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G Force

Champion of the arts in Boston

(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
By Michael Brodeur
Globe Staff / March 19, 2011

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Q. From what I hear, you’re quite excited about this new BosTix booth. For those who have never used it, what is the booth for?

A. Well, the function of the booth is to help make it easier and more affordable for people to see all of the wonderful arts offerings we have in Boston. The booth is about selling half-price tickets on the day of the show, which is pretty fabulous. We have more arts organizations here in Boston per capita than any other city in America, which is amazing because Boston is not that big. Our arts ecology here is incredibly rich, from the small guys right up to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Broadway Across America-Boston.

Q. What improvements have been made to the Faneuil Hall location?

A. We’ve had that booth open for 31 years, and now, when we open the doors on the 31st, we’ll be accepting credit and debit cards for the first time. We used to send people to the ATM — so we’re joining the 21st century, just 11 years late. Another thing is the digital signage, which is very cool. We’ve always hung posters for different performances, but the digital signage allows us to give more shows and concerts a face at the booth. The last big change is that the booth staff have always been there not just to sell tickets, but to provide information — where to park, how to take the T, where to eat. Now we’re reframing our staff as arts ambassadors. It’s like having a good friend who knows the arts telling you the best options in town.

Q. Five years ago, you wrote an op-ed page article for the Globe urging the public and the funding community to engage more closely with the arts community. Have the five years since been encouraging?

A. We’ve seen an incredible investment in our arts infrastructure. There’s the new ICA, the magnificent new Art of the Americas Wing at the MFA, the work going on right now at the Gardner, and also the opening of the Paramount and the Modern on Washington Street. Our theater district is transformed! I was at a performance of “The Cripple of Inishmaan’’ last month at the Paramount, and it was a packed house, and both people on either side of me had never been to the new theater before. One of them, a guy in his 70s, turned to me and said, “I used to come here when it was a movie house as a kid — it’s so wonderful to come back!’’

Q. What are the arts up against right now?

A. They’re up against some big struggles. Everyone is still dealing with recovery from the economic crises, but the good news is people still want to go out for dinner and a show, and they’re looking for value. When you have a great experience, it’s a great investment. And of course, we’re also up against competition from other leisure time activities. If you can be at home, watching stuff 24/7 from your couch, lethargy can really seep in, so we as a community have to be really good at explaining the value of a live arts experience. It’ll be different every time, and those will be memories you’ll have forever.

Q. Last question: Do you find it easier to focus on the task at hand now that football season is over? I hear you’re a big fan.

A. [Laughs] Well, I did stay up late last night getting my March Madness brackets into two of my pools, so we’ll see what happens.

MICHAEL BRODEUR

This interview has been edited and condensed. Michael Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com.

WHO
Catherine Peterson
WHAT
Peterson has served as executive director of ArtsBoston since 1997. The nonprofit organization will unveil its newly renovated BosTix booth in Faneuil Hall with a grand re-opening on Thursday, March 31 at 1 p.m.