Explore Like A Local

Months of Music

            Lowell’s music scene is growing and attracting new entertainment to several venues around the city. Venues like the Hearing Room, The Tsongas Center, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, and Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall, are all hosting exciting talent this fall.

            The Tsongas Center kicks things off with The Alchemy Tour, an electro dance music event featuring some of EDM’s biggest artists. The show, scheduled for Thursday September 19th, features artists NGHTMRE, Slander, Seven Lions, The Glitch Mob, Svdden Death, and Huxley Annel. The following day brings Californian DJ and award winning EDM artist, ILLENIUM for his Ascend tour continuing the theme of electronic dance music. The music, dance, and lights will reinvigorate and excite EDM fans.

The Tsongas Center keeps the energy high by following up The Alchemy Tour with Grammy award-winning Rap artist Young Thug and Billboard-topping Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) on October 4th. Young Thug, born in Atlanta, Georgia is known for a unique vocal style that makes him stand out from the rest of the field, creating original songs to become one of the biggest mainstream artists today. MGK started his career early, releasing his first mixtape when he was sixteen; he hit the US Billboard top 200 charts in 2012 with his album Lace Up. This collaboration of Georgia native Young Thug and Houston born MGK, features special guest teenage rapper YBN Nahmir from Alabama.

On November 19th, Bob Dylan & His Band takes the stage at the Tsongas Center. No introduction is needed for this artist; Dylan has achieved numerous Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award, and even a Nobel Prize in Literature. Known for his work in the rock, blues, folk, and country genres, Dylan returns for his first concert in Lowell since 2013. This concert will be great for a wide range of music lovers and concert goers.

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The Lowell Memorial Auditorium also hosts some upcoming events, beginning with music icon Amy Grant who brings three decades of iconic pop on October 18th. Tony Bennet follows on October 26th with his tour, My Heart, and in November, Dark Star Orchestra presents its critically acclaimed Grateful Dead set list re-creation show on the 16th, meant to reach Deadheads both young and old by offering their own versions of the Dead’s discography.

            Other venues around Lowell also have live music during September and October. Venues like the Zorba Music Hall and The Hearing Room will host several nights of music for those looking to escape the big crowds to experience local names in music. Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall hosts Moondance, a Van Morrison tribute band, on Saturday September 21st, The Hearing Room’s Jazz Jam unfolds on Sunday September 22nd featuring pianists John McCarron, and lastly the middle of October also marks the two-day The Town and The City music festival. This massive two day festival features 51 bands and artists ranging indie rock, to soul music, held at several venues throughout Lowell, for a wide festival experience. The festival begins Friday October 18th, and concludes the following day on Saturday the 19th.

For more information about these events, please visit:

Tsongas Center Events

Lowell Memorial Auditorium

Zorba Music Hall Events

Hearing Room Calendar

Utopian Park Hydro Sculpture

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            Artist Nancy Selvage has completed her newest project, Hydro, located in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District’s Utopian Park. The sculpture is meant to be interactive and interpretative while providing a place to sit for those wanting to examine the spaces around them. The sculpture flows and swirls, creating artistic archways meant to relax the viewer and “welcome them.” Hydro is sure to attract lots of attention from local artists and Lowllians with a interest in unique public art.

Nancy Selvage News

Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race and Lowell Irish Festival

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            September winds down with two big events this Saturday, September 21st. The 4th annual Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race combines art and engineering in a race through downtown and along the Merrimack River. Human-powered sculptures compete on roads and through mud and water, inspiring artists and engineers while promoting physical activity, the arts, and STEM fields.

Also on Saturday, the Lowell Memorial Auditorium hosts the Lowell Irish Festival, featuring local Irish music, dance, food, and craft beer. Several bands will perform including Joshua Tree, The Gobshites, Irish Whispa, and the Young Dubliners. Historical photos, items, and documents representing Lowell’s Irish community will be on display. You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy this festival!

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The Season of Theater

The Season of Theater

Merrimack Repertory Theatre

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) presents Tiny Beautiful Things, a theatre adaptation by Nia Vardala, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed on the strength of the human spirit during the search for love and life. Strayed responded to personal letters for years, offering insights for everyday challenges; her responses were later incorporated in her book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.

Being able to share stories has helped readers gain a new understanding and mindset when stepping out their front door. MRT captures these moments for the stage, giving audiences a chance to see the scenarios come to life. Tiny Beautiful Things opens MRT’s season Wednesday September, 11th, and runs till October 6th.

Visit the  MRT calendar  for more information!  PC: MRT

Visit the MRT calendar for more information!

PC: MRT

Image Theater

For fifteen years, Image Theater has captured the minds of audiences through various stories, film, plays, and novel adaptations-all without a home stage. This locally-traveling company prides itself on producing unpublished plays and musicals by New England writers and composers.

Those who want a laugh out of politics will love the exaggerations of stand-up comedian Jimmy Tingle’s show, Comedy Meets Politics. The non-profit theatre will host Tingle for two nights at The Old Court on September 13th and 14th. Tingle’s performance is sure to leave the audience laughing with witty remarks, deconstruction of political matters, and timely topics.

Join Image Theater in November for the 13th Annual “Naughty Readings,” a fundraiser of “sexy, silly, and outrageous” adult-only plays and songs. Stay for the after-show catering party to meet the actors and playwrights.

Visit  Image Theater  for more information.

Visit Image Theater for more information.

Balefire Productions

Founded in 2016 by Leo Jordan, Balefire Productions Community Theater was created to liven up the local theatre experience and give back to the community with exciting productions. Partnering with Gallery Z (Artist co-op, Café, and Theater), Jordan changed Balefire this summer to reinvigorate the workspace, offering a fresh theatrical experience.

For more information about the upcoming season, visit  BalefireProductions.org  or their  Facebook  page.

For more information about the upcoming season, visit BalefireProductions.org or their Facebook page.

Middlesex Community College Performing Arts Theater

The Richard and Nancy Donahue Family Academic Arts Center is a state-of-the art theater with an upcoming season of theater, dance, and music. The historic Arts Center, once a railroad station, movie theater, and bowling alley is now home to Middlesex Community College’s Performing Arts Program.

The Women of Lockerbie, a story of a mother from New Jersey in search of her son’s remains in the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland, premiers September 26th at the MCC Theater. It’s a story of determination involving acts of love and hate following a crashed commercial plane in the area. The play has five performances with three between the 26th - 28th at 7 p.m., and two on the 28th and 29th at 2 p.m.

Visit the  MCC Performing Arts  page for further information.

Visit the MCC Performing Arts page for further information.

Local Theater Groups and Upcoming Productions

If you’re in need of an escape from reality, Lowell’s various theater groups have upcoming productions that can do just that.  From plays that embody the relationship between two dissimilar family members, to festivals that celebrate females in film, these productions are ready to let you flee from your daily responsibilities.

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Merrimack Repertory Theater

MRT remains true to their mission statement to “share theatrical stories of human understanding that reflect and engage community” for 40 years. Under the direction of Artistic Director Sean Daniels and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT allows their audience an opportunity to be so much more than a spectator in the crowd. They get their audiences to experience the play so deeply it feels as if they’re on the stage themselves.

With the brand new month comes a brand new play for people to enjoy opens February 13th and runs to March 10th.  The World Premiere of “The Heath” by Lauren Gunderson will bring you into the world of family members with dissenting personalities, yet their differences are what makes their relationship that much more beautiful.

