Block Parties For the Arts

Talk about extending summer. Arts festivals once synonymous with the beach season are stretching their chorus line into autumn. And while post Labor Day fests may challenge harvest fairs and farmers' markets for weekend crowds, who says we can't shop for apples one day and a watercolor the next?

Take Arts Festival of Boston '98. More than 150,000 Bostonians meandered down Newbury Street last Sunday on Day 5 of the city's second-annual arts extravaganza. Under bright sun and to the sounds of live music, cafes served art-inspired dishes, galleries opened their doors, and fashion models catwalked down Boston's most stylish street.

This highly accessible, block-party approach to the arts isn't unique to Boston. It has caught on around the country as a way to not only join performing arts and visual arts on the same street, but also to cultivate new generations of culture buffs, democratize the arts, and take intimidation out of the gallery-going experience.

According to John Villani, author of "The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America," "City galleries have always wrapped themselves in an elitist blanket. That doesn't work anymore. They are learning from small-town galleries, where people are friendly, direct, and don't always wear Armani."

Arts festivals at this time of year can be enjoyed as either summer's last hurrah or the kickoff to an exciting new season of arts and entertainment in any city. Or simply as a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And who knows, that watercolor just might give you a jump on holiday shopping.

* For artsfests near you, see our full-page guide 'Arts Festivals Across America'.

Comments? Write to Arts & Leisure, One Norway Street, Boston, MA, 02115, or send us an e-mail at:

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