MFA, Boston gets ‘folksy’ in folk art exhibit

Posted on February 9, 2021 by Leave a comment

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston showcases folk art — also called the “art of the people” — in “Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art.” It opened last weekend and runs through next January 9.

  The exhibition examines how folk art evolved into a “collecting category” at the MFA thanks to the passion of benefactor/donor Maxim Karolik to champion the art of the people.

A folk art painting of Lake Ontario by an unidentified artist in MFA exhibition

  Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, Karolik advocated the then-radical notion of incorporating American “folk art” into the Museum’s collection and disrupting long-held standards and definitions of so-called “fine art.”

  Through his enthusiasm and generosity, the MFA became one of the first encyclopedic museums in the country to actively collect works by artisans, craftspeople, women, schoolchildren, sailors and other artists who were free from the strict rules of traditional Western academic training.

A folk art whirligig at the MFA Boston

  Karolik’s expansive vision of American art proved to be ahead of his time—while MFA curators ultimately accepted its value, the reluctance to display folk art alongside fine art remained for decades to come.

  The exhibition features 59 works on paper shown in two successive rotations and 20 sculptural objects drawn primarily from the MFA’s Karolik Collection of American Folk Art.

  For ticketing info, hours and Covid-19 guidelines, visit

Gallery notes

‘SHELTER’ EVENT: Join local poets and writers tonight, Thursday, February 11, at 7 p.m. in a free virtual reading event in conjunction with the show ‘Shelter: The Art of Caring’ at the Arts League of Lowell’s Greenwald Gallery in ALL headquarters on Market Street through February 28. Stephan Anstey, Diamond Asaneh, Suzanne Beebe, Douglas Bishop, MJ Bujold, Charles Gargiulo, Nancy Lee Jasper, S. C. Thibodeau and PJ Wamala will share their writings on the subject of “Shelter” that are included in the community exhibit, with all proceeds benefiting the Lowell Transitional Living Center. Homeless advocate and author Alexis Ivy will also participate. Emily Ferrara hosts. Free but registration required at

 BLACK HISTORY MONTH:  Local art venues celebrate February’s Black History Month with events and exhibits. At Lowell’s Brush Art Gallery and Studios “Black Light — Visual Articulations in Conjunction with Black History Month” is on view through February 28. Sponsored by the Lura Smith Fund — MCCF,  in conjunction with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month, it focuses on cultural imagery, struggle, the human figure and abstract art, using charcoal, pastel graphite, photography and paint in works by Massachusetts and nationally-known artists Thaddeus Miles, Wilda Gerideau Squires, Derrick Jamison, Gwendolyn Lanier and Calvin Thomas. A virtual reception takes place on Saturday, February 20 at 2 p.m. A Zoom link will be sent via an email blast. To join the Brush email list, go to Or RSVP to  To view the exhibit online, go to…Concord Museum hosts a special Black History Month forum on President’s Day, Monday, February 15 at 7 p.m., featuring Dr. Scott Casper discussing his book “Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon.” Few national landmarks are better known than George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Casper’s book recounts the life of Sarah Johnson, who spent over 50 years there in slavery and emancipation. Through stories of her life and those of her family and friends, Casper shares an intimate picture of Mount Vernon in the 19th and early 20th centuries and gives insight into those who were essential to making Mount Vernon an iconic historic site that attracts worldwide visitors. Go to to register. Participants will receive a live link the day of the program. Books available at the Concord Book Shop at

TRIVIAL PURSUITS:  Calling all history nerds and trivia champs — this one’s for you. Concord Museum hosts an evening of virtual trivia on Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m. Test your knowledge of American history, geography and all things Concord in this friendly competition. Categories include Who’s the President; Women of Concord; GeoPlunge: Where History and Geography Intersect and New Beginnings: Inventions and Inventors. Play individually or as a team with household members. Prizes awarded to the top three players or teams. Register at, and you will get a Zoom link to join the game. You will be muted upon entry and can choose to have your video on or off during the game. Answers will be submitted via the Zoom chat feature. Check-in begins at 6:45 p.m. to ensure a prompt start.

