Interested in going to an arts event, either at a discounted price or for free? You’re sure to find something to do either on campus or in the Greater Boston area. Because policies can change, be sure to confirm event information with the presenting organization.
Help us help you! If you discover a new venue that should be included or changes in a venue’s policy, please contact the BU Arts Initiative so that listings can be updated. Check back often as new venues continue to be added.
BU Central, located right in the center of the Charles River campus, is Boston University’s late-night entertainment venue. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, you can see the best in music acts of various genres as well as comedy.
The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, located in the Mugar Library, offers a variety of events that are open to the public. Some events are free while others require an admission fee. As part of the center’s mission to enrich the student experience, a number of programs, such as seminars, workshops, classes, lectures, receptions, and readings are offered free to students each semester.
Presenting more than 400 performances, concerts, and exhibitions each year, the College of Fine Arts offers a myriad of arts events, many of which are free and open to the public. At other times, BU community members receive one free ticket or a discounted admission price with a BU ID.
Acknowledged as one of the world’s most powerful and insightful ensembles, the Muir String Quartet has been in residence at BU since 1983. Open rehearsals, master classes, and performances—all free—are held at various venues on campus.
If you’re looking for some place for introspection, check out the Muelder Chapel at the School of Theology. Every Tuesday, from 12 to 3 pm, discover a different tool, such as mandalas, collages, and guided meditation, to provide a moment of respite and creative expression.
The Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism in the George Sherman Union hosts a monthly gallery opening as well as other performances and film screenings that relate to various social justice issues.
The Tsai Performance Center, BU’s premiere performance location, offers discounted ticket prices to University faculty, staff, alumni, and students with a valid BU ID, and many events are free and open to the public. Non-BU organizations that perform at Tsai include Celebrity Series of Boston, Jeannette Neill Dance Studio, and New England Philharmonic.
Alea III, the contemporary music ensemble-in-residence at BU, is devoted to promoting, playing, and teaching music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Free concerts are held at the Tsai Performance Center.
Inspired by the spoken word? The Creative Writing Program hosts readings throughout the year. In addition, the Annual Faculty Reading features faculty and alumni from the program who read from both published and forthcoming collections. Past participants have included Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and National Book Award-winner Ha Jin (GRS’94).
Co-sponsored by the College of General Studies and the BU Center for the Humanities Foundation, the Poetry Reading Series strives to make poetry a fundamental part of university and community life. By presenting the work of both renowned and emerging poets, the series attempts to broaden our vision of poetry’s concerns and effects.
At the College of Communication, the Film and Television Department’s Cinematheqùe hosts meetings and conversations with filmmakers and free screenings of important, innovative films. Events are free to BU students and staff and their friends.
Check out the calendar of events at the BU Bookstore in Kenmore Square for opportunities to hear authors read from their works and ask them questions about the creative process.
Programs in the arts are offered under the auspices of BU’s Metropolitan College. Seminars are free to BU students with pre-registration. In addition, the Dean’s Office hosts art exhibitions at the Metropolitan Gallery (Room 103); artists are invited to submit works for display.
The Photographic Resource Center serves as a vital forum for the exploration and interpretation of new work, ideas, and methods in photography and related media. It presents thought-provoking exhibitions, distinctive education programs, wide-ranging resources, and unique special events. Admission is free with a BU ID.
Farther up Commonwealth Avenue on West Campus is the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, an award-winning professional theater dedicated to new works, where tickets to productions are $10 for BU students and $25 for BU faculty and staff. Faculty and staff also get a $10 discount on a season subscription (four plays), normally $47.
Annual University events include BU symphonic concerts at Symphony Hall presented by the College of Fine Arts, the Redstone Film Festival produced by the College of Communication, and Art Days, celebrated in March on the Medical Campus.
Venture off-campus to discover that Boston knows how to live the arts! Check out ArtsBoston to find out what is going on.
Venues with Free/Affordable Arts Events
The Boston Public Library in Copley Square offers films, lectures, performances, and tours—all for free! In addition, artistic masterpieces, including murals by Edwin Austen Abbey, Puvis de Chavannes, and John Singer Sargent, adorn its walls.
Bostix & ArtsBoston
Half-price tickets to all kinds of art offerings are available at Bostix booths in Copley Square and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. You can find information about arts and cultural events in Boston at ArtsBoston.
StudentRate offers discounts to students; just search for “Boston University.”
In addition to dance courses at BU’s FitRec and the Dance Theatre Group, dancers can get involved at nearby dance studios, including the Green Street Studios in Cambridge and the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio. You can find additional information about Boston area dance studios here.
Rush tickets to performances of the Boston Ballet are $20 (cash only) to full-time college students with a valid ID. All attendees must be present with identification at time of purchase. See their website for details.
All members of the BU community have the opportunity to purchase $20 tickets to upcoming Boston Ballet performances at “Dance Spotlight” presentations by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
For swing fans, Boston Swing Central (Charlestown) holds a weekly Friday night dance open to all regardless of experience. Classes and other dance times are also offered.