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Image Theater

Image Theater was formed in 2005 as a non-profit theater company.  In the nearly 15 years the company has been around, they have made quite a name for themselves as they do so much for local writers, playwrights, novelists, and filmmakers.  Founders Jerry Bisantz and Ann Garvin have worked with gifted producers in order to produce their fan-favorite “Keep Your Kids at Home” naughty readings; “Mill City Minutes” ten minute plays; and the full length play “Kerouac’s Last Call”. 

Garvin had humbly noted that Image Theater is a “little homeless theater company” as the group does not have one set home stage, however numerous Lowell companies have welcomed their productions with open arms.  You can find Image Theater’s productions at popular Lowell destinations such as The Old Court Pub, The Whistler House Museum of Art, and The Lowell Freshman Academy.  The company will take an interesting spin on Garvin’s “Femnoire: The Women’s Playwriting Festival” to create the “Femme Film Fest”, which will feature short films by women filmmakers from all over New England on May 3rd and 4th.  Shortly following “Femme Film Fest”, the company will also produce some “one-acts” between May and November.  Image Theater rarely follows a “set season”, but you can keep updated about exciting upcoming productions at www.imagetheater.com

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Studio 506

Only a short 5 years after Studio 506’s founding in 2014, what started with a few friends keeping the love of theater alive turned into a successful theater group in Lowell.  Founder Kaitlyn Crockett hopes that Studio 506 sheds the “stigma” around what it means to be a community theater group.  Instead, the company calls themselves an “Indie Theater Company” as they perform shows in creatively unorthodox ways to get the surrounding community connected to their shows.  The group has had success with past productions. Some were performed in the center of a Lowell garden with the audience just inches away from the actors. 

In March, Studio 506 will bring something new to the table with, “Revolt.  She Said.  Revolt Again”, a production written by Alice Birch and directed by Kaitlyn Crockett.  “Revolt” will be performed at the Humanity Boutique, and it will discuss sex and gender in a way that “does not behave”.  Don’t miss this rendition of a play that doesn’t play by the rules by a Lowell group that throws the concept of “ordinary” to the wind. 

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Balefire Theater Group

Similar to Studio 506, Balefire Theater is a recently created theater group (founded in May 2016), that wants to give their audience members a different theater experience.  Past productions, such as “Sherlock Holmes: ‘A Study in Scarlet’”, involved audience members surrounding the action of the play while they are served dinner and drink.  Balefire Theater recently began to adopt this production method of “Dinner Theater” in August of 2017, that allows audiences to enjoy the theater with their eyes- and their stomachs. 

The next opportunity to please your palate will take place from March 21st-24th for the company’s upcoming production of “Waiting for Godot”.  This play takes place in a post-World War II, and explores the awaiting of the mysterious “Godot” through the eyes of the two main characters.  The play is a wonderful mix of history, humor, and the human experience that will serve warmth to your heart with a fresh side of laughter. 

Photography by: Kate Brindley Photography

Photography by: Kate Brindley Photography


Off-Broadway Players

For locals who are wondering what UMass Lowell students bring to the stage, a Spring production called “Triptych” is currently in the works.  President of the Off-Broadway Players club, Daisy Var, had done a wonderful job of relaying information about all things “OBP” in 2019, but her “lips are sealed” in terms of news for their fall production.  However, there are 6 opportunities for folks to view Triptych from February 27th-March 3rd.  The production will include original pieces that were written by the club’s advisor, Dr. Dale J. Young.  Check out how these UMass Lowell students will bring this new creation to life! 

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‘Tis the Season to Shop Local

Tis’ the season of giving and if you’re looking for some special gifts for your friends and family this holiday season, Lowell has plenty of choices for everyone. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion or one-of-a-kind artisan gifts, here are some local holiday shopping spots where you’re sure to discover unique finds.


Photo courtesy of Dandelion District

Photo courtesy of Dandelion District

For Fashionistas

Whether you’re seeking clothing and jewelry that’s modern, retro or a little more exotic, there are some great boutiques and consignment shops in Lowell to explore for gifts for your fashion forward friends. Humanity Boutique offers a selection of women’s clothing that reflects Lowell’s hip culture and style. The shop is all about mixing pieces of different colors, patterns and textures that will complement women of all ages.

Dandelion District located in Mill No. 5 is where you’ll find very cool vintage consignment clothing including flannels, jeans, leather jackets, tees and much more. Galeria De Los Andes Boutique is a vibrant shop with alpaca sweaters, ponchos, scarves and more! The boutique is also known for their selection of fine Tagua and sterling silver jewelry.


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For Audiophiles

For your loved ones who are always talking about and listening to music, you can find great music related gifts at Lowell’s local music shops. For new and used instruments and lessons, the family owned Tone Loft located in Mill No. 5 carries guitars, bass guitars, keyboards and ukulele’s, and offers lessons in all of these instruments.

Serious music fans love their vinyls, and you can find an extensive selection of new and used vinyls of all genres at Vinyl Destination, just steps away from the Tone Loft. Every record store has their own unique inventory, so if you’re seeking a certain album or artist be sure to also check out Garnick’s Music Center and RRRecords for more options.


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For Natural Beauty Lovers

Walk into Red Antler Apothecary at Mill No. 5 and you’ll be hit with an aromatic wave of handmade soaps, bath bombs, candles and herbal blends, all of which make for great Christmas gifts. Browse their selection of personal and household cleaners or ask the friendly staff to create an herbal blend specifically for your needs. Just down the hall at Crose Nest Botanical Pharmacopoeia you can find other great gifts for the body and spirit, including botanical teas, bath soaks, face masks and more.


For Pet Lovers

Pets are part of the family too, right? Whether you’re shopping for your own pet or for a pet-loving friend, there are a couple unique shops in Lowell to stop by for gifts that animals, and their owners, can both get excited about!

At SITIZENS Animal Treats located in Mill No. 5 you will find healthy dog, cat and horse treats that are made from all natural ingredients grown at their Laszlo Family Farm. Be sure to also visit PUPS, a one-of-a-kind pet boutique and supply shop that offers stylish leashes and harnesses, custom built dog beds, specialty dog houses and a variety of pet food and toys.


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For Foodies

Mill City Cheesemongers is a great shopping destination for your foodie friends and family members. They of course carry a large selection of cheeses, but they also sell craft beer and wine, various jams, crackers, sauces and sweets. Their friendly staff can also provide you with samples and advice on which cheese matches what you’re looking for.

Sweet Lydia’s handcrafted candy shop has some great holiday selections from gourmet marshmallows, smores, candy bars, hot chocolate and much more. Their treats are available to purchase individually or as conveniently pre-packed gift boxes perfect for the holidays!

With plenty of great restaurants, cafes and eateries in Lowell you can’t go wrong with giving your loved ones a gift certificate to their favorite eatery (or one they’ve wanted to try) for the holidays!

Visit http://www.likelowell.com/food-and-drink/ for a list of Lowell’s restaurants and café’s

Holiday Happenings Coming in December

The City of Lights Parade and Celebration has sparked the holiday season, and as we move into December there are plenty of festive entertainment and shopping opportunities coming up to keep you in the holiday spirit.


Courtesy of Boston Pops

Courtesy of Boston Pops

Entertainment

On December 16th Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra in a performance of their beloved Holiday Pops concert at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium from 2:30 – 4:30 PM. Audience members can expect to hear some holiday classics, several new arrangements of seasonal favorites and their signature rendition of Sleigh Ride. With holiday music, sing-a-longs, and an appearance from Santa Claus himself, the Holiday Pops concert is sure to leave you feeling merry.

