expect to spend close to $1 billion
on new projects. APPLAUSE!
Well, Boston, it certainly took you long enough. For almost a century, you didn't build a single new art museum. Your contemporary art scene created as much buzz as a New England Revolution soccer match. The big players - the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - sat by comfortably in cultural palaces created in the days of Teddy Roosevelt. But a funny thing happened on the way to the John Singer Sargent convention. Boston had an arts boom. At least that's how it should feel by 2017.
The numbers are stunning: If all goes according to plan, in 10 years, Boston's cultural leaders will have spent close to $1 billion on new projects. Imagine strolling from the expanded MFA to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's new second building. The wasteland that is now the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway should have not one, but two museums, one designed by Daniel Libeskind, the other by Moshe Safdie. There might even be a new museum in Allston, the contemporary space Harvard University Art Museums has on the drawing board.
Go ahead, traditionalists. Sniff and grumble about the mall-ification of museum culture, of Old Masters cast aside for gift shops and glitzy restaurants. We'll be too busy enjoying the new digs. Imagine, enough bathrooms at the Gardner, and a spot in the sun-drenched, year-round gathering space that will be the MFA's new courtyard.
And then there's the art. In this revived cultural landscape, we can hear Mahler under Symphony Hall's gold leaf and Beethoven or Machover in the ICA's glass-walled waterfront theater. Vermeer at the MFA, or sheep livers frozen in Velveeta at Harvard's contemporary digs?
More good news: The arts building boom won't automatically translate into ticket sales. We don't go to museums because of how much they cost to build, we go because of what we want to see. That means Boston's arts leaders are going to be under the gun. They better give us what we want, and make creative offers (read: ticket deals). If they don't, we'll take our business somewhere else.
Within a few years, we'll settle into this new Boston, and then the real chatter can begin. Now that the first-tier institutions have had their fix, what about finding proper homes for, among others, Boston Ballet, Opera Boston, and Boston Lyric Opera?