Downtown, AMC Loews Boston Common 19 offers Student Day on Thursdays, when students with a valid ID pay only $8.50.
In Cambridge, the Harvard Film Archive offers a public cinematheque program, presenting films Friday through Monday nights year round. All screenings are held in the Archive’s 200-seat theater located in the historic Carpenter Center for the Arts, and many of the screenings are free.
Members of the BU community can get a Boston Symphony Orchestra College Card, normally $25, at no cost. With the BSO College Card, students have free admission and faculty and staff receive a 50 percent discount on more than 20 concerts and open rehearsals. Cards must be presented in combination with a BU ID at the Symphony Hall box office on the day of the performance to receive a ticket. To receive a BSO College Card, students, faculty, and staff only need to show their BU ID. You can pick up your BSO card in three locations: Activities Information desk at the George Sherman Union, Dean’s Office at The College of Fine Arts at Boston University, Room 230, and at our office in the Provost’s Office – 8th Floor – 1 Silber way. Faculty and staff may pick up their cards at Human Resources on either campus. Register your College Card on the BSO’s website to find out what performances are available, as well as to sign up to receive email alerts when new performances are added. For other BSO performances, join the Rush Ticket line the day of a performance. A limited number of Rush tickets for BSO concerts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings and Friday afternoons are set aside for sale on the day of the performance. Rush Tickets cost $9, are limited to one per customer, and must be paid for with cash only.
Berklee College of Music’s Cafe 939 is a state-of-the-art, all-ages, student-run music venue and coffeehouse. It embraces styles ranging from rock, jazz, folk, and world, to bluegrass, hip-hop, electronica, and avant-garde with concerts by student performers, local artists, and national acts. Many of the events are free, and others have ticket prices as low as $5. In addition, New Brew concerts by Berklee students, faculty, or staff are performed at 1 pm every Tuesday and Thursday, for free. Check the website’s calendar for confirmation.
The Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at Boston University, is Boston’s leading professional theater. Full-time BU students, with BU ID, get $15 rush tickets available in person starting two hours prior to curtain, subject to availability. BU faculty, staff, and alumni can take $10 off full-priced tickets, as well as purchase discounted subscriptions. New BU employees receive two complimentary tickets. In addition, 35 Below and last row tickets for all performances are $25.
Many of the shows presented by Broadway Across America Boston at either The Colonial Theatre or The Boston Opera House have $25 student or senior rush seats. One hour before curtain, present an ID at the respective theater’s box office, and it’s cash only. Tickets are subject to availability and rush seats are not available for all performances.
Improv Asylum (North End) offers comedy shows with ticket prices as low as $5. While you’re in the neighborhood, you can sweeten the deal by going to either Mike’s or Modern Pastry for dessert afterward.
Student rush tickets to performances of Blue Man Group are available for $30 one hour prior to the performance, based on availability (two tickets per valid college ID). Call 617-426-6912 on the day of the performance to check on ticket availability.
At the American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge), full-time college students can purchase a student rush ticket (one per ID) for $15 on the day of the performance, subject to availability, by phone or in person at the box office. Advance tickets (one per student ID) are $25, subject to availability, by phone or in person at the box office.
Need a musical theater fix? Head straight to the Reagle Music Theatre (Waltham), where college students get 50 percent off any performance one hour before showtime. You need to present your BU ID at the ticket window.
If discounted tickets are still too pricey, consider becoming a volunteer usher for a night. The Huntington Theatre Company, New Repertory Theatre (Watertown), and American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge) accept volunteer ushers. Many other Boston-area theaters accept volunteer ushers, but their policies vary, so check their websites before contacting them. Additional opportunities will be posted here.
Nestled inside the Hotel Commonwealth, Panopticon Gallery represents established and emerging photographers. Past exhibitions have included works by Harold Feinstein, Bradford Washburn, and William Wegman.
Did you know that BU students, faculty, and staff can visit the Museum of Fine Arts for free? Just present your BU ID at the admission desk.
Just down the street from the MFA is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, membership is free for BU students. Just show your BU ID.
The Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery at the Boston Athenæum on Beacon Hill features three exhibitions per year. These are always open to the public during normal business hours; a donation for admission is suggested.
A little farther afield is the Institute of Contemporary Art. Students pay only $10, and the museum is free to all every Thursday (Target Free Thursday Nights) from 5 to 9 p.m. and free for families (up to two adults accompanied by children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of each month, with the exception of December. The ICA also hosts performances in the evenings; those on Thursdays are free.
Ready for something out-of-the-ordinary? Try the Museum of Bad Art, the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and celebration of bad art in all its forms – or “art too bad to be ignored.” Originally located in Somerville, MOBA has branched out to Brookline and Somerville. Admission is free, and donations are appreciated.
Enjoy free art indoors and out at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, which hosts art shows throughout the year.