Great museums were always meant to be imposing edifices, temples of high art, off limits to anyone but those at the upper levels of society.
The Museum of Fine Arts may look that way on the outside, but on Friday evening, when the latest installation of Late Nites opens its doors, the museum will be as democratic and inclusive as it gets.
If you’ve never been, Late Nites at the MFA are when music, dance, performance art, DIY art, a pop-up gallery, and even a beer garden take the solemnity of the cultural palace on Huntington Avenue into new realms of excitement and fun.
This Friday’s edition, which opens at 8 p.m., will feature dancers, DJs, and live music in “HipStory Presents: A HipStoric Night at the MFA.” The program honors the roots of hip-hop and features Boston Music Awards nominees Lightfoot, DJ Why Sham, and Cliff Notez, as well as Loman, Abstract Minor, DJ TROY Frost, and a host of other DJs whose beats will rock the museum into the early morning. Need more to make it a party? The evening will feature dancers from StiggityStackz, Chad Shabazz, Yyoyo, and Aboogz.
“We’re showcasing some of the city’s dopest artists honoring the roots of hip-hop,” said Kristen Hoskins, the museum’s head and curator of public programs.
Then you’ve got performance art by Lucy Dodd, a program called A Slice of Life. Dodd will be on hand to unveil a newly commissioned work—described as an “architectural construction of paintings.” She’ll also be performing with what Hoskins calls a bohemian coterie in oceanic costume. “Not something you see every day in any museum,” Hoskins said.
The Shapiro Family Courtyard may be rocking to various DJs and dancers, but you can find a quieter space in which to make your own art. You’ll have the opportunity to do your own painting under the expert guidance of MFA staffers.
“It’s an unforgettable night celebrating Boston’s artistic community,” Hoskins said. “Visitors of all ages attend, but it’s definitely a younger crowd than we usually see at the MFA.”
Attendees will have the chance to visit many of the special exhibitions currently taking place at the museum. These include “Ancient Nubia Now,” a collection of African art that spans thousands of years of history from the Nubian kingdom in what is now the Nile Valley in southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
The evening will also be the first chance for museumgoers to see a new exhibition of three 29-foot long banners by artist Robert Pruitt, in a dramatic display from the soaring glass ceiling of the I.M. Pei-designed space.
“Instead of honoring famous individuals, the artist has chosen to create three larger-than-life depictions of Bostonians who represent three generations of the local community.
“One is a college student, another is a community leader, and the third is a woman who has worked as a security officer at the museum for nearly 40 years. It’s unusual to honor people who aren’t celebrities. That’s what makes Pruitt unique.”
Late Nites at the MFA constitute the kind of openness, creativity, and spontaneity for which museums are seldom known. It’s likely that its founders would look askance at the proceedings, but then again, maybe they would want to get out of their starchy clothing, have a beer, and enjoy the beats. You never know.