date published: July 19, 2004

The FleetCenter may lay claim to the big show with Massachusetts' very own Senator John F. Kerry as the guest of honor. But venues throughout the Hub are taking advantage of having the Democratic National Convention in town by hosting a wide array of politically inspired events to interest all levels of political savvy. Whether you're a delegate, a party activist, an elected Democratic official, or even just a casual observer, you can dabble in the cultural and historical nuances of democracy in Boston, through everything from art exhibits and musical performances to lectures and comedic commentary. If that weren't enough, as the birthplace of our country's democratic heritage, Boston has a different history lesson to tell around each bend of our winding streets. The following is our roundup of the many ways in which you can fill your visit with all things political.


Fabric of a New Nation: Textiles Celebrating the American Spirit and American Presidents
(July 19-29) Both at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In addition to its already impressive collection of fine art, the MFA is mounting two special exhibits to commemorate the DNC. Fabric of a New Nation: Textiles Celebrating the American Spirit showcases 18th and 19th century textiles that celebrate American independence. The textiles depict American liberty, French support of the colonies and President George Washington-a popular source of inspiration for politically-themed textiles.

Also on view is the American Presidents exhibit, which presents 15 portraits of our former commanders in chief. The portraits include a group of George Washington images, most notably Amos Doolittle's 1794 hand-colored engraving and a 19th century drawing of Washington on horseback, titled Raising his Hat II by an unidentified artist. Photographs of 20th century presidents will also be on display including images of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton-several of which are by the late portraitist Yousef Karsh.

Portraits in Black: Gaining Ground, Holding Office
at the Museum of Afro-American History.
Combining art and sociology, the Museum of Afro-American History offers visitors a historical survey of elected black officials in New England, including constitutional officers and state and national legislators. The exhibit boasts politcal portraits, among them Edward Brooke, the first African-American U.S. Senator, as well as campaign buttons, posters and other significant memorabilia.

Portraits of Jimmy Carter at Zu Zu
474 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-3278 x237
(beginning July 26, art opening and reception from 9 p.m.-1 a.m.).
Local artist Eric Wolfson digs our presidents so much he can name every one of them, from Washington to Bush, in just 11 seconds. But what Zu Zu is showcasing is his talent with a paintbrush. Wolfson has long painted portraits of America's commanders in chief. And Zu Zu, a Latin-inspired nightspot that offers music, food and drinks, is hosting an exhibit of his depictions of his favorite Democrat, Jimmy Carter. The paintings show Carter in many different artistic, aesthetic and political perspectives, all culled from the President's public image during his term in office.

Boston Pops Concert
City Hall Plaza
(evening of July 25).
To kick off convention week and give locals and visitors alike something to sing about, our beloved Boston Pops performs a free concert at City Hall Plaza the night before the convention begins. The Boston Pops, known as America's Orchestra, plays everything from classical favorites to today's popular music and is expected to attract a crowd upwards of 50,000 people.

Liz Phair and Friends
Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, 415 Summer St., 617-954-2400 (July 27 from 1-5 p.m.).
Revolutionary Women Boston, a non-profit group dedicated to advancing the leadership role of women in the U.S., is sponsoring its own event at Boston's new (and enormous) Convention and Exhibition Center in the South Boston Seaport District. The concert is headlined by pop-rock singer Liz Phair and features a slew of political heavy hitters, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The group hopes to encourage a new generation of women in politics through workshops, lectures and, of course, rabble-rousing entertainment. To attend the event, you have to be a member of the group. The good news-it's only $10 to join.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra

Sites throughout the city (July 23 & 31).
Boston Landmarks Orchestra has a tradition of hosting historically relevant concerts at some of Beantown's most significant landmarks. To commemorate the DNC, the orchestra is performing a special program celebrating democracy and freedom, including a new work by South African composer Michael Hankinson, The Spirit of Mandela, at both the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy and at Fort Warren on George's Island.


Lewis Black (July 27 at 7 p.m.) and The DNC Variety Show (July 28 at 8 p.m.)
Comedy Connection, Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Star of the recent HBO special "Lewis Black: Black on Broadway" and a political commentator for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Lewis Black brings his ranting style of stand-up to town, just it time to soothe Bush-weary DNC-goers with his wry observations and, if all goes well, lots of laughs.

