Interview with Boston Summer Arts Weekend Artistic Director Brian O’Donovan

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Interview with Boston Summer Arts Weekend Artistic Director Brian O’Donovan

Interview by: Don of Media

Coordinated by: Erin Kingan of Callanan & Klein Communications


Per press release introduction: Boston Summer Arts 2013 Artistic StatementOn July 26-27, 2014, the 3rd annual  Boston Summer Arts Weekend will once again take over Copley Square. Presented by Citizens Banks, this free outdoor festival in Copley Square is a celebration of the Arts in Boston.


What were the challenges encountered and how where they resolved since the inaugural Boston Summer Arts Weekend? What was improved each year after?

We have a very professional staff so the challenges were pretty minor logistically.  Great support from the City of Boston meant for smooth operations and support from businesses in the area meant that all was positive from the git go.  Of course, operational changes are a reality of all events, and we have adjusted accordingly.   But the biggest challenge for events like this is sustainability.  Having corporate support from entities like Citizens Bank is crucial.  And that has come through.

There is an eclectic variety of world class talent during this festival, how much planning was involved before this event occurred?

A lot of planning indeed.  I think about it constantly from one year to the next.   We want to be different.  Not just providing entertainment but inviting a lot of people into areas of artistic endeavor they might never experience otherwise.

What do you believe is the most favorite event the crowd has during the festival?

I think it varies.  The first year, the classical piano duo of Anderson and Roe was a big and surprising hit.  Sierra Hull, the young bluegrass singer similarly.  Last year, Angelique Kidjo, just rocked Copley Square.  Serendipity is what dictates such moments.  Unpredictable, surprising, and wondrous.

What do you hope those who attend take away from attending Boston Summer Arts Weekend?

A new appreciation for the power of live music.  There is nothing like it.  And to have it staged free in the most beautiful public space in the City – Copley Square – is a truly enriching experience.

Looking into the next year, what are some tentative plans?

Continue with what we are doing.  Possibly add an opening concert in one of the theatres for Friday night.

Why is the Boston Summer Arts Weekend important?

All of the reasons listed above.  We are lucky to live in such a wonderfully culturally diverse city.  We have great institutions providing and platforming great art, but its often expensive and sometimes intimidating for other reasons.   Boston Summer Arts is completely open, invitational, adventurous, accessible, and free!

How can others help with the future Boston Summer Arts Weekend?

By attending, spreading the word, letting the institutions – Globe, WGBH, City and state officials, and particularly the sponsors, that they appreciate what’s being done.

How did you become the artistic director of the festival? What is your vision for the growth and purpose?

This is my world and how lucky I am to occupy it.   I have attached our vision for the event which maybe you’ll find interesting.

What are some websites and information you believe others should be aware of?   are good starts!




Artistic Intent:

WGBH and The Boston Globe, in close collaboration with Citizens Bank, launched Boston Summer Arts Weekend at the end of July, 2014. Working with the City of Boston, Visitors and Convention Bureau, Arts Boston, regional arts organizations, hotels, educational institutions, and various tourism groups, a large-scale summer arts event-platform delivering high quality, compelling artistic presentations and performances, largely free of charge, was established.

Celebrating a wide variety of artistic disciplines with a special emphasis on music, our artistic principle is based on attracting known and lesser known artists – local, national, and international -while creating the atmosphere and circumstances for performance and exhibition with a focus on new and, especially, collaborative work.

The third year of “Boston Summer Arts” will build on the now established tradition of a wildly varied artist roster on the main stage in Copley Square.  Street performers, lightly utilized in the launch year, will feature more prominently and will grow to surrounding streets, potentially germinating a “fringe” festival. The weekend will start early with a series of “Talks & Walks”. Kicking off the week will be a series of discussions at venues surrounding Copley focused on the fall visual arts. Art Galleries similarly, throughout the City, will be incorporated in the festival’s activities and a “Gallery Walk” and Art Auction are contemplated. Efforts have been launched to include museums, and theatre productions, and to increase the participation of myriad city and regional arts organizations some of whom participated last July.

The weekend will continue to seek out the unusual and welcome the unexpected. The old and the young, cross-genre collaborations, fun and accessible performances as epitomized for example by the American Legacies Theme established on the Friday night of our first year. In 2014, using more time as well as lessons learned from our first year, we will create more interesting collaborations between classical and jazz, African and Celtic, choral and dance. We will showcase each talented participant and the excitement of up-and-coming musicians now flocking to this city for its burgeoning bluegrass and American roots scenes. We will also explore and celebrate the deep history of our rock clubs and home-town iconic players confident that the positive attention generated by our first foray will attract some of those we failed to excite in previous years.




On July 26-27, 2014, the 3rd annual  Boston Summer Arts Weekend will once again take over Copley Square. Presented by Citizens Banks, this free outdoor festival in Copley Square is a celebration of the Arts in Boston.


Some of the highlights from this year’s event:


  • Three Grammy Award Winners – Los Lobos, Arturo Sandoval and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder.  Los Lobos will play on Saturday evening while Arturo Sandoval and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder will both perform on Sunday.
  • The Soul Rebels will be making a return trip to the event.  This 8-piece New Orlean’s based brass ensemble rolls soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop all into one performance.
  • Canadian guitarist and JUNO award winner Jesse Cook– billed as one of today’s most influential guitarists in world music
  • The StepCrew, a dancing production that features the best of Ottawa Valley stepdance, Irish stepdance and tap.
  • The Boston Conservatory Dance Revue, showcasing some of the Conservatory’s best contemporary dancers
  • The Boston Landmarks Orchestra will be back again, this year performing with concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers
  • Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, a unique local performance group that combines the rich musical history of the circus of Europe with the energy of jazz, funk and the fund of vaudeville.
  • Acclaimed international blues guitarist and former Berklee student Shun Ng.
  • Family fare will include performances from local favorites Steve Songs, The Gizmo Guys and Debbie and Friends.




