Boston has a variety of nicknames: Hub of the Universe, Beantown, City on a Hill, The Cradle of Liberty, you get the idea. I think my favorite nickname though was penned by William Tudor, cofounder of both the North American Literary Review and The Boston Athenæum. Tudor, an intellectual himself, understood Boston’s intellectual contributions and referred to Boston as the “Athens of America.”
Now, one may think that is rather presumptuous; however, Boston has approximately 60 colleges and universities within the greater city limits, making for some intense intellectual discourse as well as a wealth of various information sources available at one’s fingertips. A. and I are fortunate since we both work for universities. We try to take as much advantage as we can, whether it be for sporting events, concerts, or lectures. But even if you aren’t a university employee, Boston still has plenty of places to engage your brain and get your learnin’ on.
The Boston Public Library is open seven days a week and often has movies, lectures, and concert series. Katie and I once saw Kay Redfeld Jamison speak at the BPL. The audience consisted of fellow Bostonians who were interested in what she had to say. (There was also a woman who introduced herself as a medium and a schizophrenic, but that is a story for a different post.)
My favorite museum is The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Gardner was an avid art collector and, some may argue, a bit of an eccentric. (Rumor has it she once wore a Boston Red Sox hat to a symphony event, causing a bit of an uproar). The museum is also home to one of the world’s most famous and unsolved art thefts.
The Museum of Bad Art sounds exactly like what you think it is. If you prefer your art to be felt-based or more open to interpretation, this might be the place for you. Jerez the clown still haunts my nightmares.
Of course, this short list is only a few of the opportunities in Boston. There are numerous museums to take advantage of, both affiliated with universities and unaffiliated. A more populated (but by no means complete) list can be found here. I hope to explore more with other entries. There are coffee shops, independent bookstores, various cafes, where students of all ages meet and talk about events, both current and not so current. It is where friends are made and ideas take shape. It is, after all, the Athens of America.