ICONIC FILMS: The Museum of Russian Icons hosts a two-part virtual film screening and discussion with director Alexander Smoljanski, who made films about two famous Russian artists — Oscar Rabin, leader of the Soviet artistic underground, and his wife, painter Valentina Kropivnitskaya. “OSCAR” screens this Saturday, February 23, at 11 a.m.  Register by today, Thursday, February 11. “In Search of Lost Paradise” screens Saturday, March 6, at 11 a.m. Register by Thursday, March 4. $6, members; $12, nonmembers, per film. Link to to register for “OSCAR” and to for “Paradise.”

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is


MRT & UML pop ‘The Pill’ in virtual reading

Posted on February 2, 2021 by Leave a comment

It’s a well-known fact that The Pill was a life-changer for mid-20th century women, giving them an easy, inexpensive way to prevent getting pregnant. But what about the risks that went in to its creation? 

  Playwright Tom Horan explores those hazards in his play “The Pill,” and Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) and UMass Lowell present a free live reading of it on Zoom on Friday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m. MRT artistic director Courtney Sale will direct, and a post-show discussion will follow.

  “In the early 1950s,” notes a description of the play on MRT’s website, “Margaret Sanger is at the end of a career as an activist for women’s rights. Yet throughout it all, she had never been able to achieve her secret hope of creating a ‘magic tablet’ that would be cheap, easy and allow a woman to turn off and on her ability to have a child.” 

  In the play, Sanger tries one more time to achieve that dream. She gets Katherine McCormick, a former suffragist and wealthy widow, to finance the project. And she forms a tentative alliance with Goodwin Pincus, a disgraced hormone scientist, and John Rock, a Roman Catholic gynecologist, whose reluctant participation gives the project a “sheen of acceptability.” 

  Together, they try to “navigate a problem that seems scientifically impractical and financially unfeasible.” 

  For more info, contact MRT’s box office at 978-654-4678. Free but please register at

  Also at MRT, patrons can help support the theatre by purchasing a video on demand ticket to Pasadena Playhouse’s “You I Like: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Herman.” A portion of each ticket purchased through February 9 benefits MRT. Herman is composer of blockbuster musicals “Mame,” “La Cage aux Folles” and “Hello, Dolly!” Here’s the link to the show

Purchase an on-demand ticket by February 9 and a portion of proceeds is donated to MRT.

In the wings

PANDEMIC TOGETHERNESS: Cannon Theatre steps up to the plate and has a play in its line-up that’s pandemic perfection. Auditions are underway for “The Last Five Years,” a musical by Jason Robert Brown, directed by Shawn Cannon, with tech/video/sound production by Bret Bahe and Dan Tang. The call is out for men and women of any age and currently in a pandemic bubble together to audition in pairs for the show. They’ve set those guidelines so that cast members can be filmed in-studio and shot together for at least one scene. The actual show will be broadcast the last two weekends in April. Email the director at for audition info.

COMEDY TONIGHT: Enjoy yucks on Valentine’s Day at a couple of recently announced virtual comedy shows. Hanover Theatre and Conservatory in Worcester presents Livestream: Comedy Night at the BrickBox, featuring four favorite New England stand-up comedians livestreamed direct from the new BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center. Featured are Jimmy Cash, Kathie Farris, Sam Ike and Tony V. Event opens at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. It’s an 18-plus show, may contain adult humor and not appropriate for kids. Tickets $20. Visit or call 877-571-7469…Don’t forget the “Saving Our Jobs Virtual Comedy Festival” on Valentine’s Day from 3 p.m.-midnight. Hosted by Spectra Venue Management, which manages the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, there will be constant live comedy on all day. Tickets are $20 to watch live or $40 to watch live and re-watch. Also, for ages 18-plus. Tickets at

Taking place on February 14 in a virtual setting.

Nancye Tuttle’s email is

Finding ‘Shelter’ at ALL Gallery show

Posted on February 2, 2021 by Leave a comment

Despite a snowy nor’easter, vaccine vexation and the groundhog’s silly shadow, art brings brightness to our dreary February days.

‘I Care’ by Laurie Simcoe in ‘Shelter’ show

  “Shelter: The Art of Caring,” a community exhibit created by the Arts League of Lowell to benefit the Lowell Transitional Living Center (LTLC), offers a different spin on love during the Valentine’s Day season.

