Art in Bloom

Let Harvard Square’s creative scene move you with walking tours and more. 

wall painted creatively with vibrant colors

pHOTO BY HIN-BONG-YEUNG ON UNSPLASH

Harvard Square has always been a hive for creativity, and that spirit blossoms this spring. Enjoy public art tours, strolls, and excursions—plus welcoming spots to reflect after your adventure.

“Our goal is to grow our ‘collection’ to ensure Harvard Square’s status as an art and cultural destination with something for everyone,” says Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.

First, peek into 2 Linden Street: The narrow space is home to the “25/8 artspace” project and public art gallery. Night Studio is their current exhibit from local artist Brett Angell, guest curated by Yutong Shi, who has worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Institute for Contemporary Art. The exhibit evokes Musa Mayer’s Night Studio, a memoir about multi-faceted artist Philip Guston, by showcasing his workspace and tools.

Next, stroll past the Shadowbox at One Brattle Square, which houses small-scale exhibits from artists affiliated with Gateway Arts and provides professional development for adults with disabilities. The exhibits rotate, ranging from pottery to sculpture (harvardsquare.com/gateway-arts-exhibit-in-harvard-square).

Then set off on a themed public art tour, with designs commissioned by Cambridge Arts. They offer several themed excursions, from Ode to the Ocean (spy ceramic turtles and a painting that immortalizes the original Legal Sea Foods location) to Take Flight (stone etchings of butterflies and moths, inspired by Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology photos). Choose your favorite at cambridgema.gov/arts/publicart/publicarttours, and plot your route at cambridgema.gov/arts/publicart/publicartmap.

white drop cloth with containers of brightly colored paint and paint brushes
PHOTO BY TAELYNN CHRISTOPHER ON UNSPLASH

If the neighborhood brings out your sense of nostalgia, stop by The Foundry, a hub for creativity and inspiration (cambridgefoundry.org) that houses public studios, makerspaces, and memories. Take an art workshop or approach the open mic with a story or a poem, and don’t forget to stop by the vintage jukebox. This permanent installation doesn’t play oldies: Instead, it broadcasts reminiscences from Cambridge denizens with colorful tales from the city (foundryjukebox.org).

For adventuring on the other side of the Charles River, dive into Harvard University’s Public Walking Tour Portal (edportal.harvard.edu/public-art-tours), featuring Allston’s diverse public art displays. (Trivia time: Washington Allston graduated from Harvard in 1800.) Gaze at murals along Western Avenue, ogle the sculptures on the Harvard Business School campus, and pop into Harvard’s 15,000-plus-square-foot ceramics studio.

And for a true up-close glimpse of artistic life at Harvard, visit the annual Harvard Staff Art Show (staffartshow.harvard.edu), running through the spring. Amateurs and artisans alike showcase their talents at locations throughout campus. If street art is more your speed, browse the Art Walk Project (theartwalkproject.com), curated by local photographer and multimedia artist Julia Swanson. She spotlights neighborhood murals and graffiti in Cambridge and beyond, with downloadable maps, podcasts, and an online shop. Bring urban beauty into your own home with Art Walk prints capturing Central Square, Kendall Square, and Boston.

Prefer a snack with your sculpture? Join Off the Beaten Path’s Food and Mural Arts Tour (offthebeatenpathfoodtours.com/tour/central-square-cambridge-food-and-mural-arts-tour). These guided, 2.5-hour weekend and weeknight tours spotlight the neighborhood’s plentiful murals and graffiti—with stops for treats at neighborhood restaurants along the way.

two brightly colored cocktails against a black background
pHOTO BY ARISA-CHATTASA ON UNSPLASH

Or, if you really need to unwind, enjoy coastal Italian dishes and a sophisticated bar scene at Moeca, a stylish sibling from the Giulia team (moecarestaurant.com). For libations and snacks in storied surroundings, visit the Longfellow Bar at Alden & Harlow, where the notorious Café Algiers—a favorite of Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick—once stood. Today, chef Michael Scelfo serves pretty party food: pigs in a blanket with truffles, chips and onion dip, and herbaceous cocktails (longfellowharvard.com).

Or, if you prefer to sup and stroll, grab a slice from Joe’s Pizza on Brattle Street (joespizzacambridge.com). The Greenwich Village institution brings its sooty slices to the Square, with lines out the door. It’s the perfect foldable companion, along with a map, for a day of sightseeing.

Read more articles by: Kara Baskin

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