This week, Jared Bowen speaks with artist Ekua Holmes and actor John Douglas Thompson. Plus, a rundown of New Bedford’s latest citywide arts initiative from Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute.

“The Tempest,” presented for free on Boston Common by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company through August 8

The Tempest
John Douglas Thompson stars as Prospero in "The Tempest"
Evgenia Eliseeva, courtesy of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

After cancelling in-person performances last year due to the coronavirus, Free Shakespeare on the Common returns with a rousing 25th anniversary production. It also marks the first large, in-person theater event since the pandemic began. This year, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents “The Tempest,” directed by Stephen Maler and starring Tony Award-nominee John Douglas Thompson as Prospero. For the safety of both the performers and the audience, this year’s production has been streamlined, does not include an intermission and guests are asked to follow city guidelines on mask-wearing and social distancing.

“I look at the whole idea of Prospero being on this island as Prospero being in some level of quarantine,” says Thompson, mindful of the pandemic conditions. “And hopefully it's a better place, hopefully he's a better person, hopefully he's learned something about himself during this quarantine.”

“Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes,” on view at the Museum of Fine Arts through January 23, 2022

Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes
Looking Back, illustration to "Voice of Freedom," 2014

The Museum of Fine Arts presents an exhibition of work from a local artist, Ekua Holmes of Roxbury. “Paper Stories, Layered Dreams” features more than 40 works drawn primarily from the artist’s illustrations in award-winning children’s books. In her intricately rendered and vibrantly colored collages, Holmes crafts images of joy, family and resilience while not shying away from the searing and painful realities of Black American history.

“We want to be truthful, but we don't want to traumatize,” says Holmes of the images she creates for an adolescent audience. “Truth is always the right way to go. Now how you express that, how you talk to children about that, I think is the secret sauce.”

WATCH: Ekua Holmes on creating a "Google doodle"

“WATER 2021,” presented by the Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute across the city of New Bedford through October 17

Amber Lisi and Mercedes Mera setting up lights and cameras on the SMAST drop camera pyramid.jpg
Amber Lisi and Mercedes Mera setting up the lights and cameras used in “Sea Scallops: Sentinels of the Deep”
Courtesy of DATMA

The Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute, or DATMA, has launched another year of summer arts programming in New Bedford inspired by the water on which the city built its livelihood. “Water 2021” is a multifaceted, citywide arts initiative installing photography, poetry and sculpture across New Bedford. Visitors can enjoy the outdoor photography installations “Harvesters of the Deep: Portraits of Fisherwomen from South Korea, America, and the United Kingdom” and “Sea Scallops: Sentinels of the Deep,” which exhibits advanced underwater photos from scientists at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology. At UMass Dartmouth’s nearby College of the Visual and Performing Arts, patrons can experience a free sound installation by Swiss artist Zimoun, who uses a series of cardboard boxes, cotton balls and dc-motors to create a symphony of sound that evokes a heavy rainstorm.

“When you turn it on, it can sound like a bee's nest or sound like the belly of a scallop boat,” says DATMA Executive Director Lindsay Miś, “but for many it sounds like a rainstorm, and that's why we had to highlight it in this exhibition.”

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