The Fenway Alliance is a consortium of 21 globally renowned cultural and academic institutions located in the Fenway. Together with our member institutions, 28 corporate partners, and 26 community partners, we create innovative and relevant programming that supports local artists and entrepreneurs while allowing improved access to the unique offerings of the Fenway to the greater public, especially those from the underserved neighborhoods in the Fenway, lower Roxbury, East Boston, Dorchester, and Mission Hill. Our collective goal is to build our community and enhance the District, creating a 5-mile area that remains and grows in its uniquely rich academic and cultural offerings and its beautiful parklands. We create and sustain the Fenway Cultural District (officially designated by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in March 2012) and provide the highest quality intellectual, social, and cultural opportunities for individuals and families throughout the region. We work with our partners to: 1) enhance the District through cultural programming, combined place-making, and marketing efforts; 2) strengthen collaboration with Alliance members, community organizations, local businesses, and artists; 3) advocate for environmental sustainability in our neighborhood and surrounding parklands; and 4) improve infrastructure and streetscapes throughout our institutions and transportation systems.
Since 1990, The Alliance has been a key partner in the rehabilitation and maintenance of Olmsted’s Muddy River Park and Parklands. This rehabilitation began as an investigation and data collection project at Northeastern University, a founding member of the Fenway Alliance, to inform work needed to contain the terrible flooding of the Muddy River in the early ‘90s. This initial work gave birth to the Fenway Alliance as a leader in a complex, long term, and ultimately successful advocacy project that garnered Massachusetts Congressional Delegation support and ultimately US Army Corps of Engineers undertaking of the restoration of the historic Olmsted Muddy River Park. One of the largest advocacy projects in Boston history, the effort brought together over 25 organizations and many private residents. The Army Corps Project was completed in 2018. It is a remarkable legacy gift the Alliance, City of Boston, Town of Brookline, Commonwealth of MA, and all the partnering advocate organizations and people involved have bestowed to current and future generations.
In 1998, beautification initiatives lead by the Alliance expanded to include Huntington Avenue/Avenue of the Arts Rehabilitation and Beautification Project—the cultural heart of the Fenway. Building on the momentum of the Mayoral designation, the Alliance advocated for federal funds to be applied to the much-needed repairs and beautification of the Avenue of the Arts, initiating a $22 million project that placed 612 trees on the Avenue, all new MBTA stations, antique acorn lighting, and other public amenities including benches, grass, and the preservation of the MBTA tracks reminiscent of some of the most beautiful European cities. In a unique private/public partnership, the Alliance then contracted with the City of Boston to maintain all the “green aspects” of the project, which we do to this day.
Our work to maintain the cultural might on Huntington Avenue has remained a priority for the past 22 years. We successfully advocated to keep the MBTA Green Line running on weekends when it threatened to stop weekend service due to budgetary constraints In 2019, we were successful in our advocacy for major improvements to the MBTA Green Line Symphony T-stations. Recently, we successfully advocated to keep The Huntington Theatre on Huntington Avenue. In 2016, Boston University changed its longstanding partnership relationship with the Huntington Theatre and put the building on Huntington Avenue up for sale. Working closely with Mayor Marty Walsh and his team from the City of Boston and some of Boston’s leading cultural advocacy organizations-- like MassCreative, Stage Source, and ArtsBoston—we ensured that the Huntington Theatre was able to remain and thrive on the Avenue of the Arts. Using traditional and new forms of social media advocacy, the campaign “keep Huntington on Huntington” was a rousing success—Mayor Walsh listed it as one of is best moments in 2016!
In 2001, The Fenway Alliance hosted the inaugural Opening Our Doors festival, which is now the longest standing free-to-the- public event of cultural experiences in Boston, with 65 activities taking place in 17 indoor and outdoor venues. Opening Our Doors goes far beyond “your little neighborhood arts festival” in the content and quality of its offerings. In past Opening Our Doors events, we have welcomed over 13,000 people to the Fenway to take part in art-making activities with MassArt’ssparc! theArtmobile, theatre improv workshops at the Huntington Theatre Company, chalk art and artistic performances on the Christian Science Plaza, indoor kite-flying, public art installations on Evans Way Park, live music and dance performances by Zumix, Sociedad Latina, and La Piñata on the Christian Science Plaza, and numerous other activities that invite the public to explore the great cultural, academic and artistic resources of the Fenway Cultural District. This year, performances and activities included offerings from Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola, 826Boston, Boston Children’s Chorus, Hot Tamale Brass Band, Oakleaf Cakes, New England Conservatory, Bow Sim Mark Tai Chi Arts Academy, Eon Dance Troupe, Kaliente Dance Troupe, Madrigal Singers at Northeastern University, ZiliMisik, Urban Sketchers Boston, KajiAso Studio, ARCK Boston, Boston Society of Architects, 4 Star Dance Studio, Grooversity, Veronica Robles All Female Mariachi Band, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, at locations including The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Evans Way Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The SMFA at Tufts, and more. With each Opening Our Doors, the Alliance has expanded the number and range of offerings, and seeks to build upon previous years’ programming.
