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There’s never a shortage of things to do north of Boston, but this month we’re looking at the arts happenings around the region. Here on the North Shore, we’re blessed with cultural institutions like the Peabody Essex Museum and the Cape Ann Museum, plus world-class performance venues like the Shalin Liu and the Cabot. This spring we encourage you to take advantage. As spring finally blooms, discover some of the art gems we’re lucky enough to have sitting right under our noses.

Free Admission at Hammond Castle Museum

April 1
In celebration of the opening of its 2023 season, the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester offers free admission on Saturday, April 1. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. all visitors get free admission for self-guided tours; no reservations necessary. The museum, now entering its 48th year, was the home of inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., and includes stunning architectural elements and Hammond’s own private collection of museum-worthy European artifacts. The Hammond Castle Museum will also host an Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday, April 2, on its ocean-side lawn. Timed tickets are available for 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12 noon.

Gu Wenda: United Nations at the PEM

April 1 – November 5
On April 1, the Peabody Essex Museum opens a new installation by Chinese artist Gu Wenda. The artist, who started off as an ink painter, began his United Nations series in 1993. He uses human hair and other bodily materials, sourcing hair from six continents, to create dramatic immersive installations that speak to what unites us as humans all across the world.

Shalin Liu Highlights

April 8, 16, 20
Highlights at the Shalin Liu in Rockport this month include a performance by the Boston Children’s Chorus celebrating its 20th anniversary on April 8 at 3 p.m.; Cuban pianist and jazz musician and six-time Grammy Award winner Chucho Valdes on April 16 at 5 p.m.; and folk-inspired singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega on April 20 at 8 p.m.

Backyard Growers April Seedling Sale

April 12–22
Gloucester-based nonprofit Backyard Growers holds its seedling sale April 12 through 22. Cold-tolerant seedlings like broccoli, cauliflower, onions, kale, and cabbage will be available for preorder online by members starting April 12. Seedlings go on sale to the public on April 16, and all seedlings will be available to pick up at the in-person seedling sale at Backyard Growers (103 Maplewood Ave. in Gloucester) on April 22, Earth Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Backyard Growers provides resources to help folks on Cape Ann and beyond grow their own vegetable gardens at home.

April Vacation Week at the Cape Ann Museum

Jeff Weaver, Beach Hotel off Season

April 18 – 21
Children ages 18 and under plus parents or guardians get free admission to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester during vacation week, from Tuesday, April 18, through Friday, April 21. Visitors can explore the galleries with family-friendly activities including a scavenger hunt, then head to the CAM Studio for a hands-on art project. Exhibits currently on view at the CAM include This Unique Place, featuring paintings and drawings by contemporary Cape Ann artist Jeff Weaver, and A Glimpse Into Her World, highlighting watercolor paintings by Emily Sargent, sister of John Singer Sargent. 

April Vacation Week at the PEM

April 19 – 22
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem offers special April vacation week programming, geared towards kids, from April 19 through Earth Day, April 22. On Wednesday and Thursday, April 19 and 20, artist and data scientist Jill Pelto hosts data-art workshops in the morning and data-art drop-ins in the afternoons. On Friday, David and Danielle Greendeer will host events including a book reading and a drumming and movement workshop, and on Saturday afternoon, Professor Elizabeth Sweet holds a body-mapping workshop. And all week, Rare, a leading climate and conservation organization, will run pop-up exhibits throughout the museum dedicated to teaching about bite-sized climate actions we can all take.

Salem Ancestry Days

April 21 – 24
Witch City hosts Salem Ancestry Days this April 21 through 24, celebrating Salem residents’ ancestral and immigrant connections to the city with tours, lectures, and research opportunities throughout the weekend. The event celebrates all folks with ties to Salem, whether to the Naumkeag band of the Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, the early European settlers like the Puritans, enslaved and indentured people, later European immigrants like Polish, Italian, and Irish families, and communities of Latinx and Hispanic heritage.

The Music Man at NSMT

Matt Loehr in The Music Man at North Shore Music Theatre | Photograph by Paul Lyden

April 22
North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly hosts a special two-show production of The Music Man, performed by Voices of Hope on April 22 and 23. Proceeds from Voices of Hope shows support research at MGH’s Cancer Center. To date the group has raised more than $900,000 for local cancer research. The iconic 1957 show The Music Man won a Tony for best musical the year it debuted on Broadway, and tells the story of a traveling salesman (and con man) who attempts to organize a boys’ band in small-town Iowa—with no musical experience. Voices of Hope will perform April 22 at 8 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m., with a silent auction preceding the Saturday show.

The Cabot’s Big Night

Lucinda Williams | Photograph by Danny Clinch, courtesy of the artist

April 28
The Cabot in Beverly puts on its annual fundraiser, The Cabot’s Big Night, on Friday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by WBUR, the night features performances by Grammy-winning folk artist Ray Lamontagne and blues artist Lucinda Williams. The night also celebrates Jim and Marie Dawson, major supporters of The Cabot. General tickets for the night are sold out, but VIP tickets and sponsorships can still be purchased on The Cabot’s website.