Sunday, October 15 in East Boston.

Photo courtesy of Ally Schmaling

Fittingly, fall also means the arrival of Boston Fashion Week (www.bostonfashionweek.com), happening from Saturday, September 30 until Saturday, October 7. The inaugural festivities launch in partnership with the Cambridge Science Festival’s Fashion Day, exploring the intersection of tech, engineering, and style in true neighborhood tradition (www.cambridgesciencefestival.org). The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District also hosts after-work runway events, designed to bring couture to commuters.

If you prefer mammals to models, visit Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum (www.pem.org) for a first-of-its-kind interactive exhibit with a small colony of Egyptian fruit bats, flying into Salem just in time for Halloween. In addition to getting up close and personal with the bats, guests can explore a Bat Box Pop-Up Shop with bat-themed art, bat clothing, and bat houses, alongside Salem Witch Trial artifacts. Down the street, drop into the Bat Public Art Installation by Salem artist-in-residence Maia Mattson to explore the connection between bats and botany.

For a similarly shadowy (and hands-on) experience, visit the ICA’s Shadow Play Art Lab (icaboston.org), held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons throughout the fall. At this installation by Boston artist Lily Xie, visitors move through the darkness, exploring shadow puppetry—complete with space to share your own artistic reflections on the experience. Then drop into the museum’s exhibit devoted to boundary-spanning ceramic, bronze, and video artist Simone Leigh, who focuses on Africa and the African diaspora.

For a more bucolic experience, visit Harvard’s Fruitlands Museum, part of the Trustees of Reservations. Throughout the fall, they host plein-air workshops and meetups where novice and expert painters can create their own artwork al fresco on inspiring grounds (thetrustees.org).

Photo courtesy of the Catered Affair

Finally, if you’re eager to create your very own immersive experience at one of Boston’s cultural institutions, consult the event mavens at The Catered Affair (www.thecateredaffair.com). They work with storied locations such as the Boston Athenaeum, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Boston Public Library to create occasions that bring art to life through bespoke food and ambiance—all of which are truly frame-worthy.

Read more articles by: Kara Baskin

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