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2019 arts year in review

Looking back at a diverse and thriving Boston arts scene

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
2019 arts year in review
“Greater Good” playwright Kirsten Greenidge. PHOTO: SIMON SIMARD

It was a spectacular year for artists of color in Boston. Diverse voices thrived in theater, visual art, music, dance and performance across the city. Before we dive into all the arts 2020 has to offer, we’re looking back on a few of the many wonderful works of 2019.

‘Greater Good’ at Company One Theatre

Boston-area native playwright Kirsten Greenidge debuted her new piece “Greater Good” at the Commonwealth School this year. The installation-style theater performance physically led audiences through the halls of the school while examining access and equity in education spaces. In a city constantly in discussions about public and private schooling, the show struck a sharply resonant chord.

‘Moby-Dick: A Musical Reckoning’ at American Repertory Theater

Herman Melville’s classic tale got a racially charged makeover at the American Repertory Theater starting in December. The diverse cast fought against the power dynamics within the ship’s crew and the “great white whale” of white supremacy, while also commenting on issues of environmental degradation and exclusionary history. It was epic in every sense of the word.

“Breathe Life 3” mural by Rob Gibbs. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

“Breathe Life 3” mural by Rob Gibbs. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

‘Breathe Life 3’ mural by Rob “Problak” Gibbs

Returning to the Roxbury neighborhood he grew up in, Gibbs painted the latest installment in his “Breathe Life” street art series with 500 cans of spray paint and a whole lot of love for the black community. The mural, which becomes 3-D with use of an associated app, depicts a brother and sister duo experiencing the sheer joy of childhood. This stunning piece further underscored the importance of supporting our local artists and their communities.

‘Quixote Nuevo’ at Huntington Theatre Company

“Don Quixote” got a hilarious and tragic contemporary makeover at the Huntington Theatre Company in the bilingual romp “Quixote Nuevo.” Combining the talents of writer Octavio Solis (one of the storytellers behind Disney’s “Coco”), director K.J. Sanchez and actor Emilio Delgado (of 40 years as Luis on “Sesame Street”), the production spoke to Boston’s Latinx community the languages of Spanish and of acceptance.

Robert Pruitt at the MFA

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston kicked off its annual “Banner Project” series with a group of three artworks by Robert Pruitt. The banners depict three generations of black women from the local community (including one who works at the museum as a security guard). The women are wearing different items from the MFA’s collection, celebrating both the city’s black heritage and African arts.

Jade Wheeler as legendary performer Eartha Kitt. PHOTO: ANDREW BRILLIANT

Jade Wheeler as legendary performer

‘Who is Eartha Mae?’ at Bridge Repertory Theater

This small but mighty production at Cambridge’s Multicultural Center for the Arts celebrated Eartha Kitt, not just for the woman she was molded to be on stage, but for every crack and struggle she experienced off stage as well. Triple-threat Jade Wheeler portrayed Kitt with power, clarity and deference in a spectacular performance. It was an important reminder that it doesn’t take a big theater budget (or a white protagonist) to make a smash.

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