The Lowell Memorial Auditorium is bringing their musical adaptation of the holiday TV classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to their stage on December 2nd at 3 PM. See all of your favorite characters from the original special including Santa, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and of course Rudolph, as they come to life for a very entertaining holiday musical!


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From now until December 23rd, The Merrimack Repertory Theatre presents Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, a holiday play featuring several characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. This warm-hearted and witty show written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon involves love letters being delivered to the wrong person and unexpected engagements being announced. Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is holiday treat for Jane Austen fans and the entire family alike.

On December 1st and 2nd Middlesex Community College launches their new Donahue Family Academic Arts Center theater with their inaugural production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet! There will be shows at 2 PM and 7 PM both nights, so if you’re looking for a break from holiday shopping or just want to get out of the house, come see a classic love story at Middlesex Community College.


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One of the best parts about December is watching our favorite holiday movies, and the Luna Theater has us covered with several classic holiday films playing throughout the month. Upcoming shows include The Polar Express on December 1st and 2nd, White Christmas on December 2nd, A Christmas Story on December 8th and 9th, and It’s a Wonderful Life on December 15th and 16th. Enjoy these classics on the big screen!

For times and to purchase tickets visit http://www.lunalowell.com/calendar/action~agenda/request_format~json/


Holiday Shops and Markets

If you’re looking for unique gifts for family and friends this month be sure to explore the 6th annual Totally Bazaar holiday market at Mill No. 5 on December 1st. From 12 – 5 PM there will be two floors of vendors selling a wide variety of vintage, handmade and artisanal holiday gifts. On December 8th Mill No. 5 also presents their Holiday Oddity Marketplace.  From 12 – 5 PM you can find even more uncommon and unusual items that make perfect holiday gifts. Pass on the socks and ties this year, and explore the Holiday Oddity Market to find something memorable!


When shopping for holiday presents this season be sure to visit the Lowell National Historical Park Gift Shop for national park novelties, Lowell apparel, books about the city and children’s gifts like park ranger hats and stuffed animals. The New England Quilt Museum also has a wonderful gift shop with a variety of handcrafted quilts and handbags, jewelry and unique toys.

Holiday Open Studios comes to Western Ave Studios this December with four days of art exploration and shopping fun! On December 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th from 12 – 5 PM you can browse the open art studios, chat with artists, shop for unique gifts for all budgets, watch art demonstrations and enjoy lunch and a craft beer from the Navigation Brewing Company.


On December 14th, Brush Art Gallery & Studio’s Soup and Shop Lunch Holiday Marketplace offers complimentary homemade soups while you do some holiday shopping in a gallery environment! Studio Artists are offering a 10% discount on artwork from the studios during this event, and Gift Certificates are available as well.

The following day, December 15th, the gallery hosts their Sugar and Spice Weekend Holiday Marketplace. Try some homemade cookies and explore the vibrant Studio Gift Shop for that perfect gift you’ve been searching for. There will also be Brush Studio artists on site who would love to talk to visitors about their techniques and inspirations for their creative works.

Explore Your Creative Side: Classes and Workshops to Try This Fall

By Dorian Taylor - Everyone has a creative side, it's just a matter of finding the outlet that's right for you! Fall is a good time of the year to go out and try something new while we're still feeling productive and the snowy winter has not yet arrived to send us into hibernation. With a thriving art scene, Lowell offers plenty of opportunities to not only discover professional art and music, but to create something artistic as well! Whether you're an experienced artist or a complete beginner, here’s how to get creative this fall.


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Art Classes

Many locals probably know about Western Avenue Studios unique art events and their hundreds of art studios, but many might not know that there are a dozen WAS artists who give art lessons in a variety of styles. From traditional art forms like painting, drawing and sculpting, to more modern styles like photography and mixed media, there is something for everyone to try at WAS. These classes can be altered for experienced artists or absolute beginners alike, so don't be afraid to jump in and try something new!

Arts League of Lowell also offers a stress-free, introductory class on palette knife painting November 3rd and December 1st, as well as weekly classes on drawing, painting and watercolor running November through January. Crose Nest, the home, body and spirit shop at Mill No. 5 also offers a unique painting workshop for painters of all skill levels to create watercolor, botanical paintings based on the plants in the shop!


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The Pottery Mill is a ceramic studio in downtown Lowell where beginners can try creating pottery for their first time or return to hone their craft. They offer both hand-building and pottery wheel workshops with classes held multiple times throughout the week. The class sizes are intentionally kept small to ensure that beginners have enough instruction to understand what they're doing and have a great time! The Whistler House Museum of Art and The Brush Gallery and Studios also offer art classes and workshops that will help you find your inner artist.


Courtesy of Delicious Glass Fusing Studio

Courtesy of Delicious Glass Fusing Studio

At Delicious Glass Fusing Studio you can join a small class to learn to make your own fused glass! Under the supervision of studio owner and artist Erica Noymer, the glass will be heated to at least 1,400 °F and molded into decorative plates, bowls, or whatever else your imagination can come up with!


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Writing and Music

Children and teens (grades 7-12) interested in writing can join the Pollard Memorial Library's Writers' Club. The group meets every other Friday to share their work and ideas, provide feedback to others and strengthen their writing skills. Writers working on novels, short stories, poems and memoirs are all welcomed to the meetings and no sign up is needed.


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If you've ever wanted to learn to play an instrument or if you're an experienced player looking to take your playing to the next level, The Tone Loft at Mill No. 5 sells all of the musical equipment you need and provides lessons for guitar, bass guitar, percussion, vocals, ukulele and piano. Also located at Mill No. 5 is Root Note Studio where you can find classes on songwriting and recording production.

Once you feel comfortable enough with your instrument, there are plenty of ways to play what you've learned in front of an encouraging audience. Open Mic Nights are held on Tuesdays at the Hearing Room, Thursday's at Warp & Weft and once a month at Coffee & Cotton. Also, the Hearing Room hosts an acoustic jam and sing-along every Thursday where all genres of music, all ages and all skill levels are welcomed.

Halloweekend in Lowell

Halloween weekend is finally here and there is a lot to do in Lowell! Halloween is all about scary movies, trick-or-treating, getting into costume and having a great time with your family and friends. There will be opportunities to do all of these things and more this weekend in the Mill City.


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Mill No. 5 will host the Little Pet Shop of Horrors on Saturday from noon to 5 pm. Bring your pet in costume to participate in a contest, then go trick-or-treating in the awesome shops and fill those bags with delicious pet treats!

For your scary movie fix, The Luna Theater will be showing John Carpenter’s original Halloween on Friday and Saturday night, as well as the animated film Coraline if you’re seeking a more family friendly option. Gather your family and friends for a movie in the cool and comfortable Luna Theater, and maybe arrive early to shop around Mill No. 5 before your show starts.

For show times and other films playing visit : www.lunalowell.com/calendar


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Over the weekend and through November 11th, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre will be showing a light-hearted murder mystery called Murder for Two. In this unique musical comedy, a surprise party has gone wrong and the great American novelist Arthur Whitney has been murdered. Each guest is a possible suspect, and just two talented actors play all thirteen roles in a very entertaining homage to old-fashioned murder mysteries. 


