These centers are great places for a variety of fun and inexpensive activities whether you’re just viewing, or actually participating. Many of the programs and classes are designed for adults, children, or both.

Boston Center for the Arts

539 Tremont St, Boston; (617) 426-7700

The BCA comprises several red-brick buildings in the now-fashionable part of the South End. The area has really come on in the last few years, laced with chic bistros, antique shops, and hair salons. In summer, the kiosk in front of the BCA serves snacks and beverages, with tables and chairs on the open plaza.

There are three different theater spaces here: The BCA Theater, the Black Box Theater, and the Leland Center. These are of the small and minimalistic variety thus, well-suited to experimental works. Many of the city’s most creative troupes, which cannot afford theaters of their own, rent the place out for productions which may run for a night, a weekend, or a month. Such ensembles have presented everything from Ibsen dramas to the latest gay political themes. Ticket prices are generally in the $10-$15 range, sometimes even less.

To one side is the historic Cyclo-rama, built in the 19th century to house a giant mural-in-the-round commemorating the Civil War. Today, this vast space hosts such prestigious exhibits as the annual Boston Drawing Show (usually in the fall), as well as occasional modern dance performances, and the fund-raising Artist’s Ball gala each spring.

When exhibits are running, gallery hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 P.M. and weekends from 1-4 pm.

To the other side of the BCA Theater is the Mills Gallery (telephone 426-8835), which shows the work of artists whose studios are in the building upstairs. Painting, sculpture, and video installations have filled this space, which is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 1-4 pm. as well as Thursday through Saturday evenings from 7-10. The Mills often hosts a free discussion by the artists during each exhibit, as well as your basic wine-and-cheese openings, all of which are open to the public. Check newspaper listings or call the events line (above) to see what’s currently happening at this busy place.

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