From left to right: 1) Great turnout despite the cold at yesterday’s Planned Parenthood rally. 2) Surprise presents from Marc Jacobs. 3) One of my favorite pieces up now at the ICA Boston. 4) Another ICA goodie, one of a series of “hinge” paintings. 5) My friend caught me at peak journalist, shaking down the Seaport for the arts beat. 6) Newly inspired about my latest project after dinner with a writer friend.
Last year I discovered the Donna Summer Roller Disco Party and let me tell you, it’s one of the most under-rated events in Boston. A night of free dancing and skating to ’70s hits, with costumes and sass to spare. Here’s a snippet of my coverage of this year’s disco for the Bay State Banner.
A man in a silver sequined suit roller skates through a crowd of over 1,000 people. Trailing behind him is a conga line of movers and shakers straight out of Saturday Night Fever. Bell-bottoms abound. Afros fly free. Tie-dye experiences an unfortunate renaissance. This is the third annual Donna Summer Roller Disco, put on by the City of Boston and Together Boston to celebrate the life of the famous diva. Locals and visitors flock to City Hall Plaza every year to dance the night away to the tunes of the ‘70s legend. Toddlers dance next to grandparents, teens roller skate with their friends, drag queens flaunt their best platform heels and fringe vests. Organizer David Wedge from Together Boston surveys the party from the DJ booth, smiling approvingly. He says, “The spirit of Donna is alive and well in the city of Boston.”
Summer was born and raised in Mission Hill. When she passed away in 2012, her nephew Robert Grant began raising funds to have a mural put up at her old high school, Jeremiah E. Burke High in Dorchester. His desire to memorialize his aunt led to the creation of the roller disco. Grant couldn’t be happier with the result. “She was always ahead of her time,” he says. “She would have loved this, it brings together all races, all genders, and all ages.”
Summer was well known for her support of gay rights, even in a time when gay culture was largely hidden from mainstream society. At this year’s disco on Friday, June 17, Mayor Walsh set up a condolence book for the City of Orlando in light of the recent nightclub shooting. Summer’s message of tolerance resonates more strongly than ever since the tragedy. The line to sign the book was steady all night and Walsh will mail the finished product to the Mayor of Orlando. It was a solemn, but necessary reminder of the injustices that still need to be fought.
Events like this bring out the true essence of Boston. A collection of unlikely individuals comes together with their best boas and their best moves, to dance the night away with hundreds of their closest friends. The spirit of Donna Summer really was alive in the night. Strangers embraced in front of the Orlando condolence book, couples kissed to the beat of Last Dance, there wasn’t a negative word or an unhappy soul in sight. Aside from dancing and skating, the event featured a special call-in from Donna’s sister Mimi. She said, “I know if she was here she would say pursue your dreams, love one another, and never stop having faith.”
When acts of violence cause us to question the goodness of humanity, community is what pieces us back together. In the name of Donna Summer, and of equality, the people of Boston clasped each other’s hands, put on their best headdresses, and hustled like their lives depended on it.
Photos are mine.
I’ve covered quite a few nonfiction books on Trends & Tolstoy (The Romanov Sisters, Textile and Fashion Arts, Black Mass, etc.) but this one is a very different breed. Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton is a mix of an art review, a narrative nonfiction story, a memoir, and a high society gossip site, and it’s worth every page. Thornton takes you on a journey with her through seven major events in the art world: the Auction, the Crit, the Fair, the Prize, the Magazine, the Studio Visit, and the Biennale. These represent the major moments in an artist’s career (if they’re lucky) and also the major events on the artistic social calendar.
The art world has come to have some of the same elitist qualities and social circles as the fashion world, which inspires such lines as, “[I]t’s dangerous to wear Prada…. You might get caught in the same outfit as three members of Christie’s staff.” But while the book exposes the social trappings of the medium, it also reveals the pure players (typically artists and sometimes collectors) who are in it for the love of art.
Having experienced the art world on a much smaller scale during my time writing for a local art magazine, I can attest that this portrait is dead on. Thornton takes a year’s worth of champagne and critical debate and condenses it into a playful 250-page romp. I highly recommend this book to those who are involved in the art world and want a good laugh, and to those who are unfamiliar and want to learn the insider scoop. It’s as entertaining as fiction but with all the journalist research of a history book.
Photo is mine.