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Families are in for a treat Saturday afternoon! Kiwanis of Greater Lowell presents the annual Monster Bash and Halloween Stroll. Children and parents can enjoy trick-or-treating downtown and head to the Lowell High School for costume contests, kids' games and the Monster Bash's all ages haunted house! The bash is free to attend and will run from 12-3 PM.

To see the schedule of events and participating trick-or-treat locations visit www.likelowell.com/halloween-stroll


Courtesy of Creative Cinderella

Courtesy of Creative Cinderella

From 12-6 PM on Saturday Western Avenue Studios is hosting the Market of Mystery and Madness, a Halloween Oddity Market on their second floor where over 25 artists will be selling their strange and unusual creations. After you’ve made your odd purchases, be sure to head downstairs to Navigation Brewing Company’s Halloween Bash! From 2-8 PM there will be a food truck, craft beer, live music and a Halloween costume contest.


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On Saturday the Pollard Memorial Library is hosting Halloween Crafternoon from 1-2 PM. This event is a great opportunity for children in grades K through 4 to get creative and decorate Halloween masks and trick-or-treat bags!

To register, call the Children’s Desk at 978-674-1529 or go online to www.LowellLibrary.org – visit the Events Calendar, select your desired program and click Register.


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Halloween isn’t just for kids though, right? On Saturday night, adults (21+) can enjoy a high energy concert at Zorba Music Hall’s Monsters of Rock (Halloween Edition). Internationally touring AC/DC tribute band Back in Black will be performing accurate renditions of the band’s classic hits and their B tracks as well. The venue is attached to the Olympia Restaurant where you can enjoy Greek cuisine and wine before the 9 PM show.

To purchase tickets and see other upcoming shows at the Zorba Music Hall visit: zorbamusichall.com/events


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On Sunday, the non-profit Get There, Start Now hosts its Seventh Annual Hallows Eve 5k Fun Run and Walk! Runners, walkers, children and spectators are invited to the Lowell Lodge of Elks to join the races or participate in other festivities such as face painting, trick-or-treating, raffles and costume contests. Participants are also invited to the post-race party and awards ceremony immediately following the race.

For a schedule and more details about the event visit www.HallowsEveFunRun.com

Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District: A “Great Neighborhood”

By Dorian Taylor - Lowell's Canalway Cultural District was recently named one of this year's 15 Great Places by the American Planning Association. With a thriving art and music scene, daily cultural activities, several unique public parks, and a wide variety of restaurants, cafés and shops, it's no surprise that over 500,000 people visit the district each year. Here are some reasons to visit, or revisit, the Canalway Cultural District.


The Worker by Elliot and Ivan Schwartz (1985)

Thriving Arts Community

It's not very hard to find beautiful art in Lowell. Spread out across the Canalway Cultural District are more than a dozen public art installations that reflect the city's culture and history including the Homage to Women and The Worker statues. There are also 12 excellent museums and art galleries in the district, such as the New England Quilt Museum, Brush Art Gallery & Studios, Gallery Z Artist Co-op, the Arts League of Lowell and the Whistler House Museum of Art.

Lowell's music scene has also gained traction over the years, and today visitors and locals can find live music playing every week in the District at various cafes, restaurants, art galleries and other venues. In addition to music and fine art, theater performances are also a staple in the district. The Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre and MCC's new Academic Arts Center are excellent venues to see musicals, comedies, dramas and music.


Lowell Folk Festival

Daily Cultural Activities

With over 100 free public and private events, performances and activities, there is always something to do in the Canalway Cultural District. Along with 20 annual festivals, such as City of Lights and the Lowell Folk Festival, there are regular live music performances, movie screenings, children's programs, intimate gallery openings, athletic events and much more.

To see an updated calendar of fun and interesting activities to do in the city visit: www.likelowell.com/calendar


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Shopping and Dining

There are 60 eateries, coffee shops, and restaurants in the Canalway Cultural District offering an extensive variety of cuisine and flavors that reflect Lowell's diverse culture. On top of a great dining selection, many of these restaurants are conveniently located within walking distance to performance venues and one-of-a-kind shopping destinations. Before or after your meal, be sure to explore the district's unique shops and check to see where live music is playing to keep the good times going.


Lucy Larcom Park

Public Parks

The District includes several public parks, each with unique landscapes and features. If you're feeling up for a walk, explore the district's Riverwalk for scenic views of the city and the Merrimack River. If you're looking for a spot to relax, stop by the Whistler House Park or Lucy Larcom Park to catch up with a friend, read a book, or just take in the views. Be sure to stop by the Lowell National Park Service Visitor Center to pick up maps, make trolley tour reservations, and plan a great visit to the city.


Intimate Music Venues: Where Lowell Comes to Listen

Whether you’re looking for a rock show to amplify your weekend, or an acoustic singer song-writer performance to enjoy with a date, Lowell has plenty of great restaurants, cafes, and other venues where you can find the live music you’re looking for.


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The Hearing Room

The Hearing Room is a friendly, casual listening room run by local music lovers where you can catch musicians, ranging from acoustic singer songwriters to full bands. Every Tuesday the venue hosts an open mic night where anyone can sign up and play. There is no entry fee, but listeners are encouraged to donate $5-10 dollars to the performers. The Hearing Room also hosts a wide variety of professional music performances. On October 12th, attend a singer-songwriter and acoustic rock show featuring Rob Noyes, Joseph Allred, and Karen Zanes.


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Coffee & Cotton

Not only is Coffee & Cotton a cozy, rustic coffee shop tucked away in Mill No. 5, but it’s also a music venue for many acoustic artists. On October 13th come see the fun loving pianist and singer-songwriter Fiona Corinne, and the nostalgic indie/emo band Louse from southern New Hampshire. The show is free, but be sure to check out the Coffee & Cotton menu for the perfect coffee, beer, wine or snack to compliment your listening experience.


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Olympia’s Zorba Music Hall

You can always find live music playing on the weekends at Olympia Restaurant’s Zorba Music Hall. On October 12th, the Joe Cocker tribute band With My Friends takes to the Zorba Music Hall stage. Doors open at 7 PM for dinner, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy some authentic Greek cuisine before the 9 PM show.

To purchase tickets and see a full calendar of events visit http://zorbamusichall.com/


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Luna Theater

Jazz is still very much alive in Lowell! The very chic and comfortable Luna Theater, located at Mill No. 5, presents Luna Sessions every Thursday night at 8:05 PM, where talented local musicians come together to perform whichever jazz songs feel right that night. Entry is free, but you’ll want to bring some money for some freshly popped popcorn or a local craft brew sold at the concession bar.


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Cobblestones

On Sundays, Cobblestones Restaurant serves brunch from 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM where patrons can listen to live music while they eat. Enjoy menu favorites while listening to different local artists every Sunday. Musicians play from 11:15 AM to 1:45 PM. Upcoming performers include: Yolanda Baker Music, Seraphina James, Katrina Marie, and Andrew Marshall Music.

To see the entire brunch menu visit http://cobblestonesoflowell.com/menu/


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Warp & Weft

The relatively new restaurant Warp & Weft has established itself as a place where the community can connect, enjoy innovative cocktails and meals made with only fresh ingredients, and listen to live music. Every Thursday night at 9 PM the restaurant hosts an open mic where local artists or bands can play in front of a supportive audience and audience members can get a glimpse of up-and-coming local talent. Warp & Weft will also host a special one year anniversary party on October 13th, featuring Ariel Strasser (Pop Singer/Songwriter, Jazz), Serial Thrillers (Pop, Rock, Alternative), Jenny and The Gents (Pop, Folk), The Blue Ribbons (Rock).