Grammy-Award Winners Los Lobos, Arturo Sandoval, and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder to headline

3rd Annual Boston Globe WGBH Boston Summer Arts Weekend Scheduled for July 26-27, 2014

American Concert Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, New Orleans’ Soul Rebels, Dance Sensation The StepCrew, World Music Guitarist Jesse Cook and Boston Landmarks Orchestra among other Scheduled Performers

Presented by Citizens Bank, Program Will Showcase Music, Theater, Dance and Visual Arts

Boston, MA (June 16, 2014) – The Boston Globe, WGBH and Citizens Bank are teaming up again to host the 3rd annual Boston Summer Arts Weekend. Grammy-Award winners Los Lobos, Arturo Sandoval and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder will headline the festival, designed to celebrate and promote Boston’s arts community. The free outdoor festival will take place on Copley Square in the Back Bay on July 26-27 and will also feature special offers from arts organizations around the city, a series of Arts Walks and Talks and a Baroque Brunch featuring the Handel and Haydn Society.

Multi-Grammy Award winners Los Lobos will bring their hybrid of traditional Mexican folk music and American rock and roll to Boston Summer Arts weekend on Saturday, July 26. They’ll be joined by the Soul Rebels, an eight-piece New Orleans based brass ensemble that brings soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, rock and pop music into one performance. Canadian guitarist and Juno award winner Jesse Cook will showcase the talent that makes him one of today’s most influential guitarists in world music, and the dancers and musicians of The StepCrew are expected to exhilarate the audience with their versions of Ottawa Valley stepdance, Irish stepdance and Tap.

Rounding out the afternoon will be Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, a circus band that combines the rich musical history of the circus with the raw energy of avant-garde jazz as well as blues guitarist and sing/songwriter Shun Ng. Early in the day, the stage in Copley Square will be the perfect destination for the entire family, with performances from local favorites Steve Songs, The Gizmo Guys and Debbie and Friends. Music on the main stage starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

On Sunday, the day begins with the annual Baroque Brunch at the Fairmont Copley Plaza featuring a performance from the Handel and Hayden Society. Outside in Copley Square,, performances begin on the main stage at 1 p.m. with a contemporary dance review from The Boston Conservatory followed by a special performance from American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers with The Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

Following Landmarks Orchestra, Cuban jazz trumpeter and Grammy-award winner Arturo Sandoval will bring his amazing sound to the stage followed by Grammy-award winner and one of the true giants of Bluegrass music, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

“For more than 60 years, WGBH has connected the community with greater Boston’s vibrant arts scene,” said WGBH President and CEO Jon Abbott. “Boston Summer Arts Weekend, with a diverse line-up of local, national, well-known and up-and-coming artists, is a fun, energetic event that showcases everything there is to love about summers in Boston.”

In the week leading up to Boston Summer Arts Weekend, WGBH, The Boston Globe and Citizens Bank will extend the programming, featuring a series of Boston Summer Arts Weekend Walks & Talks. This will include a Newbury Street gallery tour and art auction, as well as exclusive talks with artists and authors at venues across Boston. More information on the Walks & Talks will be available soon at

“For the third year in a row, the arts will come to life in Copley Square,” said Mike Sheehan, Chief Executive Officer of The Boston Globe. “Artistic performances have a way of bringing people together and in the month of July, there will be incredible opportunities for residents and visitors alike to experience what the city has to offer. We are delighted to be working with WGBH and Citizens Bank to bring this celebration to Boston.”

Local arts organizations will offer discounts and unique programming for the public, all of them featured in a special guide. All arts and entertainment organizations are invited to list their events in the guide and on the Summer Arts Weekend website free of charge. The guide will be distributed in The Boston Sunday Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and will be available online at To submit a listing, please visit

“Boston Summer Arts Weekend is an amazing opportunity to showcase the rich and diverse culture of the city, and we are excited to be a part of it,” said Robert Matthews, Vice Chairman of Citizens Bank. “The collaboration with The Boston Globe and WGBH is a great example of how local companies can come together to help enliven and enrich the community where we live and work.”

Summer Arts Weekend is presented by Citizens Bank. Other supporting sponsors to date include The Lincoln Motor Company and The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit

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WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including primetime, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio, a leader in educational multimedia, and a pioneer in accessible technology. Television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH Boston Public Radio; 99.5 WCRB; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. More information at

About Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is a division of Citizens Bank, N.A., operating its seven-state branch network in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. It has 252 branches and 754 ATMs in Massachusetts. RBS Citizens, N.A., is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., a $122.2 billion commercial bank holding company. It is headquartered in Providence, R.I., and through its subsidiaries has approximately 1,400 branches, over 3,500 ATMs and approximately 18,600 colleagues. CFG has over 80 retail and commercial non-branch offices located both in its geographic footprint and in five states and the District of Columbia outside its branch footprint.. Its two bank subsidiaries are Citizens Bank, N.A., and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. They operate a branch network under the Citizens Bank brand in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont; and the Charter One brand in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. CFG is owned by RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc). CFG’s website is


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