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Mission Hill Arts Festival returns June – August

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Mission Hill Arts Festival returns June – August
Scene from the 2021 Mission Hill Arts Festival. PHOTO: N. AHMADIFAR

Arts curator Luisa Harris and musician and educator Kevin Harris launched the Mission Hill Arts Festival in 2021 to provide community members with safe outdoor entertainment during the pandemic. The multi-month concert series was so successful, it’s now back for the third year. The 2023 festival will feature performances by two local artists each month, June-August.

Exuberance is the theme of this year’s festival and captures the energy in Boston as it resurfaces from pandemic restrictions. “Our desire for the festival with this year’s theme [is] to spur audience and artists to focus on the powers lying within us, the resilience we all have, the creative energies, the force of one’s initiative, and much more,” says Luisa Harris. “In short, to kindle or rekindle a sense of wonder or enthusiasm to act.”

A festival goer checks out the art at the 2022 Mission Hill Arts Festival. PHOTO: N. AHMADIFAR

The 2023 lineup includes Bill Pierce, Jalen Bunch, The Loop, Lee Fish, Alex Fatato and the Kevin Harris Project. The artists were chosen to represent a diverse set of musical styles from jazz to chamber music. The festival isn’t limited to just music; Bunch will perform a dance piece and The Loop will bend genres by fusing music like R&B and hip-hop with spoken word.

The Mission Hill Arts Festival is intentionally not free. Tickets range from $5 and $10 for young people ages 13-18 and for seniors to $40 for reserved front row seating. “One of my goals is to help recognize the worth of arts,” says Harris. She wanted an admission fee to demonstrate the value of these musical artists and to break down the idea that the arts should always be free. Accessibility is important, but so is reinforcing the value of creative work.

Though the Harrises launched and organize the festival, its continued operation is supported by Arts Talks, Celebrity Series of Boston Neighborhood Arts, Boston Cultural Council, Tobin Community Center, Mission Hill Main Streets, Dan Vlahos Design, The Record Co. and Northeastern Off Campus Engagement and Support.

A performance by Abria Smith during the 2022 Mission Hill Arts Festival. PHOTO: N. AHMADIFAR

Two concerts each month will be shown at The Yard at the Tobin Community Center in Mission Hill, spreading the festival out from June to August. In addition to the live performances (music, dance, spoken word and otherwise) there will be two pop-up visual art installations, one of Japanese pen and ink artist Itsuo Kiritani and one of photographer Nancy Ahmadifar. 

The key piece of the festival is experiencing the beauty of the arts together, not just on a YouTube screen at home. “The point of the festival is to be really connecting with one another,” says Harris. “I think, in general, communities are served better by the plurality of people, not just the individual.”