Boston Arts and Entertainment
By Madison Marone
Arthur Griffin’s legacy lives on through the Griffin Museum of Photography. As an Exhibitions Assistant for the museum, I was struck by the beauty and historical value of his work. I’ve created this exhibition to highlight and provide context for Griffin’s photographs of New England.
Illuminating the Archive of Arthur Griffin: Photographs 1935-1955, views the region’s cultural heritage, traditions, and aesthetic through the lens of Griffin’s lesser-known work. The six-part exhibition explores how photography affects the way we relate to and understand the past. Each exhibit features historical, sociological, and creative interpretations of photographs from the museum’s collection.
This installment focuses on Boston’s arts and entertainment sector documented through Griffin’s photos. It is divided into three sections: music, fine arts, and theater. In the first section, we will be exploring the history of the two major orchestras in Boston: the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. The second section covers the public’s interaction with the Museum of Fine Arts. The final section looks at the theater and live performances throughout the city. I’ve included video clips throughout this exhibit to provide additional context and bring each section to life.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Boston Pops have long been recognized in the city’s music scene. BSO was founded in 1881, making it the second oldest of the five major American symphony orchestras. They are renowned for performing both classical and contemporary music. In 1885, the Boston Pops Orchestra was created as an offshoot of the BSO. They play light classical, popular music, and show tunes with the intention of making music more accessible to audiences.
Both groups perform at Symphony Hall in Boston, however, for the Boston Pops the seating is reconfigured from an auditorium to cabaret-style. Each orchestra has alternative summer performance spaces. The BSO plays at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center while the Boston Pops offers annual concerts at the Hatch Shell. The two conductors in Griffin’s photographs are Serge Koussevitzky (Boston Symphony Orchestra 1924-1949) and Arthur Fiedler (Boston Pops 1930-1949). They were influential music directors that helped the orchestras evolve to where they are today. Both orchestras have had a major effect on the Boston area by exposing generations to the joy of orchestral music.
If you would like to learn more and watch a performance, please see the following videos:
The Tanglewood Story (United States Information Services, 1949) includes Koussevitzky conducting and the history of Tanglewood Music Center.
An Evening at Pops (PBS, 1978) includes highlights from the Pops Fourth of July show, interviews with Fiedler, Hatch Shell history, and features some of Griffin’s photographs.
Griffin attended these performances as an audience member and photojournalist. His images of the orchestras were printed in the Boston Globe to help create excitement for their concerts. Photos include portraits of the conductors and establishing shots from the audience’s perspective. Details about his famous photo of the composer Paderewski can be found here: Arthur Griffin’s Image of Ignacy Paderewski. Griffin’s photos capture the energy of the musicians as they entertain and share music with people of all ages.
The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1870. It is a cultural and educational resource for visitors and locals alike. Visitors can see an array of artwork ranging from paintings to sculptures, textiles to ancient artifacts. Students have long visited the institution to sketch famous works of art and be inspired by what’s on display.
If you would like to take a look inside the museum, please see the following video:
A Visit to the Boston Fine Arts Museum (Bill A Graham, 2015) A montage of videos showing art on display at the MFA.
Griffin’s work captures the grandeur of this Boston landmark. In the following photographs, visitors are enjoying art and exploring the exhibit halls. Additional photos show the efforts that go on behind the scenes to create magnificent displays for the public to enjoy.
Boston is a vibrant city with a large performing arts scene. In the 1940s, the city had over 50 theaters. Washington Street Theater District was a central location with an array of performance venues and restaurants. The buildings in this district include the Boston Opera House, the Paramount Theater, and The Colonial Theater. Famous performers and popular shows often toured in Boston ranging from musicals and experimental theater to vaudeville shows.
If you would like to learn more about theatre in Boston, please see the following videos:
Boston Uncovered: Emerson College’s Colonial Theatre (City of Boston, 2019) Kit Haggard, Director of the Boston Literary District, discusses the Boston production circuit and the evolution of Oklahoma at the Colonial Theatre.
#MyColonial (Emerson Colonial Theatre, 2018) Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Harvey Fierstein celebrate the reopening of the Colonial Theatre by sharing how it has impacted them. The video highlights Boston’s influence on the theatre world at large.
Griffin’s photography helped promote interest in the theater scene. He documented the artists backstage and during performances. These glamorous and thrilling images were printed in the Boston Globe, creating excitement around the shows. The following photos feature the bright lights of the theater district and the performers who brought it to life.
Music, fine arts, and theater are an important part of the cultural fabric of our society. Griffin’s photos illuminate the arts and entertainment sector by giving us a glimpse behind the scenes, and through the eyes of audiences that have enjoyed them. The photos in this exhibit remind us of the many enriching experiences that these institutions provide. I look forward to a time in the near future when we can gather and enjoy art together once more.
Special thanks to the Boston Public Library for digitizing a large portion of the Arthur Griffin Archive so it may be accessible to the public. If you would like to view more photos and library material, visit the Boston Public Library for the Digital Commonwealth and the Digital Public Library of America.
Madison Marone is an Exhibition Assistant at the Griffin Museum of Photography and a graduate student pursuing her MSc in museum studies at the University of Glasgow. She holds a BA in film studies and sociology from the University of Vermont. Her interests include early to mid-20th-century art history, film theory, and exhibit design.
“The History of the BSO Boston Symphony Orchestra.” Boston Symphony Orchestra, www.bso.org/brands/bso/about-us/historyarchives/the-history-of-the-bso.aspx.
“A Brief History of the Boston Pops Boston Symphony Orchestra.” Boston Pops, www.bso.org/brands/pops/about-us/historyarchives/the-history-of-the-boston-pops.aspx.
“Serge Koussevitzky.” New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Serge_Koussevitsky.
“The Tanglewood Story.” YouTube, United States Information Services, 1949, youtu.be/WNBqpGoW7fU.
“An Evening at Pops: July 4 1977.” YouTube, PBS, 1978, youtu.be/tVnfXy0v7kc.
“About the MFA.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, www.mfa.org/about.
Graham, Bill A, director. A Visit to the Boston Fine Arts Museum. YouTube, 9 Dec. 2015, youtu.be/qW5p90m7O7U.
“Boston Uncovered: Emerson College’s Colonial Theatre.” YouTube, City of Boston, 14 Mar. 2019, youtu.be/I2i9yk212p0.
“#MyColonial.” YouTube, Emerson Colonial Theatre, 11 July 2018, youtu.be/3w4USeUahAo.
Guide, Boston Discovery. Boston Theater Guide – Theatre District Venues, Shows, Tickets, Discounts – Boston Discovery Guide, www.boston-discovery-guide.com/boston-theater.html.
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