In 2012, the Alliance launched our Public by Design Temporary Public Art initiative, which aims to bring beautiful, dynamic, and place-relevant installations designed by local artists to the Fenway Cultural District. Public by Design supports the Alliance’s belief that public art enhances people’s experiences and interactions within a community, encourages visitation and appreciation of the Fenway’s numerous green spaces, and helps build a vibrant Cultural District. Some examples of past public art projects supported by the Alliance are: Convergence, an outdoor sculpture installation hosted by the First Church of Christ, Scientist; ENfold/Evans Way Park, a public art installation designed by Kim Poliquin, exhibited on Evans Way Park; Interlace, a public art piece designed by Goody Clancy; Hydra, a piece by Kim Poliquin; Sparkle+Chime, a public art installation designed by Jean Kim of Shepley Bulfinch; and You Are Needed, an interactive, large-scale mural project led by Alex Cook. All public art installations were available in public spaces at no cost to the public.
In 2013, The Alliance founded TEDxFenway, bringing the “ideas worth spreading” phenomenon to our beloved Cultural District. TEDxFenway has featured a range of dynamic thought leaders from Governor Michael Dukakis to BPDA Board Member and President Emeritus of the BAC Ted Landsmark, to leading scientists, artists and entertainers. Hosting venues have included Alliance member Northeastern University, Alliance partner Samuels Associates Landmark Center, and Alliance member Berklee College of Music. Importantly, the Alliance offers these events free to the public, and it has enabled the Alliance to actively engage the important generation of millennial who will be our next leaders.
A most recent addition to the Alliance’s portfolio of free arts and culture activities is Fenway Porchfest. Developed in 2018, in partnership with The Fenway Civic Association and Fenway Community Development Corporation, The Fenway Alliance coordinates Fenway Porchfest, an afternoon of free music performed outside in public spaces and Fenway’s gorgeous parks. In organizing Fenway Porchfest, we work closely with BAMSfest, Berklee, and many other contributors to ensure a diverse roster of performers and a culturally rich offering of venues. We believe that, in both background and genre, our Porchfest is uniquely diverse due to our efforts to include a wide range of performers, even ranging to spoken word. Fenway Porchfest occurred across 36 Fenway locations and saw 87 participating acts, each drawing a unique audience of its own. Like in other Porchfests, participating artists often draw their fans to their shows, which brings a new and vibrant set of people into the Fenway to appreciate the arts, green spaces, and mix with the residents of the area all while enjoying the music. Both Fenway Porchfest 2018 and Fenway Porchfest 2019 were not only great days of music, but testaments to what collaborative, community-based efforts can bring to the Fenway. By embedding free art and cultural events into the Fenway through programs like Opening Our Doors and Fenway Porchfest, we aim to draw audiences that otherwise might not have engaged in the arts and green spaces.
Developing the Alliance’s partnerships with the area’s underserved youth is an essential mission of the Alliance. Since 2012, the Alliance has regularly attended meetings at, and reached out to, the Mission Hill Youth Collaborative to engage youth and artists from Mission Hill, Fenway, and Roxbury in music, dance and poetry performances at Opening Our Doors, our annual Fall arts and culture festival. Additionally, we work with youth groups from East Boston and Jamaica Plains to provide opportunities for these children to experience the creative and environmental wealth of the Fenway Cultural District, and to participate at Opening Our Doors, TEDxFenway, Fenway Porchfest, and other Alliance programming. For example, Fenway Porchfest 2019 included a location in the Emerald Necklace—a public park that the Alliance is a key player in maintaining—that exclusively featured youth performers, creating a great opportunity for young people to engage in the cultural, artistic, and environmental aspects of the Fenway. Several youth-centered organizations that we work with are Sociedad Latina, ZUMIX, La Piñata, and the YMCA of Greater Boston.
A powerhouse cultural place-maker, The Fenway Alliance serves our members and all citizens of Boston through our numerous cultural programs and public art initiatives, major large-scale environmental and infrastructure improvement projects, and significant track record of successful advocacy to improve our neighborhood for all. We care deeply about the Fenway, the city of Boston; and the experience of all Boston citizens, and regional, national and global visitors to our singular and intensely culture-filled neighborhood.