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Artful moves
Itís about more than Shakespeare, dance, or architecture

JUST DAYS AFTER the Boston Foundation launched a task force to foster innovation and promote collaboration among local arts groups and institutions, the Wang Center for the Performing Arts and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company walked out onto center stage and announced that they were combining operations. (See " The Wang and the Commonwealth Team Up " )

In many ways, the move is the natural next step for both institutions. For the last two years, the well-established Wang has been a partner with the grassroots Commonwealth Shakespeare, providing principal underwriting and in-kind services. Now Commonwealth will share office space at the Wang, which will also provide administrative overhead.

Commonwealth artistic director Steven Maler will retain creative control of the company, which is best known for its free summer performances on the Common, but will be able to avail himself of the marketing and strategic expertise that Wang chief Josiah Spaulding has developed at the Center.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of all this is the prospect that at some future date, Bostonians may be able to enjoy not only Shakespeare under the stars, but also indoor winter performances at the Wang-controlled Shubert Theatre staged by a resident, not-for-profit company. If any duo could pull off such a feat, Maler and Spaulding are it.

In terms of dollars and cents, the Wang has upped its commitment considerably, expecting to provide in excess of $1.5 million over the next three years. Thatís a bold move in an era of reduced personal, corporate, and governmental giving. The Wang board of directors deserves the publicís hearty applause for thinking big when so many others are talking small. So, too, does the Commonwealthís board, which has displayed a welcome sense of adventurous initiative.

The marriage of the Wang and the Commonwealth may be evolutionary, but it has potential revolutionary implications if other groups take their cue and follow their lead. Pooling resources and expertise to reduce necessary administrative costs could allow arts groups to help maximize the funds they need to survive these tough times ó as well as to grow in the future. It is not a cure-all, but itís a plan.

THIS SATURDAY, almost 300 third-graders from the Boston Public Schools, accompanied by parents or another adult, will attend a matinee performance of the Boston Balletís production of La Fille Mal Gardée ( " the badly guarded daughter " ) as part of the Balletís citywide outreach program, City Dance.

City Dance is about more than a pleasant and free ó at least for the kids and their families ó afternoon of entertainment and enrichment. Itís part of a structured 10-week course that brings children to the Balletís South End studios for actual dance lessons and enrichment by company members and outside specialists in a range of ethnic and modern forms.

Corporations wisely foot the bill (in the case of City Dance, Verizon). At a time when the Ballet, like so many other creative organizations, is under the gun, it is testimony to the organizational commitment of the Balletís corporate underwriters, board, staff, patrons, and dancers that programs such as City Dance continue.

The Balletís sense of public spirit is shared by almost every arts group ó major or minor ó in the city. The Wang, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, the Symphony, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science, and the Aquarium, to name just some of the most obvious examples, all have similar programs. Amid all the welcome but often generalized talk about what the arts contribute to this community, here is a worthy and concrete example. City Hall and the State House should take note.

BOSTONíS CITYSCAPE ó with works by Bulfinch (the State House), Richardson (Trinity Church), and McKim (the Boston Public Library) ó is as much a cultural jewel as any masterpiece hanging in our art museums. So it is a welcome and historic occasion when a building of equal distinction is planned. And thatís just what the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) did last year when it announced its intention to build its new home on donated land on Bostonís waterfront.

While the formidable task of funding the structure is still at issue, the architectsí plans and models showing the stages of development for the starkly elegant new building ó the first museum to be built in town from scratch in more than 100 years ó are now on display through April 27 at the ICAís Back Bay location.

" Building a Vision: Diller + Scofidio in Boston " shows in very real terms what a magnificent addition the building will be to the Waterfront and the city. It promises to be a world-class building, worthy of mention in the same breath as I.M. Peiís shimmering Hancock Tower and Machado and Silvettiís smaller and more textured Allston Public Library.

Arts groups are in a position to present great work, but rarely is one in a position to create great work. That is the potential here. See for yourself. Visit the ICA's Web site at or, better yet, go in person. (For more information, check our museums listings)

What do you think? Send an e-mail to letters[a]

Issue Date: February 27 - March 6, 2003
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