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Six Must-See Summer Art Exhibitions in and Around Boston

Where to go and what to see for your summer design fix.


“Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform”

Consider yourself a history buff? Geek out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where a new exhibition offers a glimpse of 19th-century Boston. Through a collection of period architectural plans and photographs, the show illuminates how the day’s creatives used their work to champion social issues.

6/20–9/15, 25 Evans Way, Boston, 617-566-1401, gardnermuseum.org.

“How?Now.” and “Patient Seas”

Local artists Kathleen Volp and Sally Fine share the stage in concurrent exhibitions at Boston Sculptors Gallery, home to their most recent works through mid-July. Volp’s fragmented plastic horses evoke crumbling statues, while Fine spotlights our ailing oceans via displays crafted with glass balls and electroluminescent wires.

6/12–7/14, 486 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-482-7781, bostonsculptors.com.

Building 10, clay wire and mixed materials / Photo courtesy of Kingston Gallery

“Oh That Beautiful Planet, What Have We Done?”

Drawing on her Cold War–era childhood, Rhonda Smith grapples with the destruction of the planet in her newest installation, on view at Kingston Gallery. The artist, whose work has been exhibited around the globe, uses her abstract drawings and sculptures to comment on the battle between humans and nature.

6/5–6/30, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, 617-423-4113, kingstongallery.com.

“Still I Rise”

An homage to the rousing Maya Angelou poem of the same name, this Mass MoCA exhibition rethinks how women of color are depicted in art through a curated assemblage of photographs, collages, paintings, and more. Highlights of the convention-defying show include one of Gustave Blache III’s acclaimed portraits of 95-year-old chef Leah Chase and an installation by MassArt alum Genevieve Gaignard.

Opens 6/15, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111, massmoca.org.

“2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize”

Every two years, the ICA recognizes the strength of Boston’s art scene with the prestigious James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition. Dedicated to the work of regional artists, this year’s show features Iranian-American filmmaker Rashin Fahandej, Cape Cod–born painter Josephine Halvorson, 3-D painter Lavaughan Jenkins, and Estonian watercolorist Helga Roht Poznanski—each specially selected by curator Ruth Erickson, who evaluated pieces from more than 150 Boston-area creators.

8/21–1/5/20, 25 Harbor Shore Dr., Boston, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org.

The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, album cover / Photo courtesy of Norman Rockwell Museum

“Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated”

From Apollo 11’s historic journey to setbacks in Vietnam to rained-out shows at Woodstock, the events of 1969 saturated popular art. In celebration of its own 50th anniversary, the Norman Rockwell Museum exhibits work by the famed Stockbridge resident Greg Irons, Arnold Skolnick, and others, showcasing the illustrators’ psychedelic take on the year’s culture and news.

6/8–10/27, 9 Glendale Rd., Stockbridge, 413-298-4100, nrm.org.