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Innovation Fund Invests $470,000 in Access 

Charles G. Baldwin, Program Officer

photo of a performance where a dancer is center stage with open hands lifted above her head. A singer is behind her and to the left. Stage lighting is in rich blue tones.
Moe Finnerty dancing while cast mate Michael Ricca sings in “We R One,” an On With Living and Learning performance at the FPAC Gallery in Boston.

As Mass Cultural Council continues its keen focus on the equitable distribution of state funds into the creative sector, the Universal Participation (UP) Initiative’s Innovation Fund models a distinctive approach to funding equity.

In Fiscal Year 2024, Innovation Fund grants of $5,000 were made to 94 cultural organizations across the state to help build sustainable, accessible infrastructures and enact Access Plans. These grants to UP Designated Organizations support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of accessible goods, services, programs, and policies. Building innovative solutions to address barriers are self-defined by the current practices of each UP Designated Organization. This funding looks to go beyond compliance to inspire direct actions and fresh ideas. Based on size, discipline, human and financial capacity, approaches to building Access varies.

Examples of Innovation Fund projects include:

  • Beverly Main Streets worked with business owners, city staff, and local residents to help develop and coordinate accessible festival and event improvements.
  • Community Music Center of Boston invested in their staff and teaching artists, providing training for adaptive educational practices as well as developing new marketing, promotional, and digital design materials.
  • Mass MoCA continued to center artists when developing communication strategies around exhibitions including audio-description, ASL interpretation, and tactile engagement.

Building on eight years of peer learning around Access, the UP Initiative has cultivated a community of practice with 94 UP Designated Organizations. As the Agency looks to determine best methods for growing and supporting Accessibility across the creative sector, organizations with UP Designation are providing insight into effective and creative approaches to the work.

Over the next six months Innovation Fund grantees will be participating in office hours to share information on their accessible practices. The office hours are designed to be a space to discuss ideas and exchange resources in open conversation with Q&A:

UP office hours are open to all cultural workers interested in Access and community generation.

Read the Funding List

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