For more information on events at Warp & Weft you can visit https://www.warplowell.com/


UnchARTed

The creators of UnchARTed have reenvisioned the concept of the art gallery and created a space where locals enjoy pizza, craft beer, artwork, and live music all in the same room. This trendy spot is always bringing in new local artists and musicians to decorate their walls and play fresh music for their visitors. On October 13th, UnchARTed welcomes four artists to their gallery: The Fallen Stars, Prateek Poddar, Hunter, and Dandy Candy. The show will consist of music ranging from folk and blues to alternative rock. The show starts at 7 PM. 

To see more shows hosted at UnchARTed visit  http://unchartedgallery.com/live-music/


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The Town and The City Festival

Toward the end of October, Lowell welcomes over 50 artists to The Town and The City Festival: a 2-day music and arts festival that will take place in various event spaces, bars, cafes, and galleries throughout downtown Lowell. The performances take place on October 19th and 20th, and present a diverse mix of musical genres. The Luna Theater, Coffee and Cotton, Christ Church United, Gallery Z, Uncharted Gallery, and the Parker Gallery at the Whistler House Museum of Art will host performances for all ages, while the Zorba Music Hall, Warp & Weft, The Old Court, and Dudley’s will host 21+ shows.

For ticket information and a full schedule of performances visit https://www.thetownandthecityfestival.com/

 

The Lowell Public Art Collection: Past, Present, and Future

The Lowell public art collection that we know today began to take its shape during the 1980’s when six works of public art were installed between the years 1984-1989. Lowell native and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas was key to this boom in public art as he sponsored several pieces and created a public art committee in 1987 to explore new ways to present public art in the city. During these formative years, the Lowell public art collection had become one of the country’s most important visual arts projects.

“Pawtucket Prism” by Michio Ihara (1989)

“Pawtucket Prism” by Michio Ihara (1989)

Before Lowell was the public museum that we know and love today, the city’s only public art consisted only of traditional monuments, statues and murals like many other cities had at the time. During the late eighties however, the city introduced several contemporary art pieces such as the “Homage to Women,” “The Lowell Sculptures,” and the recently restored “Pawtucket Prism.” Installing six public art pieces between ’84 and ’89 was an impressive accomplishment for the City of Lowell and the result was a collection of art that not only visually enhances the city, but reflects Lowell’s rich history and culture.

George L. Duncan Fountains (2012)

George L. Duncan Fountains (2012)

In recent years, the city has added several more pieces to its diverse public art collection, each having their own unique theme and relation to Lowell. With hydraulic systems playing such a vital role in Lowell’s industrial era, Enterprise Bank added a public art installation in 2012 that mirrored the cities canals, spillways, and waterfalls. The result was the George L. Duncan Fountains, which consists of three weathering steel stacks, each slightly modified to move water differently.

New Mural Decatur Way (2018)

New Mural Decatur Way (2018)

In 2016 the Decatur Way Path was established to display local artists’ murals, poetry installations and other artwork. These artists include students from 26 local schools, UMass Lowell Art Prof. Stephen Mishol, poet Paul Marion, muralists Donald Maker and Kurt Ledoux of Lowell, and artist Liz LaManche of Boston.  This blend of art pays homage to Lowell’s impressive mills and canal ways like many of the past installations do, but it represents the city’s modern culture and values today as well.

Lowell Street Piano. Art by Margo Thach (2018) - Photo Courtesy of Karen Frederick

Lowell Street Piano. Art by Margo Thach (2018) - Photo Courtesy of Karen Frederick

The latest edition to Lowell’s ever expanding public art collection is also an instrument. In October of 2018, the city unveiled its first Street Piano to support the city’s growing music and art scene. The piano was donated to the city by Lowell Resident Paul Belley, and has been transformed into a work of art itself by local artist Margo Thach. Thach has designed the piano with gold accents that capture several themes of Lowell, including a textile mill, the City Hall clock tower and images of Cambodian culture.

Concept art for “Hydro”

Concept art for “Hydro”

The development of Utopia Park located in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District has provided the necessary space for another special public art installation. Artist Nancy Selvage was chosen to create “Hydro,” a large stainless steel fixture with a fluid, abstract design that resembles Lowell’s natural waterfalls and its turbine waterfalls as well. The project is being led by the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) in partnership with the city, Lowell National Historical Park and others.

Foundation of “Hydro”

Foundation of “Hydro”

Weekend Picks: What To Do and See in Lowell

There is something for everyone to do this weekend in Lowell! Whether you’re looking to go to a unique event that only comes once a year, listen to some great live music, or maybe explore a part of Lowell you’ve never seen before, we’ve compiled a list of eight exciting things you can check out this weekend.   


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PARK(ing) Day returns to downtown Lowell today! At this special event, artists and other contributors transform selected parking spaces into artistic projects and miniature parks to call attention to the need for more open space in urban environments. This year's theme is "LoWELLness", and local artists Chummeng Soun and Mary Hart will transform their spaces into artistic messages of health, fitness, and mindfulness. The event begins at 9 AM, and the art installations can be seen on Merrimack and Market Streets.


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Tonight, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) presents a free showing of the Disney Pixar movie Coco for the Lowell community at 6 PM. Gather your family and friends and enjoy a critically acclaimed movie about family, community, and culture. The event will be held in partnership with the Lowell Police Department. Free food and family-friendly entertainment will be provided.


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Many locals probably know that Coffee & Cotton has great coffee and sandwiches, but many might not know that they have live music too! At 8 PM Friday night, you can listen to Lowell singer-songwriters Santi C and Joshua Lin perform live while sipping on a seasonal Latte and catching up with friends. Not feeling coffee? Try a glass of wine or one of the local craft beers they have on tap.


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The city of Lowell welcomes the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race back for its 3rd year! At this event that can’t be missed, contestants create all-terrain, cycle-powered sculptures capable of traveling through streets, water, mud and sand, racing against one another through downtown Lowell and out to the Merrimack river. The race begins Saturday morning at 8:30 AM at the intersection of Market Street and Palmer Street. There will be an after party and award ceremony at Cobblestones Restaurant at 4 PM.


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On Saturday, explore the historically significant Boott Cotton Mills Museum for free between 9:30 AM-5 PM. There is a lot to see at this museum, including a fully functional 1920’s weave room where you see, and hear, first-hand how cloth used to be made in the Lowell mills! There are plenty of hands-on exhibits as well, giving you a true sense for Lowell’s extraordinary industrial legacy. 


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You never know what you might find at the Vintage Marketplace at Mill No. 5, but you can count on finding something cool. In addition to the shops that are permanently fixed in Mill No. 5, vendors also fill up the hallways on Saturday to sell their vintage clothing, jewelry, art, cameras, music players, and more! The vendors will be open for business from 12-4 PM.


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Attached to the Olympia Restaurant is the Zorba Music Hall where you can find live music playing every weekend. This Saturday, enjoy the classics you love from legendary rock bands Foreigner and Journey as the tribute band Foreigners Journey blends sounds from both bands to create one uniquely awesome show. The doors open at 7 PM and the performance begin at 9 PM.

