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Mass Cultural Council Celebrates $51M in Cultural Sector Pandemic Recovery Grants

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

Historic investment of state COVID relief funds will support 1,000s of cultural organizations and creative individuals living and working in Massachusetts.

Students from Cultura Latina Dance Academy perform in Lynn
Students from Cultura Latina Dance Academy perform in Lynn.

Today Mass Cultural Council celebrated a historic $51,063,360 public investment into the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector by announcing the 5,218 recipients of two pandemic recovery grant programs at the Massachusetts State House.

Joined by more than 300 grantees, legislators, community leaders, and cultural sector partners, Mass Cultural Council publicly recognized the 1,218 cultural organizations and 4,000 artists, creatives, culture bearers, and gig workers across Massachusetts who received awards from the one-time Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Organizations and Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals programs.

“This is the largest grant announcement Mass Cultural Council has ever made,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “It is with great pleasure and pride that we celebrate more than $51 million in pandemic recovery monies being equitably distributed throughout the creative and cultural sector today. These awards will help propel the sector forward economically and chart the recipients’ paths towards growth.”

Mass Cultural Council, an independent state arts agency, is charged with bolstering the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector. The Agency’s efforts advance economic vitality, support transformational change; and celebrate, preserve, and inspire creativity across all Massachusetts communities.

In December 2021 a $4 billion pandemic recovery package was approved by the Legislature and signed into law. This Act, Ch. 102 of 2021, directed Mass Cultural Council to develop and administer grant programs to assist cultural organizations and artists recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and operate more efficiently moving forward. Mass Cultural Council received $60.1 million in surplus state revenue funds to support this effort.*

Developing guidelines and securing the approval of the Agency’s governing body to launch two new programs took five months, while conducting deliberate outreach and recruitment efforts to engage with new applicants and under-resourced communities was a major staff undertaking that began in June 2022 and continued throughout the application period.

Early in 2022 Mass Cultural Council solicited public comment from stakeholders on what sort of recovery program would be most impactful. Staff used that feedback to develop the programs between February and May. The Agency’s governing Council approved the program guidelines on May 23, 2022, and they were published in early June. Applications were due from cultural organizations on September 28, 2022, while the deadline for individuals was November 1, 2022.

The scale of these recovery programs reinforces the historic nature of this funding. For comparison, in Fiscal Year 2022 Mass Cultural Council received a total of 3,655 applications across all grant programs and approved 1,847 grants. This year the Agency received a record-breaking 8,592 applications to these two pandemic recovery programs alone, and today celebrates 5,218 pandemic recovery awards.

“Planning, designing, launching, recruiting, and administering these two programs was an ‘all hands-on deck’ undertaking,” said Bobbitt. “I am so proud of our team for pulling together to make these programs a success while still working on our slate of annual programs and services as well.”

Mass Cultural Council anticipates that by the end of Fiscal Year 2023 approximately 7,000 awards will be approved across all Agency programs, totaling nearly $100 million in grants supporting the Massachusetts creative and cultural sector.

Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Organizations

The Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Organizations program offered unrestricted grants, ranging from $5,000 to $75,000 to Massachusetts cultural organizations, collectives, and businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mass Cultural Council received 1,359 applications to this program, of which 1,218 were deemed eligible and recommended to receive funding. A total of $31,063,360 in pandemic assistance was awarded to these organizations today.

“I am thrilled to note that 42% of these cultural organizations are receiving their very first Mass Cultural Council award today,” said Bobbitt, “And, even more exciting, is the fact that every eligible organization who applied was approved to receive an award from this program!”

The cultural organizations receiving pandemic recovery awards today differ in size and scale and are located in every region of the Commonwealth. Fifty-one percent of the grantees report annual budgets of less than $100,000, and 15% self-identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) Centered organizations.

Funding by County

County # of Applications # of Grants Grant Amount
Barnstable 80 75 $2,176,440
Berkshire 75 72 $2,186,910
Bristol 79 59 $1,168,920
Dukes 13 13 $450,560
Essex 126 118 $3,047,370
Franklin 43 38 $596,630
Hampden 67 46 $1,038,570
Hampshire 68 63 $1,278,000
Middlesex 321 292 $6,800,150
Nantucket 9 9 $464,740
Norfolk 96 86 $1,705,300
Plymouth 62 53 $1,352,130
Suffolk 235 216 $6,794,440
Worcester 85 78 $2,003,200
Totals* 1,359 1,218 $31,063,360

Complete Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Organizations funding list.

Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals

The Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals program provides unrestricted $5,000 awards to Massachusetts creatives and gig workers to support ongoing pandemic recovery and set a path forward for growth.

Mass Cultural Council received an unprecedented 7,593 applications, and today celebrates 4,000 awards to creative professionals working in all regions of the Commonwealth, totaling $20,000,000.

The grant recipient pool represents the vibrant diversity of those who make up the state’s creative and cultural sector, as well as a significant advancement towards Mass Cultural Council’s equity goals, as:

“I am simply stunned. Ninety-eight percent of today’s individual grant recipients are receiving their first Mass Cultural Council award today,” said Bobbitt. “I am deeply grateful that this program empowered the Agency to engage with and support thousands of new creatives across Massachusetts.”

The program guidelines defined eligible individuals as an artist or cultural practitioner active in any artistic discipline or cultural tradition, such as those working in community-based arts, crafts, dance, design, digital, film/video, folk/world/traditional arts, literature, music, performance, photography, theater, and visual arts.

