Influencer: Olivia Ives-Flores Is Off the Wall

How the visionary art curator behind Oh Olive Creative is taking Boston’s art scene out of the gallery and into the city’s coolest parties.

Photo by Diana Levine

My parents are artists, so I grew up in it. But I’m really a people artist—I love to bring people together around art. You can’t buy it at the art store, but that’s my medium.

When I came to Boston for college, I was frustrated by the lack of places to share art outside of the classroom. I met amazing musicians, artists, and writers, but there was all this lost material and lost energy. My friends and I started a collective and put on shows in people’s houses and in empty storefronts. We always sold out. At a certain point, we opened the gallery Yes.Oui.Si. on Huntington Ave. I was a 19-year-old college student, running a business curating a show a month!

I want people to attend a show and feel like they met their new best friend. I don’t want to isolate people and I don’t want to have some sort of inaccessible pedigree. Allowing people in has always been my priority. I ask, “What are the access points into this and how can it be a conversation?” I’m trying to mix it up.

One of my favorite things to do in Boston is to host a picnic by the Charles River and invite the swath of interesting people that I know. Sitting on a blanket together in a public, shared, open space really evens the playing field.

The most embarrassing thing that’s happened to me at a fashion show was when my silk pants ripped while I was sitting in the front row! Good thing I had a coat to cover myself because I was hiding from the photographers on the way out.

Ives-Flores at a Glance

Born and Raised: New York City
Graduated From: The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Current Neighborhood: Back Bay
Clear Your Calendar For: The ARTcetera benefit on October 27

I feel dedicated to Boston because people can actually have a lasting impression here. I started a business out of my pocket, just one funny little girl making a funny little business, and people actually cared. I think that would be really hard to do in a place like New York City.

My advice to emerging art collectors is that it’s so important to collect contemporary artists from your own city. Artists can’t exist without an audience, so if you want to live in a creative city, you need to invest in it.

Currently I’m working on ARTcetera, an art auction that benefits the AIDS Action Committee. As this year’s curatorial chair, I put together a superhero squad of gallerists, consultants, and designers, and together we sought out 200 of the best contemporary artists around the world to donate their work. Art for sale for a good cause—to me, that’s the perfect storm.