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Every year, Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) across the state receive an allocation from Mass Cultural Council to grant out to projects benefiting their community. Once the grants have been awarded, a fundamental next step is for LCCs to host grant receptions. A grant reception is a great way to keep a Council active and to raise the visibility of the LCC Program. These public events provide an opportunity to recognize grantees and thank municipal officials, legislators, and the communities who make LCC projects possible. The following is how a few LCCs have utilized grant receptions to strengthen relationships with their communities.
Highlighting New Spaces: Holyoke Local Cultural Council
When choosing a venue for a grant reception, a space that is accessible and open to the public is best practice. Some ideas for location include town/city halls, public libraries, and community centers. If there are new things happening in your community, it might present a perfect opportunity to work with other stakeholders to produce a grant reception that may serve a few, different purposes in addition to celebrating grantees.
Last year, the Holyoke Local Cultural Council hosted their reception at the Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute, one of the newest additions to HCC. According to Navae Fenwick, LCC Chair, “we try to use the grant reception as a way of highlighting spaces and businesses in our community, especially new spaces. Our hope is to provide exposure.”
Located in Downtown Holyoke, the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute is a result of the community working together with Springfield’s MGM Casino to create workforce development opportunities for those who want to pursue careers in the culinary world. The Institute also provides a chance for students to learn from top chefs and to continue onto a four-year institution or enter the workforce upon graduation.
Their grant reception began with a tour and introduction to the Institute. The food for the evening was provided by the Institute, prepared by the students and instructors. Attendees were able to learn more about students’ experiences first-hand and also witnessed a graduation ceremony for a subset of students.
“The focus of our grant reception is not just to celebrate grantees, but to encourage connections and collaboration. It’s an opportunity for grantees to hear from one another, learn about best practices, and connect with stakeholders, and for community members to be inspired to create their own projects,” Fenwick said.
In the common area, brewers from Holyoke Craft Beer provided cold pours and information about their brewery. Fenwick said the partnership with Holyoke Craft Beer was “designed to draw attention to a new Holyoke business.” The LCC kicked off the reception portion of the night by introducing themselves and recognizing the work of their grantees. There was ample time for conversation and connecting to follow.
Connecting with the Municipality: Waltham Cultural Council
When thinking about the programming of a grant reception, there is always room to shape these events according to the needs of the LCC. Some elements to incorporate into a reception include offering an opportunity for elected officials to say a few words, inviting grantees to speak, and speaking about the work of the LCC in order to recruit new members.
Last year, the Waltham Cultural Council (WCC) held their reception at Lincoln Studios, a local art gallery. Upon arrival, attendees were asked to fill out name tags that had identifiers such as “artist” or “arts supporter” to start conversations. The event included a potluck component where the public was invited to share food and beverages.
The program began with mingling and networking with presentations from different community members to follow. Elizabeth Moy, Chair, and Consuelo Valdes, Member of the WCC, provided welcoming remarks for the evening. They spoke about the work of the WCC, pitched LCC member recruitment, and touched upon some of the broader plans for arts and culture development in the city.
The rest of the program included short presentations from grantees, remarks from Mayor McCarthy, and words from other municipal officials. Also in attendance were Diane Leblanc and Melissa Downes, both of whom were running for mayor at the time. Having the presence of these individuals at the grant reception was a testament to the strong relationships WCC has developed with the municipality. According to Moy, “WCC has always invited elected officials to the grantee brunch since before my time on the Council, and the mayor and former Councilor Logan have always joined us.” Building relationships with municipal officials and legislators can only enhance efforts to support the cultural life of a community.
Identifying Community Partners: Wakefield Cultural Council
As members of the community, utilizing each other’s connections to build partnerships is a strongly encouraged best practice. Last year, the Wakefield Cultural Council held its grant reception at the Albion Cultural Exchange, a community space for art and cultural events. According to Caroline Lieber, LCC Chair, “One of our previous members is an art teacher and head of the art department at the high school. When she was on the LCC, she helped with the idea of having our reception overlap with the annual AP art show. This arrangement works so well because it gives the evening a great focus in addition to honoring our grant recipients.”
In many towns and cities, schools are some of the largest community assets and home to a lot of cultural activity. A violinist herself, Lieber is very much connected to the world of music and music education in the surrounding area. The main elements for the program not only included remarks from their Council, elected and municipal officials, and grantees, but also a performance from a local high school group. Her connections allowed for that performance to happen and the Council hopes to continue having performers at their receptions in the future.
To publicize the event, they put out a press release in the local paper to announce the recipients and reception details. They also sent an Evite out to local artists, town council members, state senators and representatives, and the school committee.
“Having a connection to the schools is very helpful. Some of the applications we get are from PTOs and other school-related groups, so it is wonderful to keep the relationships strong on both sides,” said Lieber.
As you think about planning your next reception, remember there are key partners you can count on to make the event have impact and be memorable.
More Things to Consider
In addition to the information on the “Grantee Reception” section of the Online Toolkit for LCCs, consider the following: