Thursday, May 23, 2024



In crafting its first Arts Challenge, the Cambridge Arts Council has its own challenge: getting tech workers to shut off their computers in favor of attending theater, dance, concerts, art exhibits or comedy.

The Cambridge Arts Challenge launched Saturday and runs through March 31, intended to inspire workers from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Cambridge Innovation Center offices to go to discounted local events and restaurants, earning points and keeping track online before a celebration sponsored by the Beat Hôtel in Harvard Square on April 2.

It’s a free, friendly competition to see which team can attend the most arts events during the two-week contest, winning prizes and claiming the title of “Cambridge Arts Champion.”

But by Sunday night, there had been no Facebook status updates or use of the #ArtsChallenge hashtag on Twitter by the five contestants, and the leader board was empty.

It highlights the difficulty of getting people out to cultural events seen in reports by the National Endowment for the Arts released in January. As of 2012, only 33 percent of American adults were going to see art, ballet, classical music, jazz, opera or the theater, down from 39 percent a decade earlier, the agency said.

Nearly half of the people examined by the agency said the didn’t have time for the arts, or 47 percent. Cost was the big issue for 38 percent, followed by a lack of access cited by 37 percent and, for 22 percent, having no one to go with.

Access is likely not a problem in the Cambridge Arts Challenge, as there are 22 participating arts groups within the city, but tech workers used to innovating 24/7 likely would claim a lack of time.

That was kind of the point for Jason Weeks, executive director of the Cambridge Arts Council – which established and runs its partner in the challenge, the Cambridge Arts Marketing Network, made up of marketing professionals from city arts and culture groups.

“Employees in our local high-tech sector are innovative and deeply creative, so it only makes sense that we encourage them to step away from their screens – whether at lunch, after work or on the weekend – to take full advantage of Cambridge’s world-class arts organizations and programming,” Weeks said.

“With such a fast-paced work environment, the spirit of the Cambridge Arts Challenge is to encourage employees to fully discover and explore the city’s robust arts and culture scene,” he said.

While this first challenge focuses on tech companies, future years will aim to involve other sectors around the city, Weeks said.

The challenge’s website provides an overview of events offered around the city, including offerings from the American Repertory Theater, Arts at MIT, Brattle Theatre, Cambridge Art Association, Cambridge Community Television, Cambridge Historical Tours, Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, Catalyst Conversations, Central Square Theater, Gallery 263, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, ImprovBoston, José Mateo Ballet Theatre, Maud Morgan Arts, Mmmmaven, Multicultural Arts Center, Musica Sacra, Out of the Blue Too, Passim, The Dance Complex and World Music / CRASHarts.