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$1.5M Invested to Bolster Creative Education

Christian Kelly, Public Relations & Events Manager

photo of students wearing long flowing skirts over their school clothes, learning Bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican dance
Bomba de Aqui leading a residency at White Street School in Springfield in 2023.

Today, Mass Cultural Council announces the 299 recipients of the Fiscal Year 2024 STARS Residencies grants. This $1,502,450 investment will place teaching artists, scientists, and humanists into schools, bringing cultural enrichment to more than 32,000 Massachusetts students.

“Connecting young people to creativity and a broad range of cultural experiences helps students develop essential skills that set them up for future success,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “The academic enrichment provided through STARS does exactly that by challenging students in new ways and encouraging them to tap into their inner creative potential to think, learn, and solve challenges.”

This year, STARS (Students and Teachers working with Artists, Scientists, and Scholars) Residencies awards range from $2,500 to $6,100. These grants support residencies of three days or more and provide creative learning opportunities in the arts, sciences, and humanities for students in grades K-12. These residencies can uncover hidden talents, discover and express their own ideas, build confidence, explore the natural world, and connect to their history and community. Residencies are led by teaching artists, scientists, and humanists. Any Massachusetts school is eligible to host one residency per academic year.

photo of a seated teaching artist holding an African drum and a standing student facing him. Both are playing the drum.
2023 STARS Residency with Ammaya Dance & Drum

In this grant round, the Agency reviewed a record 390 applications requesting nearly $2 million in funding, surpassing a previous high set just last year.

To maximize the impact of this limited funding, the program guidelines outlined four priority criteria. In alignment with the Agency’s strategic plan and goal to advance equity across the creative and cultural sector with its grant making practices, Mass Cultural Council is pleased to note this year:

  • 76% of funded residencies serve student populations that are more than 45% low-income
  • 66% of funded residencies serve student populations that are 50% or more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color)
  • 40% of funded applications have not received funding from Mass Cultural Council in the previous three fiscal years (FY21-23)
  • 28% of funded residencies serve student populations that have 25% or more students with disabilities

“Through these grants, we are expanding the horizon for our students from STEM to STEAM – including the arts alongside science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Bobbitt. “Where STEM lays the foundation for innovation, STEAM paints the masterpiece of progress, adding the vital strokes of creativity and imagination to our education system, transforming knowledge into boundless possibilities.”

In FY24, STARS Residencies will bring practicing artists, scientists, and humanists to classrooms located within 299 schools across the state. A complete funding list is available online.

The cultural enrichment activities that these residencies will support include:

Jubilee Career Center for the Performing Arts – Challenge & Reach Academies, Worcester
This Fashion Design residency led by teaching artists, Emmanuel Olyton Carboo and Jarebel Carela, will work with 38 students in grades 7-10 over the course of two months at the Challenge & Reach Academies. Students will learn the fundamentals of fashion design, including how to use relevant software programs, and the history and business of fashion. These young people will learn sustainable fashion practices; create portfolios of their work; work collaboratively with others; and develop their own unique style and vision as a designer. Students will participate in a fashion show as a culminating event coordinated by Cultural Partners and the participating design students.

La Piñata – Rafael Hernández K-8 School, Roxbury
This Latin American Folk Art residency led by teaching artist Rosalba Solis will work with 300 students in K-5 over the course of three months at the Rafael Hernández School. Students will learn about lantern making and Aztec dance, with different focuses based on grade level, including vibrant cultural motifs and dance rhythms, and beats related to nature and cultural stories.

Express Yourself – Northshore Recovery High School, Beverly
This visual and performance art residency is led by teaching artists with a mix of backgrounds in the arts and art therapy. They will work with 25 students in active recovery over the course of six months at the Northshore Recovery High School. Students will develop large-scale artwork and performance pieces based on the theme “EXYO Planet: Our World.” Artist-led visits to the Peabody Essex Museum will allow students to experience the museum venue as an avenue for communication and dialogue, and inspire further work developed in studio. The final pieces of art become set designs and performance pieces used in Express Yourself’s culminating performance on May 23, 2024 at the Wang Theatre in Boston.

FreeVerse! – Lowell Community Charter School, Lowell
Through this interdisciplinary poetry residency led by teaching artist Douglas Bishop, high school poets and FreeVerse! alumni will work with 90 8th grade students over the course of a month. All 8th grade students at Lowell Community Charter School read the novel Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes as part of the poetry unit of their regular English curriculum. In tandem, these mentors will work with younger students to workshop their own poetry and develop their skills in presenting to an audience. The partnership culminates in a public performance at the Untitled Open Mic at Coffee & Cotton in Mill No. 5. Through this residency, teaching artists will inspire future generations of poets, where young people teach other young people about the process of self-expression and developing literacy in the deepest sense of the work. And, where writing and reading are cultural acts, meant to make a difference in the world.

Flying Cloud Institute – Morningside Community School, Pittsfield
This multidisciplinary science residency led by teaching artist Angel Heffernan will work with 50 4th grade students over the course of a week at Morningside Community School. Students undergo a hands-on learning experience that covers four of their grade-specific physical science energy standards through dynamic movement, investigative science, and art-making. For example, students explore the concept of mechanical energy through dance by experimenting with how much distance they can move during a timed musical phrase. FCI educators will guide students through Laws of Motion experiments and students will craft original vehicles and test their mass, momentum, speed, and force. This residency will give youth the language to describe the physical movement of their bodies as they interact with each other and the world around them.

Read the Complete Funding List

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