To purchase tickets visit http://zorbamusichall.com/


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On Sunday, enjoy a relaxing day shopping for fresh, local food at The Farm Market at Mill No. 5. Between 11 AM-3 PM, local vendors will be filling the indoor streetscape hallways with farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, artisan bread and pastries, locally sourced meat and eggs, and handmade craft goods. When you’ve finished shopping, unwind by listening to some live music played on the Hi-Hat stage, or join the Magical Mystery Movie Club at the Luna Theater for a free showing of a surprise, family-friendly movie at 11:30. The farmers market and free movie are held every Sunday at Mill No. 5, so you can always come back for more.

Re-Discovering Lowell: An Intern Experience

As my time in the  Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE) comes to an end, I am reflecting on my experiences with the City of Lowell over the past six months.  I grew up just one town over from Lowell, but never really experienced it. To me, Lowell was the Tsongas Center and the Mills. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work in CASE, thanks to the internship program at UMass Lowell, but I am sad to say goodbye!
 


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Learning about Lowell's history throughout my school years and actually experiencing it are two completely different things! Going on a canal tour was one of my favorite things that I have done here at CASE. The Park Rangers are full of knowledge that they are eager to share with you; it is contagious! If you would ask any of my former teachers, I am sure they would say that I was not always mentally present, but the canal tour was so awesome I don't think I had the option of becoming distracted! What made it even better was that it was clear that the Rangers love what they do and really appreciate Lowell's history.


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This city is a true melting pot. All the different cultural groups make every day new, interesting, and vibrant. Most days I can hear a few different types of music; all of it unique and meaningful. The culture here allows for small businesses to thrive because the people understand the importance of tradition and self-expression. The talent that fills this city makes it so you feel like you're traveling to different countries when all you really need to do is cross the street.


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The array of cultural activities includes by music festivals and smaller music venues in the summer months. The Lowell Summer Music Series is one of the coolest experiences I have had attending a concert. I saw Mikky Ekko and Fitz and The Tantrums perform at the beginning of the summer. I was able to get seats right in front of the stage and I was mesmerized by the performances. I do not know of any other venue that provides this type of intimacy. So many people put a lot of work in to make opportunities like this available, many of them volunteers. This city has a great pool of people who want to provide good times and even better memories- I am looking forward to seeing the list of performers for next year's concert series!
 


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With my last day being August 22nd, I am glad to say that Lowell is no longer just the Tsongas Center or the mills to me. Lowell is filled with new things to be discovered every day. Whether it is art, music, food or learning about a new culture-there is always something to celebrate. CASE staff made me feel so welcomed in the office and I will miss working with them, but I couldn't ask for anyone better to really show me what Lowell has to offer.

Experience Destination Lowell

Our favorite weekend of summer is finally here! The Lowell Folk Festival begins tonight with the Flag Parade at 6:30 PM and official festival kick-off starting at 6:55 PM! There will not be a shortage of things to do throughout the weekend, but if you are unsure where to start, Destination Lowell is the perfect spot! We will be on Merrimack Street with plenty of information showcasing Lowell's unique and vibrant Arts and Culture scene. Immerse yourself in all things Lowell as Destination Lowell provides the opportunity to experience the many different cultures and lifestyles that we have right here in Lowell.


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Destination Lowell higlights Lowell's rich community resources. There will be many local organizations with information on topics such as Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, a nonprofit organization the mission of which is to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Jack Kerouac's life and literature and the Lowell Cultural Council, whose mission is to promote excellence, access, education and diversity to improve the quality of life for all Lowell residents. Stop by the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust table to meet their environmental educators, check their upcoming programming, or learn about their projects. Make sure you visit these booths and learn what makes Lowell the cool city that it is and how to contribute to making it even better!


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If you haven't experienced the creative, artistic spirit in our great city, Destination Lowell will change that for you. Keep an eye out for the "Lobster Roll", a human powered machine shaped like a giant lobster that will be part of the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race booth. Discover Lowell Makes, a makerspace which offers shared equipment, classes, and opportunities to teach and network. Western Avenue Studios, one of the "must see places" to visit in Lowell, will also be there. Find out what makes this artist community a destination for creatives seeking studio space in the city.


Photo Courtesy of Boston GreenFest

There will be restaurant and retail booths - Crepes and The City, Fuji Restaurant, Lowell Burger Company, All Star Lounge, Humanity BoutiqueGaleria De Los Andes-Boutique - all of which are located on Merrimack Street. There will also be demonstrations from Mill No. 5, stores such as Crose Nest, Dress and Trousers,Dandelion District. Red Antler Apothecary will transform an empty storefront into a pop-up shop for the weekend!


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There are so many ways to represent Lowell's unique, rich and vibrant cultural scene. Some additional booths that will be located within Destination Lowell are the UMass Lowell Kayak Center, International Institute of New England the Merrimack Antique Bottle Club and the Lowell Historical Society. There are many other places to experience, so make sure you come by and see us this weekend! Check out the Destination Lowell section on the Folk Festival website here.

Summer Outdoor: Energize your Mind and Body

Many organizations in Lowell provide the opportunity to get to know the city on a much deeper level. Both buildings and nature are filled with history, and you can experience it all while getting your steps in! There are multiple programs that incorporate wellness, history and the outdoors and are enjoyable for all ages!


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The Lowell National Historical Park hosts the “Wellness on the Walkways Series.” These guided walking tours allow you to discover Lowell’s waterways, explore the many different canalways and outdoor spaces that are overflowing with history. There are a variety of walks including a photography walk and a birding walk. For each walk you attend, you can get a collectible button as well!

Lowell Walks, hosted by Richard Howe is another series of historical guided walking tours. These tours are held at 10 AM on Saturday mornings, each with a different topic and tour guide. Past topics have been "Abolitionism in Lowell," "Infamous Crimes," "Downtown Architecture" and more. This is a great way to exercise and learn more about Lowell’s past.


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If guided walking tours aren’t up your alley, no worries! There are plenty more options to merge wellness and the experience of Lowell’s natural and historical beauty. The Concord River Greenway is a perfect blend of all the above. The land along the Concord River has so much to share as it has been home to many people throughout its years. There is 2,700 linear feet of path for you to walk or hike while being able to experience the white water rapids, wildlife while surrounded by nature.


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At Boarding House Park, Bija Yoga is hosting Yoga in the Park on Wednesdays from 6– 7 PM. These classes are free, but donations for local organizations are gratefully accepted. Each week Bija Yoga is supporting a different organization. The classes are offered in Kripalu style yoga which emphasizes meditation and breath work, and is appropriate for all levels of students. This is a great opportunity to practice wellness, support and get to know your local organizations and what they do for Lowell! Find out more information here.


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Another great way to experience the Merrimack River is by taking the paddle tours offered by UMass Lowell. They offer sunset paddle tours, full moon and evening paddle tours, and custom paddle tours. Tours start at $30 and are held on alternating Fridays and Saturdays from 7 – 9 PM until September 4th. All tours are guided, include equipment rental, safety/paddling instructions and are appropriate for adults and children. Check out the schedule here.


Make sure you're keeping up with the events happening all summer! Check out our calendar.

Escaping The Heat in Lowell’s Museums and Galleries

Summer is in full swing and starting to heat up! Luckily there is a lot happening in July, and there are many places in Lowell to help you escape the heat, enjoy local art, live music and more.


Photo by John Phelam

Photo by John Phelam

Through July 18th, the New England Quilt Museum has the exhibit "Beyond the Border Wall: The Migrant Quilt Project" on display. The museum is located at 18 Shattuck Street and will host two more exhibit openings this month. "H2oh!" will be open on July 11th and "Material Girls Quilt Guild Exhibition" opens on July 18th.


