Somerville's ArtBeat returns with its finger on the city's cultural 'pulse'

People dancing in the street at ArtBeat. (Photo courtesy of the Somerville Arts Council)
People dancing in the street at ArtBeat. (Photo courtesy of the Somerville Arts Council)

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The Seven Hills are alive with the sound of music.

No, seriously. If you happen to catch a tune on the breeze coming just northwest of Boston on the 15th, it might be because this Saturday marks the return of Somerville’s ArtBeat festival.

Featuring over 70 craft vendors, a lineup of musicians from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., tasty bites from local businesses (including a Somerville favorite, the Italian Wizard food truck) and more in Davis Square, this festival is a can’t-miss for culture lovers in the Greater Boston area.

For the last 37 years, this festival organized by the city’s arts council has encouraged local creatives to showcase their work — in an array of art forms — within a chosen theme. This year is “pulse,” a concept uniquely interpreted by performers and organizers alike.

Jorge Arce, a lifelong performing artist, feels the “pulse” theme weaves in naturally with the bright Afro-Caribbean tunes his band, Jorge Arce & Humano, will be delivering this weekend.

Jorge Arce & Humano. (Photo courtesy of the Somerville Arts Council)
Jorge Arce & Humano. (Photo courtesy of the Somerville Arts Council)

“Pulses are gonna go up when you listen to [us],” Arce told me in an interview. “We have a big pulse in our beats… in our music. It’s vibrant.” (You can catch him at 6 p.m. on the Seven Hills Park stage.)

Beyond the works showcased, “Artbeat is a snapshot of the city’s cultural pulse,” said Rachel Strutt, the cultural director for the Somerville Arts Council. “It reflects everything that’s very local.”

For a famously eclectic city of approximately 80,000 residents, “everything local” spans widely across diverse genres. The festival will include all kinds of sounds, everything from classic Americana to swing to electro-pop, Strutt added.

“I love music, and I’m very involved with helping curate the music,” said Strutt. “There’s a percussive bike ensemble [Reynaliz Bike Orchestra] using drumsticks to play the bikes. It’s very quirky, and very Somerville.”

If a day at the ArtBeat festival seems like a fantastic way to spend this Saturday, here are some things you’ll want to know before you go:

It’s going to be a hot day (with a high of 85) and a chance of showers, so bring some water, sunscreen and an umbrella, just in case.

  • Keep your water bottle handy. You’ll have a chance to refill it at the festival’s Quench Buggy.

Performances will be held all around Davis Square, which will be closed to car traffic. (So strap on those walking shoes.) That includes Somerville Theater, Seven Hills Park, Elm Street, Holland Street and Kenney Park. Find the lineup of artists and stages here.

Hungry? Bow Market’s Nibble Kitchen is taking over the Davis Square traffic island, offering bento boxes, tacos, pupusas and even “an interactive food activity” where you can test your spice-sniffing abilities.

  • There will also be pop-up stands serving Thai, Nepali and Indian cuisine; the aforementioned Italian Wizard and festival classics like cotton candy, fried dough and lemonade.

And lastly, the festival is free, but a donation of $3 will get you a dog tag.

P.S. — Nine of this year’s ArtBeat performances will be held at the Somerville Theater, Greater Boston’s oldest operating movie theater. Dig into this stage’s unique history here.

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Hanna Ali Associate Producer
Hanna Ali is an associate producer for newsletters at WBUR.



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