“The whole festival—it’s kind of loosely organized chaos,” laughs Somerville Arts Council Cultural Director Rachel Strutt of the annual ArtBeat celebration. “Things usually happen that surprise and delight us that we couldn’t even conceive of.”
ArtBeat comes to Davis Square on July 15 and 16, with two stages of music, dance at the Somerville Theatre, more than 75 craft vendors and great food from area eateries, all of which will address the theme of “roots.” Each year, Strutt explains, the Arts Council board tries to choose a theme that’s both evocative and broad, and roots can be interpreted in a whole host of ways—plant growth, cultural or genealogical roots, roots music. “You could look at square roots—you could even interpret it mathematically,” Strutt says.
As with most Arts Council events, ArtBeat performers will celebrate the theme with visual, musical and even culinary arts. The central traffic island in Davis will house a sprawling, interactive sculpture by local artist Kelvy Davis that cascades down to the ground from the traffic light above; visitors are invited to write about their own roots on a postcard and affix it to the piece. Banda Raizes—whose name literally translates to “roots band” in Portuguese—is bringing forró and sertanejo dance music to the Elm Street Stage on Saturday for what Strutt hopes will turn into “a full-on Brazilian dance party.” And naturally, there are plenty of family-friendly activities so kids can get in on the action too, including a “toddler rave” hosted by DJ Jef Czekaj.
Then of course, there’s the food. ArtBeat will bring international flavors to Davis Square with the help of Arts Council Nibble program culinary entrepreneurs like Las Carolinas, whose arepas are a must-try, and a dozen other local eateries. “It will be an opportunity to try some really diverse food from around the planet, not just fried dough,” Strutt says.
“Nothing against fried dough,” she adds with a chuckle, “but I like these arepas better.”
ArtBeat kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 15 and at 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. A $3 suggested donation is encouraged (and gets you a nifty little ArtBeat dog tag). You can find the full festival lineup here and let people know you’re attending on Facebook.