Teaching artists, interpretive scientists, and humanists were also eligible to apply, meaning an educator who works in schools, libraries, or other educational/community settings to promote cultural education for people of any age.

Lastly, and for the first time, Mass Cultural Council also allowed cultural workers in the arts, humanities, and interpretative sciences who may not identify as an artist, but whose efforts are very much part of the creative and cultural sector — such as lighting technicians, art conservationists, editors, and frontline staff — to apply for funding.

Funding by County

County # of Applications # of Grants Grant Amount
Barnstable 295 126 $630,000
Berkshire 319 172 $860,000
Bristol 304 194 $970,000
Dukes 48 29 $145,000
Essex 710 374 $1,870,000
Franklin 317 143 $715,000
Hampden 337 259 $1,295,000
Hampshire 514 210 $1,050,000
Middlesex 1,836 903 $4,515,000
Nantucket 11 2 $10,000
Norfolk 497 274 $1,370,000
Plymouth 279 146 $730,000
Suffolk 1,552 838 $4,190,000
Worcester 570 330 $1,650,000
Totals 7,589 4,000 $20,000,000

Complete Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals funding list.

Key Partners

Many partners joined Mass Cultural Council at the State House today to celebrate this historic state investment into the creative and cultural sector. Without their leadership and advocacy these state funds may not have been secured.

“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development worked closely with Mass Cultural Council on ways to support individual artists and cultural organizations. This historic $51 million investment will continue to support artists and cultural organizations within the Commonwealth as we transition to a post-pandemic world,” said State Senator Ed Kennedy (D- Lowell).

Kennedy served as the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development during the 2021-2022 legislative session and led the effort in the Massachusetts Senate to secure these recovery funds.

“The Cultural Sector Recovery Funds being announced today will provide creative workers and cultural organizations with much-needed funds thanks to the work of Mass Cultural Council and the Legislature. These well-deserving organizations and individuals continue to bolster the creative spirit and energy of the Commonwealth and provide so much to their communities through their work. I look forward to the bright future ahead for the creative economy here in Massachusetts,” said State Representative Carole Fiola (D- Fall River).

Fiola served as the House chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development during the 2021-2022 legislative session and led the effort in the House of Representatives to secure these recovery funds.

“Art and culture are not a luxury, but a lifeline that connects and inspires individuals of all backgrounds and identities. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these grants will play a crucial role in both the economic recovery and the preservation of our talented culture and arts sector,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D- Falmouth).

Fernandes served as the House vice chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development during the 2021-2022 legislative session and is a major arts and cultural champion in the House of Representatives.

MASSCreative applauds the Legislature for allocating this greatly needed recovery support to the creative sector. We know that arts, culture, and creativity are essential to Massachusetts’ future, and we thank Co-Chairs Fiola and Kennedy for their leadership last session on this effort,” said Emily Ruddock, Executive Director, MASSCreative. “We also wish to highlight the extraordinary, coordinated advocacy and compelling case-making by artists, creatives, cultural leaders, and political changemakers who brought attention to the sector’s needs. Public funding for the creative sector doesn’t happen by accident, it takes everyone, and these awards are proof that our shared advocacy makes a difference.”

MASSCreative played a significant role in joining Mass Cultural Council in advocating for state pandemic monies to be approved for the creative and cultural sector throughout the 2021-2022 legislative session.

“The humanities help us learn from the past, make sense of the present, and think about how to create a free and equitable society for the future. At this critical time, we are grateful to our partners at Mass Cultural Council and in the Legislature for envisioning a recovery where the cultural sector has the resources to inspire a new beginning for the Commonwealth,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director, Mass Humanities.

Mass Humanities has received $2.5 million in pandemic recovery funds from Mass Cultural Council to administer programs to help humanities organizations throughout the Commonwealth with their ongoing pandemic recovery.

Regional Pandemic Recovery Grant Celebrations

Because of the historic size and significance of these two programs, Mass Cultural Council will host a series of regional celebrations for grantees and partners next month:

Cape and Islands/Southeastern MA
Friday, March 10 11am-12pm
Cultural Center of Cape Cod, South Yarmouth

Central MA
Monday, March 13 11am-12pm
EcoTarium, Worcester

Northeastern MA
Monday, March 20 11am-12pm
North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly

Western MA
Friday, March 31 11am-12pm
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown

Moving Forward

While the size and scope of today’s public investment into the Commonwealth’s creative and cultural sector is record setting, Mass Cultural Council acknowledges that need persists, and the work is not done.

“Even with tens of millions in pandemic monies we were not able to fund everyone who requested assistance from these programs,” said Bobbitt. “We will continue to advocate with our partners for robust public funding for arts and culture and use those monies to equitably invest in and foster the vibrant economic sector.”

Download a one-pager infographic (PDF)

Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Organizations Funding List

Cultural Sector Recovery Grants for Individuals Funding List


* In FY22 Mass Cultural Council transferred $5.57 million from its cultural sector pandemic recovery funds to the Cultural Facilities Fund. This transfer and use of funds was authorized by Chapter 102 of the Acts of 2021. Additionally, $2.5 million was provided to Mass Humanities to support pandemic recovery for humanities-focused organizations across Massachusetts. The Agency’s remaining pandemic recovery funds (just under $1M) covered administrative expenses associated with these programs.

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