If you visit Davis Square on Saturday, you may find yourself in the middle of an art therapy workshop, or taking a stroll down “Aqua Alley” with different water samples, or next to a 12-foot inflatable virus statue. ArtBeat returns to Somerville this weekend, with a new challenge for attendees: to consider and confront the ways that they consume.
The “consumed” theme of the annual arts festival is a collaboration between the Somerville Arts Council and the Office of Sustainability and Environment, incorporating climate activism into the festival’s schedule of bands and interactive art.
“We like to choose themes that are kind of open-ended and can be interpreted in different ways,” says Rachel Strutt, cultural director of the Somerville Arts Council. “But this year, consumed—we were hoping this would happen, and this is what happened—consumed has been mostly interpreted as it relates to our consumption habits and how that affects the planet.”
Strutt says the theme heavily influenced the selection of artists, artisans, exhibits, and vendors for the festival.
“This year, we spent a lot of time cultivating installations and interactive activities that speak to the theme ‘consumed’ and climate activism,” Strutt says. “We put out a call to artists and climate change activists to try and get them to partner up to produce installations and activities for the festival.”
Visitors can bring their broken goods to tune up at Parts and Crafts’ Fixer Fair, or follow the chalk carbon footprints to anti-consumption bingo. Those seeking respite from the heat can enjoy three dance performances centered around identity and human consumption in the Somerville Theatre.
For the festival’s main event, Grooversity will lead a parade down Elm Street at 5:30 p.m. All attendees are invited to join the activists and artists as they make their way down the road.
If you’re in the mood for music, there are four separate music stages around the square featuring bands and solo performers of all genres (kelzmer to hip-hop, merengue to a cappella protest). The festival will also feature booths of “craftsters and crafty companies,” along with local outreach organizations and dining options.
The theme “consumed” also made the organizers of the festival consider the festival’s consumption impact, as festivals often produce large amounts of waste. ArtBeat will include clearly labeled trash and recycling bins, and the organizers ask that attendees bring their own water bottles to refill at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Quench Buggy. The Somerville Arts Council and the Office of Sustainability and Environment also hope to put together a kit on how to host a sustainable festival based on their experience with this year’s ArtBeat.
Strutt says that though this year’s theme is more serious than past ArtBeat themes, she hopes the festival will be a fun and playful way to engage the community.
“How do you address a deeply serious topic, but do so in a way that is hopefully innovative and engaging? Because it is still like a huge, fun summer cultural festival,” Strutt says. “So it’s been an interesting juxtaposition to take on something this weighty, but also, do it within the context of a fun summer festival.”