To wrap up the summer and usher in the fall, the City of Boston, in collaboration with the State Street Corporation, produced the eleventh annual Boston Arts Festival—more simply known as “ähts.” The festival took over at the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, near Boston’s North End, on Saturday, Aug. 30 and Sunday, Aug. 31. 

With a view of the harbor on one side and the Rose Kennedy Greenway on the other, the festival’s location was perfect and readily available for both locals and tourists. The open nature of the festival also allowed people to come and go, enjoying both the festival and other attractions in Boston. 

According to the event’s Facebook page, the festival showcased “diverse performing arts, educational and interactive art activities, cutting-edge temporary public art, and more than 45 juried local artists selling their work.” The artists—mostly local vendors—were stationed in booths organized into aisles striping through the middle of the greenery, so festival-goers could walk through the park and see all of the wares, works and pieces that were for sale and on view. 

One of the interactive exhibits, “Water Graffiti for Peace,” hosted by artists Shaw Pong Liu and Mike Mei, attracted a sizable crowd. The artists set up large posters of Chinese radicals, the fundamentals of the written Chinese language—to inspire festivalgoers to create their own Chinese characters. Participants used special oversized sidewalk calligraphy brushes to paint their characters for peace onto the pavement directly. 

Attracting mostly children, The Fun Factor set up linked fence-shaped panels for people to paint themselves, culminating in an abstract purple, blue and pink design. The Fun Factor is a Newton-based company that provides, according to their website, “corporate interactive entertainment,” as well as team building events, themed and holiday parties and summer outings, like scavenger hunts, for kids. 

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By Jessie Miller

PAINT IT UP: A member from The UP Truck, the mobile art initiative, creates a new piece as festivalgoers watch on, just one of their many demonstrations.

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By Creative Commons

WELCOME TO BOSTON: The Boston Arts Festival transformed the usually tranquil Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, pictured here, into a lively area.

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By Jessie Miller

SHAPESHIFTERS: Tsahe Diablo Glass Company demonstrated how glass is made in an oven.

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By Jessie Miller

ON THE FENCE: Festivalgoers of all ages contributed to this colorful fence painting project.

Diablo Glass Company demonstrated glass blowing at their installation, explaining the glass-making process as they used a furnace and other equipment to shape the glass. Across the park, adults and children participated in “Sidewalk Chalk with Christian Guerra,” leaving the paved walkway decorated with colorful writing and designs, including a peace dove design. 

What looked like a food truck was parked in the middle of the walkway. However, the street art style painted truck was not selling food, rather the work of The UP Truck, “a mobile creative arts lab for community engagement using unconditional ways to engage people in the arts,” according to their website. Along with live painting demonstrations, The UP Truck artists also explained their ideas and style to eagerly listening festival attendants. 

During the entire festival, constant music located on a mainstage set up just in front of the waterfront, livened up the atmosphere. Some of the performers included J Hoard and the Greenhouse People, Los Rumberos de Boston, Thalia Zedek Band and Animal Hospital Ensemble. 

On Saturday night, the City of Boston and Summer on the Waterfront presented a fireworks show from within the harbor, attracting large crowds along the water. Despite the cold temperature, the fireworks were an excellent way to end the day, especially since it was Labor Day weekend. 

While the performance art and interactive art pieces—like the fence-painting project and UP Truck—stood out to attendees this year, this year’s festival was very different from last year’s festival, and not entirely for the better. At last year’s Festival of the Arts, which was the tenth anniversary of the event, several interactive installation art pieces were staged in the park, and attracted visitors to have a tactile interaction with art. Having gone to the festival for the past two years, we really missed this aspect of the occasion—seeing families walk through aisles of vendors just wasn’t the same as seeing parents hold their toddlers’ hands as they walked through life-size sculptures and installation pieces. 

Overall, though, the “ähts” Festival was a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon, and encouraged us to interact with both Boston and the array of art that the city is home to. We’re looking forward to next year.