Dot native Ted Cutler is driving this month’s Outside the Box fest

This week a Dorchester lad who became a multimillionaire and is passionate about giving back to his city will realize his dream of seeing “dancing in the streets,” courtesy of Outside the Box Boston (OTBB). Ted Cutler, renowned mogul and philanthropist, has spent five years planning and will spend about $5 million of his own money underwriting a free inaugural summer arts festival the scope and caliber of which seem unprecedented.

Cutler, who lived in the Codman Square area until he finished college, is himself an accomplished instrumentalist, conductor, and arranger for celebrity orchestras. He made sure the musical lineup spans everything from opera to indie stars-on-the-rise. But, he confides, “Seriously, there’s not one bad act on the bill!” And with some 230 acts, that’s quite the bill.

Outside the Box Boston begins this Saturday and runs through a week from Sunday, mostly in the Beacon Hill area. From July 13 through 21, downtown will teem with simultaneous free events. While some performers will come from as far away as Australia, OTBB is meant to celebrate and showcase Boston and Massachusetts performers, including a couple from Dorchester. The constantly evolving schedule features music, dance, theater, spectacle/circus arts, kids’ events and culinary arts. (See OutsideTheBoxBoston on Facebook.)

Saturday’s opening ceremony will set both a high bar and a motif of inclusivity and diversity with the Berklee-generated group Rhythm of the Universe world-premiering its “Welcome to Earth” – an 80-minute, 150-piece ensemble show, with striking visual effects and music from all over the world with performers in their national garb.

This Saturday, Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and Alejandro Escovedo will create quite the sensación on the Common while a week later the Mighty Mighty Bosstones will headline a show there featuring The Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom.

These 10 random groups hint at the variety of OTBB: A Capella Contest, Best of Boston Puppet Slam, Black-Jew Dialogues, Blind Boys of Alabama, Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Celtic Fire, Quicksilver Dance, Shun Ng, Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, and Women of the World.

Among offerings with Dot ties are ARTiculation and Walter Sickert & The ARmy of BRoken Toys. And more than40 family-friendly performances and activities accomplish a main goal of the festival: to introduce kids to the performing arts.

Foodies will flock to City Hall Plaza for The Fork Lift Food Fest, billed as a “festival with in a festival,” to mingle with local celebrity chefs like Todd English, Lydia Shire, and Ming Tsai.

Besides spotlighting the rich local culture, Cutler wants to change the business model of Boston where few arts summer events are scheduled because supposedly everyone’s down the Cape. What about the huge influx of tourists with money to burn in the evenings? Cutler told the Reporter, “In a few years, all the big stars will be telling each other ‘You gotta play Boston in the summer!’ ”

An expected million people will enjoy the inaugural OTBB, thanks to a kid who grew up on Abbot Street off Blue Hill Avenue.


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