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The Arts League of Lowell, at 307 Market Street, has the "New England Members'" exhibit on display until August 5th. This exhibit depicts a variety of iconic images that represent New England's charm, strength and character. To compliment the New England exhibit, starting July 5th "The Tiny Brush: Botanical Paintings in Two Styles" will be on display through July 29th. These pieces highlight the beauty of nature, especially in New England.


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Picasso was right: "Youth has no age." The Loading Dock Gallery's July Show, "Artful Age"  proves the saying true. Curators Linda B. Dunn and Pamela Wamala have worked in parallel for close to a decade, leading art classes for senior centers, continuing care residences, and rehab facilities. In Artful Age, their students' work shines with joy. "Art reawakens old interests and sparks new ones," notes Dunn.The show runs July 5-29 and the opening reception is Saturday, July 7, from 4-6 PM. 


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Discover More Galleries and Museums

There's plenty of art to see elsewhere: "The Allure of Venice" at the Whistler House Museum of Art featuring works by Boston artist Walter Franklin Lansil has been extended through July 21.Stop by Gallery Z for their annual Co-op Artists Exhibition, thru July 29th.The Studio Artists at the Brush Gallery remember Deirdre McCullough Grunwald with their annual group show entitled "Reflections - Homage to a Friend". Also check out these other exhibits: Ayer Lofts Art Gallery - Opening July 7, "Invest in the Future", thru July 29.


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Other Cool Places to Visit

The first Saturday of every month, Western Avenue Studios & Lofts opens its doors and invites visitors to explore five floors of many types of arts created inside the walls. You can speak with the artists about their work, learn about their inspirations behind each piece, allowing you to further appreciate each work of art. Western Avenue Studios is located at 122 Western Avenue.


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Mill No. 5 is a great place to spend some time on a hot day. There are many unique shops with varying hours, as well as Coffee and Cotton and the Luna Theater. There is often live music at Coffee and Cotton along with a delicious food and drink menu. The Luna Theater features both old and new films and hosts live Jazz musicians every Thursday. On Sunday during the Farm Market the Luna hosts the Magical Mystery Movie Club starting at 11:30 AM. The movie is always G or PG and is never revealed in advance!


To find out more about all of the great galleries and museums in Lowell, click here.

For more events happening around Lowell, check out our calendar.

Lowell Folk Festival: A Summer Must-Do

It's that time of year again! The 32nd Annual Folk Festival will be will be returning to downtown Lowell with a full lineup beginning with the parade of flags from Lowell's City Hall Plaza to Boarding House Park on Friday July 27th, at 6 PM and then continuing with the finest in traditional music, craft and food throughout the weekend. There is so much culture to be shared and even more memories to be made; this is a summer festival you won't want to miss! 

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The Music

First and foremost, Folk Fest is a showcase for music from all different cultural backgrounds. The festival features five stages of traditional music, from Africa, Hawaii, Columbia, France, Cape Verde and much, much more! Check out the list of this year's performers on the Folk Festival website which includes a map and more information on what to expect! 


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The Food

There will be over a dozen different ethnic groups sharing their delicious cuisines. From Polish to Greek, Asian, Latin, Burmese and everything in between,  all the different aromas will be guiding you on a trip around the world without having to leave Lowell! The food booths will be set up in various locations so you are able to ignite not only your taste buds, but all your other senses while enjoying the art and music all around you.


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The Local Culture

Make sure you stop by Destination Lowell along Merrimack Street! Destination Lowell presents Lowell's vibrant culture and highlights why Lowell is a great destination to enjoy history, art and creative activities all within feet of each other. It's no secret that our Canalway Cultural District is lively and the perfect destination for a summer day. Come check what this year's Destination Lowell has to offer and experience for yourself why "There's a Lot to Like about Lowell!"


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The Artisan Crafts

The Lowell Folk Festival in collaboration with the Brush Art Gallery & Studios, presents Art in the Courtyard: an arts and fine crafts marketplace. This exciting collaboration will provide an opportunity for visitors to view and purchase some of the finest art and craft works being produced.

Art in the Courtyard takes place on Saturday, July 28, noon - 7:30 pm and Sunday, July 29, noon - 6 pm in the shaded, brick-lined courtyard between the National Historical Park Visitor Center and the Brush Art Gallery. 


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The Fun

Festival-goers are in for great fun along Shattuck Street with numerous interactive opportunities.The Lowell National Historical Park Staff will be organizing interactive crafts for all ages. Everyone is invited to try out the traditional games offered by the Recreation Department, which will include ring toss, bean bag toss, muffin tin game, and the ever popular box hockey which was invented in Lowell.


Embark on a Canal Boat Adventure

If you’ve been searching for a way to enjoy this beautiful weather and learning about Lowell’s rich history, you absolutely need to go on a canal boat tour! The tours are provided by the Lowell National Historical Park and are a great way to see how the waterways have supported Lowell’s historical development and growth throughout the years. I just so happened to go on the Working the Water Tour on one of the hottest days of the year (so far,) and it was nice to be on the water for a bit with a nice breeze!

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The tour starts on the platform outside the visitor’s center at 246 Market Street. The park ranger who is leading your tour will give an introduction about what you will be experiencing and some background information before heading to the trolley which brings you to the boat.

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Allison was the Park Ranger who led the tour I was on, and she was answering questions right from the start. Throughout the tour, Allison passed around pictures of how the canals appeared in their early years, maps of the canal system, and of the men who dug the canals or had important roles in canal history.

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Not only was the tour filled with historical facts, but we also got to see a reenactment of how the Swamp Lock gate was manually opened and closed for those passing through.  A sign with the toll prices was another piece that was really cool to see; for some reason it never occurred to me that boats paid tolls too!

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One of the interesting visuals that Allison pointed out as we were going through the canal was that one side was made with stones fitted together and the other side was made with cement blocks. The cement, a more recent improvement, was breaking apart while the stones were solid and looked like they could be just a few years old.

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The tour did not end when we stepped off the boat. Allison continued to give information about canal history and the influence and impact that it has had on Lowell. The tour ended with a trolley ride back to the visitor’s center on Market Street, which is just a short walk away from many unique cafes and restaurants, a perfect way to wrap up your day in the Canalway Cultural District. Check out the dining guide here.

Lowell Opens its Doors and Lights Up A Bridge

Doors Open Lowell takes place this Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th. In its 17th year, this event allows the community to experience Lowell’s history in a whole new way. We typically are only able to admire the outside architecture of the different buildings that gives Lowell its historic character. Open doors provide an inside view to 31 buildings, as well as many “Doors Open XTRAS” open from 6-9 PM on Friday and from 10 AM- 1 PM and 1 PM- 4 PM on Saturday. There will be shuttle stops on May 5th connecting the different locations. Click here for the map.


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A new addition this year is the Swamp Locks Gatehouse located on Dutton Street. This gatehouse began operating in 1796 and was the second of three locking locations built on the Pawtucket canal. There have been many reconstructions of the gatehouse over the years and the current one is a restoration of the 1859 version. Swamp Locks will be open for tours on May 5th from 10 AM – 1 PM.


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From 6 PM- dusk on May 4th, you can climb aboard the New Orleans “streetcar named Desire,” a Doors Open XTRA The streetcar will depart from Dutton Street, behind the National Street Car Museum. Lowell’s first electric streetcar system began operating in 1889, and their final run was in 1935. The streetcar, New Orleans No. 966, currently in Lowell as part of the “On Track” exhibit, is one of the famed cars that transported people through the French Quarter and inspired Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Built by Perley-Thomas of High Point, North Carolina in 1924, it ran throughout the city until 1964.


