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Universal Participation Grants to Seed Innovation and Access to Culture

Charles Baldwin, Program Officer

An adult and young person wearing masks stand in front of a tub of dye. The young person holds a colored piece of clothing bound with rubber bands
Young person tie-dying as part of a Gnome Surf program.

Designed to help mitigate risk and inspire creative approaches to barrier removal, the Universal Participation (UP) Initiative’s Innovation Fund has awarded $3,000 grants to 27 cultural organizations in FY21. These grant recipients are UP Designated Organizations, organizations that fully embrace accessibility systems and ideals.

This fiscal year, with public health and social inequities under the spotlight, UP Designated Organizations are looking to expand staff training, develop accessible websites, and provide new levels of accommodations; all the while centering people with disabilities as teachers, consultants, and reviewers.

Activities supported by the Innovation Fund are expected to amplify one of four characteristics:

  • Education – Training staff, board, and volunteers about inclusive culture, universal design, and disability justice.
  • Representation – People with disabilities are engaged as leaders, teachers, artists, and volunteers to inform policy decisions and program design.
  • Vision – Access is understood as an organizational system with inclusion integrated throughout the organization.
  • Innovation – Taking a risk is seen as an opportunity for creative problem-solving and a fresh approach to barrier removal.

FY21 Innovation Fund Recipients

Arisia, Cambridge
ArtsEmerson, Boston
Boston by Foot, Boston
Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Boston
Cape Cod Theatre Company, Harwich
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Boston
Community Music Center, Boston
The Discovery Museum, Acton
Families Creating Together, Boston
Gnome Inc., Fall River
Gore Place, Waltham
Improbable Players, Watertown
Mass Audubon, Lincoln
The Mount, Lenox
Museum of Science, Boston
The Nature Connection, Concord
New Art Center, Newton
New Repertory Theatre, Watertown
Open Door Arts, Boston
Open Door Theater, Acton
Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Somerville
Springfield Museums, Springfield
Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge
Talking Information Center, Marshfield
Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown
Worcester Art Museums, Worcester


The Universal Participation (UP) Initiative aims to break down barriers and bring full civic participation in Massachusetts’ cultural sector. Both a movement and a designation, our UP Initiative creates opportunities for leadership, peer networking, and education in universal design principles, audience engagement strategies, and ADA compliance.

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