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Agency Spending Plan Invests $16.6M in Cultural Sector

Carmen Plazas, Communications Manager

Youth artists with the Performance Project in Northampton.

The Agency’s governing Council has approved Mass Cultural Council’s Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan, investing more than $16.6 million in a range of grant programs, services, and initiatives to support the arts, humanities, and sciences in communities across Massachusetts.

While FY21 began on July 1, 2020, the annual state budget process was much delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and it was not signed into law until December. Mass Cultural Council, a state agency, receives most of its operating support from the annual state budget. FY21 runs through June 30, 2021.

The FY21 spending plan consists of grant awards for nonprofit cultural organizations, communities, and individual artists, including a new round of COVID-19 relief funds for individual artists and cultural practitioners. It also invests in creative youth development and arts education statewide and advances the Council’s efforts on access, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The economic impacts of COVID-19 drastically impacted the normally robust contributions cultural nonprofits and creative practitioners make to the state economy. This plan reaffirms our belief that robust public investment is vital to support the essential role that a rich cultural life plays in our communities and in the lives of all Massachusetts residents,” said David T. Slatery, Acting Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council.

Spending Plan Highlights

Cultural Organizations: $7 Million

Mass Cultural Council will invest $6.2 million in its Cultural Investment Portfolio (CIP), which comprises more than 400 nonprofit arts, humanities, and science organizations across Massachusetts. These organizations connect children and adults to theater, music, visual art, and film; teach them about history, literature, and the environment; and introduce them to new ideas and cultural traditions. CIP Portfolio, Gateway, and Project grants must be matched 1:1 and range from $4,500 – $60,000.

In addition, we will continue its support Mass Humanities through an annual partnership grant of $686,000 for public programs in history, literature, and other disciplines to enhance civic life across the Commonwealth.

Other investments to support cultural organizations include grants in our Universal Participation (UP) Initiative, and the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Communities: $4.8 Million

The Local Cultural Council Program will receive $4.4 million to support the 329 Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) that make up the nation’s largest public grassroots arts support network. LCCs provide funding to every community in Massachusetts through the efforts of more than 2,500 volunteers. LCCs support local culture and history, and sponsor community concerts, exhibitions, and arts education. Grants range from $4,800 for more than 100 small towns to $245,900 for Boston, according to a formula that reflects state aid to municipalities. Additional funds will award $7,500 grants to all state-designated Cultural Districts, and $500 grants for local Festivals.

Youth: $2.7 Million

Mass Cultural Council works to expand access to quality, creative learning experiences for young people in schools and community settings through a range of grant programs and initiatives that include:

  • YouthReach and SerHacer – supporting innovative Creative Youth Development programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences that aim to make a better world by unleashing the potential of young people as creators, leaders, and change agents.
  • STARS Residencies – connecting artists and creative educators in the humanities and sciences with schools in learning experiences that help students grow, develop new skills, and expand their imaginations.
  • Mass History Day to help the Massachusetts Historical Society expand student participation in this competition that builds knowledge of our past and vital civic skills for students in high schools across the Commonwealth.
  • Poetry Out Loud, a national competition in which high school students perform classic and contemporary poems while exploring elements of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater in their English and drama classes in person and virtually.

This year, because of the pandemic, we are pausing Big Yellow School Bus, META Fellowships, and Amplify programs.

Artists: $1.4 Million

To help individuals who have suffered staggering economic loss in recent months because of COVID-19, Mass Cultural Council is investing $651,000 in a relief fund for individual artists and cultural practitioners.

We will support Massachusetts artists through a commitment of $652,500 toward Artist Fellowships awards, including Fellowships of $15,000 and Finalist awards of $1,500 in the following categories: Crafts, Dramatic Writing, Film & Video, Music Composition, Photography, and Sculpture/Installation/New Genres.

We will also award a new round of Traditional Arts Apprenticeships totaling $100,000 to preserve and continue vital ethnic and cultural art forms in a range of media.

Services for the Sector: $700,000

Mass Cultural Council will continue to fund a range of services to the nonprofit cultural sector, including consultation, training, convening, and technical assistance, such as:

  • Our Building Blocks series, offering free financial workshops for all Massachusetts nonprofits. Upcoming session on January 13.
  • Support for SMU DataArts to help cultural nonprofits document and analyze their financial health and that of the sector.
  • Monthly Community check-ins for LCC Members, which are focused on topics ranging from community engagement to creative ways to offer remote programming. Upcoming check-in on January 20.
  • Innovation and Learning Network, a series of professional development workshops on Universal Design practices as part of the Universal Participation Initiative.
  • HireCulture, our free, creative employment job site.
  • ArtSake, our blog showcasing the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists.
  • Seen & Heard, our Creative Youth Development blog, featuring opportunities for practitioners and resources for social and racial justice.
  • Bi-monthly Creative Youth Development community meetings, bringing together practitioners, youth, and funders of Massachusetts – and beyond – to share strategies and struggles during a challenging time. Upcoming meeting on January 14.
  • Media Partnerships, part of our long-term effort to leverage our unique position as Massachusetts’ largest public investor in arts and culture to raise the visibility and impact of our sector and grantees.
  • Support for the Network for Arts Administrators of Color (NAAC Boston), which widens the leadership pipeline and highlights opportunities for professional and personal growth in the field.
  • A soon-to-be-launched Recover, Rebuild, Renew series to support the renewal and restoration of the cultural sector post-COVID through workshops, trainings, and more. Details to be announced on our Agency Dates page, as they are scheduled.

See the FY21 spending plan slide deck

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