The next night, the Comedy Connection hosts the DNC Variety Show. The evening features look-a-likes for Senator John Kerry (Tom DiCesare), Mayor Thomas Menino (Fred McGrath), Governor Mitt Romney (Mike Cote) and Lucille Ball (Denise Harrington). Comedian Joe Cabral vocalizes "The Star Spangled Banner" as it sounds reverberating throughout Fenway Park and The Skitso Sketch Troupe parodies both presidential candidates. The first 100 clubgoers in line at the box office (beginning at 6:30 p.m.) pay only a nickel to get in.

Jimmy Tingle's Unconventional Comedy Convention
Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway Theater (July 22-31).
Cambridge native and political humorist Jimmy Tingle turns his Davis Square theater into a comedy powerhouse. Politics, naturally, is the subject of a weeks worth of entertainment featuring nationally recognized comics, social commentators and satirists, including Lewis Black (who performs July 25 at 9:30 p.m.), comedian/actress Janeane Garofalo with her "Air America" co-host Sam Seder, Boston's own Barry Crimmins, Will Durst with political impressionist Jim Morris, "Saturday Night Live"'s A. Whitney Brown and, of course, Tingle himself, who you may remember from his stint on "60 Minutes II."

Freedom Day CultureFest, City Hall Plaza,
617-725-0022 (July 24 from 1-7 p.m.).
Freedom Day celebrates African-American culture and history with gospel music, jazz, African drums and dance, and historical reenactments including a processional by actors portraying members of the Massachusetts 54th, the first black unit from the North to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War. Also on hand will be the Frederick Hayes Dance Company, New Life Jazz Orchestra and the New Africa Company, who bring fiery Frederick Douglass and the legendary Harriet Tubman to life.
Battle of Lexington Re-enactment, National Heritage Museum (July 25 at 1 p.m.). Refer to listing, page 62. Shuttle bus service will be available from the Alewife stop on the MBTA's Red Line for delegates and DNC guests.

Every year members of the Lexington Minutemen Company join members of His Majesty's 10th Regiment of Foot to reenact the Battle of Lexington. This little skirmish on the Lexington Green, of course, signaled the start of the American Revolution.

Historic Women of Boston
Forest Hills Cemetery, 95 Forest Hills Ave., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-0128 (July 25 from 2-4 p.m.).
Learn about prominent Bostonian women who helped shape not only Boston but the nation as well. Al Maze leads a two-mile walking tour of historic Forest Hills Cemetery and discusses feminist Lucy Stone, medical pioneers Susan Dimock and Marie Zakrzewska and writers Anne Sexton and Nancy Hale, who are all remembered in the cemetery.

Wounds of a Friend: The Adamses and Thomas Jefferson: Private Conversations
Old South Meeting House (July 28 from 12:15-1 p.m.).
In the 1790s, President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson voiced political differences that led to the creation of rival political parties and to the "revolution of 1800." Meanwhile Adams' wife Abigail was friends with Jefferson and the two would chat daily and vent about the day's affairs. Park Rangers Karen Yourell and John Stanwich portray the conversations had between the former friends in a living historical presentation.

Great Ideas on Democracy at The Mary Baker Eddy Library (July 25, 27 & 29).
The Mary Baker Eddy Library's Hall of Ideas exhibits thousands of quotes that reflect different ideas on democracy, including the thoughts of great thinkers like Mohandas Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela. The best part is that kids are asked to throw in their own two cents by writing down their wishes for the country for the next presidential term. Their submissions will be posted in the Library throughout the summer and then a selection will be sent to President Bush and Senator Kerry after their respective parties' conventions.

Convention Watch Party at the Kennedy School of Government
79 J.F.K. St., Cambridge, 617-496-4009 (July 26-29 at 8 p.m.).
Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government hosts convention-related activities during DNC week that are free and open to the public. The school moderates and hosts nightly Convention-watch gatherings, in addition to the taping of the PBS public affairs show "Washington Week in Review" and a live broadcast of National Public Radio's "The Connection." Guests discuss topics that comprise an aspect of the convention's political agenda.

Foreign Policy and the 2004 Campaign
JFK Library (July 25 from 4-5:30 p.m.).
The JFK Library's schedule of forums during the DNC includes one dedicated to the role foreign policy will play in the upcoming election, led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Albright discusses the current administrations' policy and how it could change under a Democratic president. She is joined by a contingency of foreign policy experts, ready to weigh in along with audience members.

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