Arts & Entertainment, Features, Local

New arts nonprofit launched to run programming for upcoming Kendall Square arts venue

By 2025, Kendall Square’s skyline will have a new and exciting addition — a 16-story laboratory and office space that will house the Boston-area’s first new performance theater in nearly 15 years. To run it, two organizations announced the launch of a new nonprofit to promote arts and cultural programming: “585 Arts.”

third street in kendall square cambridge
Third Street in Cambridge, the future home of nonprofit 585 Arts. Global Arts Live and BioMed Realty are launching the organization and funding construction of a new laboratory, office and performance space at 585 Third St. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Global Arts Live, a Cambridge-based nonprofit organization committed to bringing international arts to the greater Boston area and real estate “solution” provider BioMed Realty announced March 10 that a new nonprofit dedicated to the arts and culture would be created — a long-awaited goal for the Canal District.

Once 585 Arts is up and running, it will independently oversee the programming for the venue and will promote a “diverse array of performers and artists,” according to a Canal District Kendall press release.

Nagesh Mahanthappa, the board president of Global Arts Live, said the organization was interested in this project and partnership because of the lack of arts venues in Boston.

“There just are not enough venues for presenting,” Mahanthappa said. “And then you’ll also hear from the artist community that affordability is another dimension of complexity here.”

The arts “hub” is expected to be built by 2025 and will be at 585 Third St., which is known for the “Constellation Center” proposal that never came to fruition. The Cambridge City Council unanimously approved the site for a rezone in December, and the area, the Canal District, has been experiencing a range of innovation and tech related development since 1998.

At more than 30,000 square feet, the venue will include rehearsal space, meeting rooms, a 300-seat theater and spaces in and outdoors. Mahanthappa said the nonprofit will not only be responsible for performance programming, but for coordinating arts events, pop-up events and outdoor programming on the 10-acre campus as well.

“It really is going to fundamentally change what life is like in Kendall Square,” he said.

Global Arts Live has committed to 100 nights of programming at minimum every year once it opens, the press release stated, and will open the space for arts and cultural organizations as well.

“585 Arts is an important step forward in revitalizing the arts in Cambridge, which have faced tremendous losses in recent years,” Cambridge Vice Mayor Alana Mallon stated in the press release.

Given the state of the arts during the pandemic, Ty Furman, managing director of the BU Arts Initiative at Boston University, said this new site will be a wonderful development because Global Live Arts will have an established venue.

“People are beginning to get it, they get what we have and what we don’t have and what resources the region needs to support a healthy arts ecosystem,” he said. “Particularly now when that arts community and arts ecosystem has been devastated and gutted financially, things like this to look forward to are really important.”

Katie McRae, a junior in the College of Fine Arts, said this new performance space brings hope for artists such as herself.

“Seeing that they’re putting so much effort into this building and set to open in 2025 feels really inspiring and really hopeful,” she said, “that we’ll be able to get live arts happening and also have enthusiasm behind it.”

Mahanthappa said COVID-19 has made the designers of the space think differently about the best way to ensure the safety of performers and audience members alike, as they are currently in the design phase.

“I think you can trust that BioMed is thinking very carefully, in all of its buildings and building designs now, about how you think about seating design and ventilation and all of those kinds of things,” he said, “to maximize the welfare of the artists and the audience.”

585 Arts will focus on recruiting artists and audience members of color and attracting from the surrounding neighborhoods in Cambridge.

Mahanthappa said he hopes Global Live Arts can contribute to this goal by giving a “voice to a variety of cultural communities” in Boston.

“Global Arts Live and what it intends to bring to 585 is all the more special because we think about community very broadly,” he said. “My aspiration is to continue to be able to present that, share that and grow that.”

Although the plans and city approval has been secured, Mahanthappa said the theater will still need to be built and will continue to fundraise before opening in several years.

Given this distant opening date, it is early to tell exactly how the BU Arts Initiative will partner with 585 Arts. Furman, however, said they have worked with Global Arts Live before and he has “no doubt that we will work with them in some capacity.”

McRae says she hopes having the performance venue will help artists “share newer, better, more truthful stories of varying kinds of experience,” she said.

Mahanthappa said the future venue is important not only to support artists, but the community at large — economically and socially.

“The arts are key,” he said. “The arts broadly and performing arts in particular, turn out to actually be significant economic drivers for the greater Boston area. They’re not a luxury, they’re a thing that brings meaning to our lives.”

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