(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
Originally started by the late neighborhood and arts advocate Elma Lewis in the 1960s as a way to attract residents to the park and showcase local talent, the event has been resurrected by the Franklin Park Coalition and now offers free concerts every Tuesday night in July.
“We grew up in Roxbury and she had a music school and she use to have programs and saw an opportunity to bring her dance studio out into the community,” said Lillian Corbin, 87, the sister-in-law of Lewis. “She use to invite talent like Duke Ellington they performed here in Franklin Park way back when and as a result over the years they began to call it the Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park because she offered this to the community every summer.”
With a nice summer breeze and plenty of shade, concert goers enjoyed the tunes, snacking on fruit and enjoying a park that stretches 485 acres and touches four neighborhoods.
“There’s a lot of people that live around here and it’s a gorgeous park and I think sometimes it’s a little underutilized but to have an event like this it brings people to it,” said Rupal Batt, a Roslindale resident.
Funded through grants, the city, and private capital raised by the Franklin Park Coalition the concerts are completely free and feature soul, jazz, and rock groups.
But with tightening budgets there is fear that the series, which returned in 2003 after a 12-year hiatus, might not be able to return for another year.
“It’s really hard to pay for,” said Christine Poof, the executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition. "We’ve had grants before but that’s drying up, we don’t know where we will go next year and we’re worried.”
Although the cost and the ability to continue is worrisome, the neighborhood and the concert goers still have July’s series to enjoy and show the funders that the park and it’s programming is important to them.
“It’s nice to see the community come out together. You see people from all walks of life. It’s just a beautiful feeling,” said Naheem Garcia, who has hosted the concert for the past eight-years. “It’s important for people to come out on Tuesday and support. The more numbers we have, the more the city and the funders and the sponsors see that people are coming out and enjoying this day and this concert.”
Tuesday, July 17
11:00 a.m. - OrigiNation dancers
6:00 p.m. - Elan Trotman
Tuesday, July 24
11:00 a.m. - Floor Lords, opening are the Roberto Clemente 21 Dancers
6:00 p.m. - Athene Wilson
Tuesday, July 31
11:00 a.m. - Stajez Dance Company
6:00 p.m. - Ray Greene