By Noah Schaffer
The free Outside the Box arts festival has been cancelled this summer, but its Executive Director vows that it will return in 2018 and pay tribute to its founder, Ted Cutler. The local arts patron passed away earlier this year at the age of 86. OTB head Susan Darian spoke to The Arts Fuse about the festival’s future.
The Arts Fuse: Why did the festival decide to go on hiatus until 2018?
Susan Darian: Honestly, it was the timing of Ted’s passing. We’re still reeling from that and at the particular time that he passed we were ramping up [the festival preparations]. It just threw us a bit of a curve ball, and we didn’t want to just throw something together in his honor. He deserves a heck of a lot more, so we wanted to take the year and breath a little bit and come back next year with some new partners who will make OTB sustainable. Ted was the reason this thing happened. He was the backbone and the bank book. He gave everything to this, so with his passing we needed to regroup a bit. This man deserves to have a fitting tribute to his legacy take place in the city.
AF: Do you know at this stage if Mr. Cutler left any kind of bequest or endowment for Outside the Box?
Darian: We were working toward making the festival self-sustainable. We were getting very close. It’s common knowledge that for the first installment of the festival he paid millions and millions out of his own pocket. Since then we’ve been able to bring in sponsors that have brought OTB much [further to self-sustainability]. Still, we need to get it to a break-even point. There is no endowment for the festival itself.
AF: You’ve mentioned looking to bring in new partners. What kinds of partnerships are you seeking?
Darian: Different pieces make up this festival — it’s not just a straight music concert. It combines different genres of performing arts and it is very much a community event. So we’re looking at getting some private institutions as well as some commercial entities and corporate sponsors to come in.
AF: There’s been a lot of talk from City Hall about the future of Boston’s creative community. Where does the city stand in regards to the festival?
Darian: We’ve spoken to the Mayor’s Office. Both the city and the state have been wonderfully supportive of what we’re doing. Of course, the city is trying to be fiscally responsible as well. It’s really important to keep Ted’s dream alive. Without exposure and access to the arts there can be no inspiration. No one would have guessed that this poor kid in Dorchester would become a future patron of the arts. Where is the next Ted Cutler going to come from? That’s why it is so important that we keep [the festival] free. It ain’t easy, but it’s such a wonderful cause.
AF: What is the price tag of keeping the festival going?
Darian: We might move things around — the festival might not have the exact format as it has in the past. It might be a single weekend. Because of these changes the numbers are falling into place a bit differently than before. But we’re moving in the right trajectory: the overall costs have gone down and the number of partnerships have gone up. We are coming up with a formula; with the right partners, we should be able to continue.