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Can Street Performers Reclaim Harvard Square?

(Photo by Infrogmation)

Outdoor buskers and other performers took to Cambridge’s City Hall to express concern over the city’s fading outdoor entertainment scene, which once attracted a wide array of artists to spaces such as Harvard Square. The Boston Globe reports that a recent committee hearing to discuss methods of making street performance more inviting for artists trying to make a living wage attracted a collection of performers showing support for more outdoor performing arts in the city.

“We have the talent, and we have the venues here,” said Councilor Nadeem Mazen during the hearing.

From New York to New Orleans, there’s been an uptick in policing sound in the last several years. In Cambridge, shifting policy led to artists needing to obtain a $40 city permit before performing in the streets. The city also monitors the sound levels of artists to keep performances below 80 decibels. Additionally, a significant aspect of street performance — the audience — is also monitored. Police are requested to clear away spectators if the crowd gets too large.

One performer compared Cambridge and Harvard Square to other famed art cities. “We all talk to each other and hear of places to go. You go to London, you go to Paris, you go to Amsterdam, you go to Tokyo — and Harvard Square was one of those places you used to hear about,” he said. “There’s nothing really special about Harvard Square anymore.”

It seems performers in the area have reason to be hopeful, however. Though no formal revisions have been set out yet, Julie Barry, Cambridge’s director of community arts, asked performers not to write off Cambridge yet as she considers possible ordinance revisions, the Globe reports.