Philanthropist Ted Cutler foots the bill for the second Outside the Box arts extravaganza.
One of the biggest sequels to hit Boston this summer won’t feature a costumed superhero at the Cineplex. Instead it will star one of the city’s most die-hard champions of the arts, who is bringing his performing arts festival, Outside the Box, back for a second run. But considering that this multimillion-dollar event is privately funded and free to everyone, perhaps Ted Cutler should don superhero garb after all.
A noted philanthropist, Cutler launched Outside the Box in 2013. The nine-day summer festival brought 650,000 visitors to Boston, he says, and now it’s returning after a two-year hiatus. Running July 14–19 on Boston Common, it will feature a mix of theatrical performances, music, dance, magic, and culinary demonstrations. Cutler has a straightforward approach to programming. “Good is good and bad stinks,” he says. “We keep away from what stinks and we stick with what’s good—for kids, for adults, for everybody.”
But children are the audience Cutler is most mindful of. He was amazed by the number of children from all over the city he met in 2013, many of them receiving their first exposure to the performing arts. “What we do is so important for kids,” he says. “A lot of them can’t afford the ballgame ticket anymore, or tickets to the theaters.” With that in mind, puppet shows and educational arts activities have been programmed to attract the smaller set.
Cutler has long espoused the power of the arts in cities (he is the Cutler behind Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theatre). He spent millions of his own money— which came from organizing technology trade shows— to produce the first festival and estimates that he’ll spend another $2 million this year.
For the upcoming Outside the Box festival, he tapped award-winning local actress Georgia Lyman to serve as artistic director, and he has invited a host of local arts groups, including the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, the theater troupe Liars & Believers, and the Renaissance Charter School, to fill the bill. The festival has cast its net internationally, too. “We have agreements from 10 or 12 different countries to bring their dance and theater companies,” Cutler says.
Outside the Box has also partnered with a local radio powerhouse: Greater Media Boston, owner of the country station WKLB, WMJX (Magic 106.7), and WBOS, 92.9. On Friday evening, WKLB will bring headlining country artists to the stage, while on Saturday night the alternative-rock station WBOS will present cutting-edge indie acts.
“Eclectic” is the byword for Outside the Box, because Cutler refuses to be boxed in. July 14–19 on Boston Common. For a schedule of performances, visit otbboston.com