  On view now through February 28 in the Greenwald Gallery at ALL, 307 Market St., Lowell, love and caring form the underpinnings of the show, which sets out to embody the idea of “shelter” in all of its manifestations.

  “More than a place, shelter is the feeling of warmth, comfort and safety,” writes artist and ALL publicist Mary Hart in her release. “It is found in the embrace of a loved one or the rapture of music and can be as simple as a hot cup of coffee or a purring cat.”

  Artists find shelter in galleries.

  “Here, we find inspiration, achievement, community and growth,” says Hart. “But as artists, we also notice the lack of shelter for many in our city.”

  The show is their attempt to give back, with over 30 addressing the theme through painting, collage, metalwork, photography, plus short prose pieces and poetry on the theme.

   Artists from several arts leagues, plus LTLC guests, are participating, making this a city-wide effort, with ALL donating the space for the show. Besides wall art, sculpture and printed texts, artists have made a temporary installation of a prototype shelter that visitors are invited to experience by stepping into the space and being sheltered.

‘Home’ by Debra Bretton Robinson in ‘Shelter’ show

  The artists have donated their work for sale, with 100% going to the LTLC shelter for the unhoused on Merrimack Street.

  “In these difficult times, when everyone is weary of pandemic restrictions, economic hardship and health worries, maybe we can agree that we all need sheltering,” says Hart.

  The gallery follows Covid 19 guidelines and masks must be worn. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Visit


DRACUT SHOW: Artist-illustrator David Sullivan realizes a bucket list moment this month with the opening of his first solo show, now-March 6, at Dracut Access Television Studio, 91 Mill Street, Suite 8. “Art-wise, it’s been mostly a freelance career,” says Sullivan, who studied illustration at Mass College of Art, but graduated with a BFA in graphic design from UMass Lowell in 1999. Sullivan is a “traditional artist.” In other words, he doesn’t work digitally. His chosen media include pen-and-ink, watercolor and acrylic paints and colored pencils; and his designs range from tattoos and rock concert posters to Celtic knot name plaques and family Christmas cards. Cartooning is his real passion, however, and he worked for nine years as the editorial cartoonist for the “Valley Patriot,” a monthly newspaper based in North Andover. Sullivan is also a favorite on the local theatre circuit, especially with the now defunct Greater Lowell Music Theatre, where he starred in “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago,” “Fiorello” and “Anything Goes.”

‘Julia’ by David Sullivan

More recently, he was in the cast of Jack Neary’s written-for-Zoom play “The Gathering.”  His DATV solo show includes humorous illustrations, concert and theater posters, editorial cartoons and Celtic knot designs. It is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call 978-957-5522 or visit

‘Take-Out’ by Michele Boll on sale at Whistler House Museum of Art

LOWELL OFFERINGS: Western Avenue Studios in Lowell hosts a virtual Open Art Studios on Saturday, February 6, noon-5 p.m. online with Facebook Live. Included are studio tours, demos, talks, artwork and options to find Valentine’s gifts for special folks in your life. Visit to participate…Billerica-based artist Michele Boll is February’s Artist-of-the-Month at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell. Reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s work, in her paintings Boll’s focus is to create mood and emotion through the use of light and shadow. Visit, call 978-807-6699 or email to discuss purchasing her art…Brush Gallery and Studios and Lowell National Historical Park have issued a call for entries for their spring juried exhibition on the theme “What does community look like to you?” Interested artists in any stage of their career and from across the U.S. are invited to submit up to three images for consideration by Friday, March 26. For info and prospectus, visit

VALENTINES, LINCOLN, VACATION WEEK: The Trustees, which operates many historic and cultural facilities across Massachusetts, including Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, has a host of virtual and in-person Valentine and February School Vacation Week activities in store. Visit for ideas and options…  Concord Museum brings its popular Presidents Day program “A Visit with President Lincoln” to the virtual stage on Monday, February 15 at 1 p.m. Record a video of your question for Honest Abe before Wednesday, February 10 and send it to and you may be featured in the program. To tune in and watch, register at You will receive an email link prior to the program. The museum also hosts historian H.W. Brands for a virtual talk on his new book “The Zealot and the Emancipator” on Wednesday, February 10 at 7 p.m. The book recounts the epic struggle over slavery as embodied by John Brown and Abe Lincoln.  To register, got to Free but donations encouraged.

