There are a few obvious things in Boston that stand as testament to the vision and support of Ted Cutler and his late wife Joan, like the magnificently restored 1,200-seat Cutler Majestic Theatre, and the striking new home of the Greater Boston Food Bank that looms over the Southeast Expressway. And there is the ongoing rebuilding of Emerson College’s campus that reflects Ted’s commitment to and love of Boston.

Ted Cutler with singer, songwriter & actor, Harry Belafonte
Ted Cutler with singer, songwriter & actor, Harry Belafonte

Ted Cutler with City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Ted Cutler with City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Ted Cutler with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Ted Cutler with Secretary of State John Kerry.

A Dorchester native and Emerson College alumnus (where he is a Trustee, former Chairman of the Board, and still maintains an office), Ted is among the city’s most involved philanthropists, a man whose leadership and largesse have bolstered a host of causes and institutions including those supporting the arts and culture, civic efforts, and health and human services.

Indeed, the arts have always been a part of Ted’s life, and can be traced back to his college days when he worked his way through Emerson as a musician and bandleader. Ted became a pioneer in the music industry, forming his own cutting-edge orchestras that played the region’s biggest performance halls. Soon, Ted founded a music agency business booking acts and superstars like Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand and Sammy Davis Jr.

But after a long and successful career in the music, travel, and convention industries (where he was one of the co-founders of COMDEX), Ted wanted to merge his personal success with his passion for the performing arts. He felt it was time to give back to Boston and build its reputation as a city that supports the performing arts. So in 2007, the seed that became Outside The Box was planted.

For more on Ted’s vision in his own words, read on…

Why does Boston need a summer arts festival?

TED: Boston is known for many things: the colleges and universities, the hospitals and medical research and the growing life sciences area, the sports teams, and as a place where the country’s rich and important history is preserved and respected.But the one thing that seems to get lost is Boston’s amazing arts and cultural efforts. Boston should be thought of as a leader in the arts, because of the wonderful institutions here. We have the significant history of supporting artists and the arts and we need a way to showcase that part of our city. Outside The Box will be that forum.[/accordion-item]

What will Outside The Box look and feel like?

TED: It will be an exciting time in the city, that’s for sure. The Festival will be eight days of people coming together. There will be performances of all types. People will be dancing in the streets. Seriously, I really want to find a way for people to be able to dance in the streets, to use the city in a way that they can’t during the rest of the year. We’re working with the city, the state, and the Parks Department to use open and public spaces as much as we can. We’ll continue to work with the already established events and institutions to make the Festival as inclusive as any out there.[/accordion-item]

Will people see acts they know and familiar names?

TED: I do hope that people will see some things that are familiar to them, and we’ve been working throughout the year to find new things. We’ve been looking to the institutions that make up the city’s cultural landscape to be part of the Festival. We’re working with so many of the local groups – from those currently performing in theatres to those performing in smaller settings like churches – to provide a larger platform, a national stage, really, to showcase them as well. We’ve been working diligently to do everything possible to guarantee it will be a great event and one that reflects the broadest range possible of what Boston can offer.[/accordion-item]

What do you hope Outside The Box Accomplishes?

TED: I have a few goals for the Festival:

I want to see Boston’s recognized institutions and organizations have a second season or summer presence in the city. I am committed to changing the culture. There are a lot of people from our area who just don’t go to the institutions or know what is being created and presented in our city. They’ve never stepped inside a theater, but would engage if we can take the performances to them. Present the material in a new venue.

Also, there are those from outside Boston who don’t think of us as a destination for the arts. We used to be the testing ground for shows before they went to Broadway. We used to be the place where musicians came because we have great audiences. I know this because I used to work as a conductor and booked musical acts, and we need to claim that again for Boston and the state of Massachusetts.

And, I want the Festival to be a draw and utilize the city to aggregate talent. We’ll showcase the talent in Boston and bring people in from around the world to create a unique event.

There will be dancing in the streets.

What can people do to support the festival?

TED: If they are artists or performers, we have ways for them to engage. We’re going to need a lot of volunteers from the city to make the eight days go smoothly. And, of course, we’re going to need people to engage with the Festival and stick around and enjoy some of the many great performances we’ll be displaying in venues across the city and state.[/accordion-item]

Why now?

TED: This really started for me back in 2007. We were all ready to go, there was a board of advisors and a number of people committed to making this happen, but then the economic issues of 2008 meant that I had to put this idea on hold for a while. I never gave it up and in 2011 things started moving again. I have met with so many people in the city and around the state, and everyone would love to see us do this and do it now. Boston is a key tourism spot, and we want to create an event that will give our tourist a reason to extend the stay of their visit in the city.[/accordion-item]

It sounds like it is all coming together in a short period of time.

TED: It’s been a busy year and we have a lot of work in front of us when the Festival opens on July 14th. When we started COMDEX [the country’s largest trade show], I thought that was a lot of work and when we expanded and were successful I learned what it took to create a successful event. Since I sold my company in 1995 and came back to Boston to work on behalf of not-for-profit organizations, I knew what I was supposed to do with this part of my life. I’ve been very lucky in life and successful in business. My wife Joany worked for groups and supported things that weren’t always easy to support.

But I have to tell you that in all those years, I never worked as hard in making money as I have been working to give it away. If this is my legacy, to have a renowned arts festival, then I’ll be happy.