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Spend the Day at the Institute of Contemporary Art

10 Things to do in Boston Seaport District

2. Spend the Day at the Institute of Contemporary Art

Designed by groundbreaking architects Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is as much a work of art as the pieces housed inside of it. With a dramatic cantilevered overhang that mimics the gantry cranes of the Seaport District’s harbor, the building not only has art galleries but a dedicated performance space for special events, theatrical plays, and other live artworks. A grand exterior staircase welcomes visitors into the Institute while also providing an excellent vantage point to enjoy the views of the harbor and the skyline of downtown Boston.

The space directly underneath the cantilever also functions as a digital display space known as the Poss Family Mediatheque. Here, visitors can not only enjoy the memorable vista in front of them, but research more about artists, current and previous exhibitions, and other facts at several permanent media stations.

The Institute was designed primarily to be a space for contemplation and relaxation. Generally speaking, the curators usually have between two to four separate exhibitions staged simultaneously, allowing visitors the opportunity to visit one gallery, pause, and then take in another show. The spaces within the building provide numerous areas for visitors to simply enjoy their surroundings, from the beautifully designed bookstore to the grand, framed views of the harbor. For those visitors who wish to enjoy the Seaport District at a leisurely pace, the Institute offers the perfect blend of art and open spaces.

In an added bonus for visitors, the Institute tends to be open most days until 9 p.m., which makes it a perfect destination for families, couples, and travelers who want to take in the sophisticated nightlife of the area. Those who wish to visit the museum can access it most easily by public transportation. The Silver Line Waterfront provides service to two stations, the World Trade Center and the Courthouse, both of which are within easy walking distance of the Institute. The building is also located directly on the city’s Harborwalk. In fact, the wood of the Harborwalk is creatively extended into the ceiling and floor material of the 325 seat Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater.

Because of its focus on contemporary art, many of the exhibitions showcase sculpture, digital or media creations, and large-scale physical installations that encourage visitor interactivity. Some of these installations explore artistic realms that are traditionally not displayed in museums, such as choreography. A recent installation allowed visitors to climb on specially designed performative objects in order to provide an immediate physical sense of what it is like to choreograph. Other exhibitions focus on blending live performance with staged settings in order to create the effect of a vintage jazz club, for example. This is not to say that the Institute does not showcase more traditional mediums, such as painting, photography, and non-interactive sculpture. However, these shows often will explore exciting new concepts in art through the more traditional mediums.

It would be fair to say that no matter what expectations a visitor has for the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Institute will not only meet them, but exceed them.

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