President Abe Lincoln pays a virtual visit to the Concord Museum on February 15.

Nancye Tuttle’s email is

Firehouse New Works Fest features Westford playwright’s short plays

Posted on January 27, 2021 by Leave a comment

Ready for some at-home entertainment to wind down with this weekend as January ends and February lurks next week? 

  Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport is back with its 19th New Works Festival, The Long and the Short of It for three nights of original theater Friday-Sunday, January 29-31. And it features two short plays by local playwright and Westford resident Michael Towers being performed on Saturday evening.

Taking place virtually this Friday-Sunday

  “While we would love to have you in our theater, it’s just not in the cards this year. But the festival lives on,” notes Firehouse in its splashy announcement.

  Featured are Firehouse acting favorites like Maureen Daley, Jennifer Wilson, Steven Sacks, Pamela Battin-Sacks, Terry Blanchard and Ella Faria, along with directors David Houlden, Anne Easter-Smith and Abigail Seabrook.

  Over the past 18 years, more than 200 new works have been performed on the Firehouse stage in the New Works Festival, which fosters the growth of New England playwrights and showcases the talents of local and regional actors and directors. 

  Playwrights from all over New England submit 10-minute shorts, one-act and full-length plays to an independent panel who select the festival shows in anonymous readings. Directors and casts then work with the selected playwrights to produce the festival.

  Firehouse is doing something different this year. After Saturday’s Evening of Shorts, attendees will receive a short survey allowing them to vote for their favorites. The Top 4 will get a second showing following the One Act on Sunday, January 31.

  The Festival starts Friday with “Hitch,” a full-length play by James McLindon at 8 p.m. Saturday’s Evening of Shorts, starting at 8 p.m., features two plays written by Towers, a Westford Academy grad and current director of the successful Westford Academy theatre arts program.  

  They include “Pole Position,” winner of the Honegger Prize for Best Short Play, and “Tut Tut.” Other shorts that evening include “A Missionary Zeal” by Charles Hertz; “The Wrong Taxi” by Charlene Donaghy; “Respect Your Elders” by Hope Shangle; “Reservations” by Steve Elmert and “The Handle” by Scott Sullivan.

  Sunday’s One-Act and Shorts starts at 7 p.m. with “The Rise of Jessie Bates” by Paul Antokolsky followed by the 4 top vote-getting shorts from the evening before.

  Tickets are $5 for one evening and $12 for all three nights. Visit for tickets and info.


In the wings 

MORE ON-LINE THEATRE OPPS: Boston-based Arts Emerson recently announced two new programs in its Year of Experimentation. “Down A Dark Stairwell,” a documentary film directed by Newton native Ursula Liang has its Boston premiere on Friday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m. as part of ArtsEmerson’s Shared Stories Film Series. It will be followed by a live panel discussion with the director and moderated by Denise Khor of UMass Boston at 9 p.m. Both will be available for on-demand streaming through Sunday, February 7 at 10 p.m. 

Visit for more info…Its Play Reading Book Club on Christiane Jatahy’s “Julia,” running February 9-22, will guide participants through a reading and study of August Strindberg’s 1899 play “Miss Julie,” which is the source inspiration for Jatahy’s hypnotic theatrical work. The PRBC will feature 6 online Zoom gatherings which will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays now through February 11. For info and to join the discussion, which is free, visit To purchase tickets to see the play on demand, February 9-22, visit

At ArtsEmerson

AUDITIONS OVER: Online auditions are now closed for Cannon Theatre’s upcoming “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Jerry McMahon will direct the radio show by Douglas Adams. Stay tuned for the dates when it’s being produced. 

TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT: Huntington Theatre Company’s 2016 hit production of Mike Lew’s “Tiger Style” has been newly recorded as an audio play that will air in full on Saturday, February 6, 6-8 p.m. on WGBH 89.7 FM. It’s about squabbling siblings Albert and Jennifer Chen who reached the pinnacle of academic achievement as kids, but as adults are epic failures. It’s an hilarious comedy that examines race, parenting and success with hit and sharp humor. For a reminder email, sign up here

A new audio play of this Huntington Theatre hit airs next Saturday on WGBH-FM.

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is  

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