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Future Funding for Artists

Dan Blask, Program Manager

Your feedback on our plans for a new artists funding program

image of a black silhouetted figure walking down a hallway of sorts set against a black background. Along the hallway's black walls some floral/organic materials in pale colors appear in clusters/bunches
From the WALLPAPER project by Bosede A. Opetubo, exhibiting at the Boston Public Library, Jamaica Plain Branch through November 1, 2023. The artist received a 2023 Cultural Sector Recovery grant, part of which went to support this work.

In June 2023, we published a blog post called Charting the Future of Our Support for Artists, Culture Bearers & Creatives. It was about Mass Cultural Council’s ongoing effort to evaluate and redesign our funding for artists, culture bearers, and creative practitioners.

In that article, we shared some of the concepts that are guiding our redesign. We also linked to a survey to gather feedback from the creative/cultural sector about the current, general direction of our plans.

What did we learn from that survey?

Most respondents were supportive of the goal we articulated for our new artists funding program. We shared a draft program mission (“draft” being a key word):

To equitably advance creative expression throughout the Commonwealth with unrestricted grants to individuals who demonstrate creative vision and a commitment to their artistic/cultural practice.

Of 278 respondents asked their level of support for this draft program goal:

  • About 73% chose Strongly favor
  • 17% chose Somewhat favor
  • 5% chose Neutral
  • Less than 1% chose Somewhat oppose
  • Almost 4% chose Strongly oppose

Later in the survey, we asked if, based on what we had shared about the direction of our funding plans, respondents were likely to apply for the new program when available:

  • About 53% chose Very likely
  • 26% chose Somewhat likely
  • 12% chose Neutral
  • 5% chose Unlikely
  • Almost 4% chose Very unlikely

See more results from the survey.

The survey included an open-ended question inviting respondents to share further thoughts. As you might expect, the responses included a range of opinions and feelings. While numerous users supported our plans, many shared concerns.

The most consistently articulated concerns were:

  • Concern the new program would move away from the Artist Fellowships’ sole focus on artistic excellence/quality/merit criteria
  • Support for Artist Fellowships’ anonymous review process, concern the new program would move away from anonymity
  • Concern older artists could be overlooked in future funding/support
  • Concern program changes will make it less likely respondents will receive grants in the future

To briefly respond to some of these concerns: our move away from the sole focus on artistic excellence and the anonymous review process reflects an intentional shift. The program redesign is part of our ongoing Racial Equity Plan. As explained in our initial post, we believe we can more fully prioritize equity by making these changes. However, we are working hard to ensure that some of the core goals behind the artistic excellence criteria/anonymous review process, such as high standards of fairness and validating artists’ commitment, are still met.

Responding to concerns from older artists and/or artists who are concerned they will be left out: our goal is to reach more of the sector, not leave anyone behind. Ultimately, we believe an equitable process will be a benefit to all.

We deeply appreciate the time and care respondents put into articulating their feedback. Your voices will be key to shaping our redesign as it moves into finer detail. As always, we would be pleased to hear from you if you have further thoughts to share.

We expect to announce the Grants for Creative Individuals, a new funding program for artists, culture bearers, and creative practitioners, in late Fall 2023.

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