Photo courtesy of Barbara Poole

Photo courtesy of Barbara Poole

 Another XTRA this year is the Spalding House. Built in 1760 and located at 383 Pawtucket Street, the Spalding House is the third oldest surviving house in Lowell. The house was purchased in pounds and schillings because at this time we were still under the rule of England. The Spalding House was also known as the Moses Davis Inn and was a refuge for barge keepers bringing lumber down the Merrimack River before the canals were built. This historic site also features a lighting collection representing lighting sources throughout its history. The house will be open on May 5th from 1-4 PM


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The Franco American School will also be one of the buildings open for tours. Dating back to the 1870’s, the Franco American has been home to prominent Lowellians, an orphanage and a school. The building is currently being converted into residences, but the character and the history will be preserved. The estate has 14 Stations of the Cross and a Grotto reflecting its history as a Catholic orphanage and school. After 108 years, the Franco American has found yet another purpose to serve to the community of Lowell. Franco American will be open on May 5th from 1-4 PM.


Photo courtesy of GLCF

Photo courtesy of GLCF

Don't miss it! The Cox Bridge Lighting is happening on May 5th! Thanks to the generosity of donors at the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, the Cox Bridge has been outfitted with LED lighting that will highlight the architecture of the bridge and create a colorful display on this Lowell landmark, announcing holidays and special events. Come join us for fun, food, and entertainment before the switch is officially flipped. More info here

ArtWeek Returns To Lowell

Lowell celebrates the arts during ArtWeek Lowell. This coming week, April 28th-May 6th is ArtWeek in Massachusetts. This event, which started out just in Eastern Mass, has been expanding in recent years and has become state wide! Since 2013 there have been over one-thousand art events with ArtWeek, showing that there truly is art for everyone; such as culinary arts, multimedia, theater, literature, music, crafts, visual art and more. Lowell is bursting with talented artists from every category and we are excited to share the different events happening around the city for ArtWeek!

Photo Courtesy of the GLC Foundation

Photo Courtesy of the GLC Foundation

Light Up ArtWeek

Lowell's Second Annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration kicks-off ArtWeek with the release of personalized lanterns on the Western Canal, creating hundreds of points of light. This outdoor event, which will be held at Ecumenical Plaza on April 28th from 6-10 pm, celebrates unity and renewal through the food, music and traditions of Lowell's diverse cultures. 

Also happening on April 28th at 7:30 PM, is the Loft Musicians, a collaborative show performed by the musicians who live in the lofts at Western Avenue. All proceeds from the show go to Miracle Providers New England, and there will be opportunities to interact with the musicians as well.

The Cox Bridge Lighting Celebration on May 5th from 6-8:30 pm is a perfect way to end ArtWeek. The public gathering to celebrate the bridge lighting will be held at Kerouac Park, located on Bridge Street and Blue Star Park. This event will feature live entertainment and food trucks. Be there before the switch is officially flipped to highlight the architecture of this Lowell landmark.


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Art for Everyone

There are many opportunities to get creative throughout the week as well. ArtWeek Lowell events include a free painting demonstration at the Arts League of Lowell on April 29th at 2 pm. During this demonstration, you will learn how to create an acrylic painting using the palette and primary colors. Art supplies will also be available for attendees to experience hands-on art-making with the palette knife and paints.

On May 5th A Little Bazaar and Eyeformation Shop are co-hosting an ArtWeek  event at Mill No 5 that will showcase local artists demonstrating their creative process to the community! Starting at 12 pm, there will be a live paint and drawing demonstration by Lowell based artist Derrick Jamison and P.A.B. On the same day there will be a drop-in activity at Studio #109 at Western Ave, where you can create abstract art using alcohol ink on special paper; this event is safe for children and starts at 12 pm. Also on May 5th, participate in an Initiation to Painting class held at the Arts League of Lowell at 1 pm.

Another nearby event is the Lowell's Asian American Heritage Exhibit opening at the Brush Gallery on May 5th at 2 pm. This exhibit (open until June 7) and talk celebrates Lowell's multicultural communities including Cambodian, Burmese, Laotian, Nepalese, Chinese, Indian, and Thai.


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Talking Art

Art is everywhere in Lowell. Join Richard Howe for a Monument and Public Art Walk on April 28th and 29th at 1 pm. There are more than two dozen monuments around the city and Richard Howe will guide the tour to help locate these important pieces. The tour begins at the National Park Visitors Center, at 246 Market Street.

On May 5th, "Wellness on the Walkways Photography Walk" starts at 1 pm at the National Park Visitors Center. On April 28th, there is a reception and artist talk for "The Quilted Canvas II" exhibit at 11 am at the New England Quilt Museum, 18 Shattuck Street.

There is also an open house for the new art exhibit "Branding Lowell: A History of Local Design" featuring curator talks at the Mogan Cultural Center located at 40 French Street at 1:30 and 3 pm, as well as activities for all ages such as designing your own logo.

Earth Day: Celebrate Green Living in Lowell

With April being National Garden Month, Earth Day coming up on Sunday, the 22nd and National Park Week starting on the 21st, it is the perfect time to talk about the many ways to go green in Lowell. There are many resources and organizations that can provide information on living green and help you take the steps towards a more environmentally sustainable life in an urban setting.


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Offbeet Compost is dedicated to creating a green economy that also produces local green job opportunities. To do this, they redirect food scraps from restaurants, households and small businesses away from the landfills to their composting site, where the scraps are broken down into nutrient rich compost. The new compost is then redistributed to participants and sold to local farmers, gardeners and landscapers. Offbeet also mentions how composting can actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Check out their website to learn more about the different ways you can become involved with Offbeet and their composting plans.


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 With a goal to increase access to fresh produce around Lowell, Mill City Grows is very active in our city. They have many different events and programs that educate both beginners and experienced gardeners, such as farm to table cooking classes and a garden training program. This Saturday, April 21st, Mill City Grows will be hosting a screening of the film "Seed: The Untold Story" at the Luna Theater at 2:05 pm. Seed follows passionate seed keepers who are protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy of which 94% of seed variations have been eliminated due to biotech companies controlling most of the seeds. 


Photo by Megpix

Photo by Megpix

Also happening at Mill No. 5 on Saturday, April 21st, will be a puppet, mask and banner making event for families. This event is part of Earth Day from 12-2 pm, and those families who participated last year were inspired to join the Earth Day parade with their art! To learn more about the community gardens around Lowell or if you just want to know more about Mill City Grows, click here.


Photo by Megpix

Photo by Megpix

The Lowell Earth Day Parade & Festival starts at 11:30 on the 22nd! Celebrating Earth Day with our community is the perfect way to learn more about green living, and what better way to kick off the start of National Park Week than learning about ways to keep our environment clean and sustainable! This city-wide celebration of art, nature and sustainability begins with a parade from the National Park Visitor's Center on Market Street, and after doing a loop down town ends at UTEC on 35 Warren Street, where local groups will present activities, crafts and valuable information about taking care of our planet.


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Catch it before it's gone! The art exhibit "Honoring Gaia: Mother Earth," at the Arts League of Lowell closes on Sunday, the 22nd after being on display since the beginning of March. This exhibit honors Gaia, Mother Earth in mythology, life, birth and the regeneration of our planet's fragile ecosystems in the face of dangerous climate change.