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Lowell Folk Festival

The Grant Cycle

Eligibility & Criteria

A hallmark of the LCC Program is the emphasis on local autonomy and decision making. LCCs are free to make funding decisions that best meet the needs and priorities of their community within the parameters of the broad state guidelines. Mass Cultural Council imposes few restrictions on the eligible uses of local funds, as long as the criteria set forth in the LCC Program Guidelines is met. The LCC Program Guidelines are a valuable resource for LCCs; it is useful to download a complete copy to refer to and bring to LCC meetings.


  • Application deadline: All applicants must submit completed applications by the statewide deadline in October. Late applications cannot be accepted.
  • Types of grants: LCCs may approve grants for projects, operating support, ticket subsidy programs, artist residencies, field trips, fellowships, or other activities based on council priorities and needs. Each LCC determines its own council priorities based on a community input process. Council priorities are published to the council’s profile each cycle.
  • Program eligibility: Applicants may apply for grants for programs that take place during an 18-month window of eligibility: between July 1, preceding the application deadline in October, through December 31 of the following year. Applicants may apply for projects that happen prior to Local Cultural Councils’ grant announcements, with the knowledge that funding is not guaranteed. LCCs are authorized to establish a smaller window of eligibility; if they do so, they must clearly publish the eligible dates in their council priorities.

Applicant eligibility: Applicants must reside or be located in Massachusetts. Local Cultural Councils may accept applications from anyone included in the list below.

  • Individuals. Individual applicants, which includes sole proprietors, must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying. A public presentation of an individual’s work may provide the needed public benefit.
    • Council members may apply for funding from their LCC. The LCC must follow all conflict of interest laws and regulations in the granting process. LCCs may also establish their own guidelines regarding applications from LCC members—these must be consistent with the state’s conflict of interest laws.
  • Incorporated nonprofit organizations. Organizations incorporated as nonprofits with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Nonprofit preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools are subject to the same criteria and restrictions as public schools.
  • Unincorporated associations. A group of individuals coming together with a common purpose (e.g., local community band, theater group) that do not have nonprofit status.
  • Incorporated for-profit organizations. For-profit organizations incorporated with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. This includes corporations, partnerships, and Limited Liability Companies (LLC). Applicants must show that a public benefit results from the project for which they are applying.
  • Tribal, federal, state, and municipal government organizations. This includes any governmental entity such as public schools, libraries, other municipal agencies, and the Local Cultural Council itself.
  • Religious organizations. LCCs cannot fund activities that are “inherently religious” such as religious worship, instruction, and proselytization. Religious organizations or groups with a religious affiliation are eligible to apply for funding for a project or program that:
    • Is available to the general public.
    • Has purpose of benefiting the public, not the religious organization.

For more information read the LCC Program’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


The first three criteria listed below must be followed in the review of all funding decisions by Local Cultural Councils. All three considerations are equally important. Additionally, LCCs have the option of developing council priorities and may decide how to weigh their importance:

  • Arts, Humanities, and Sciences
  • Public Benefit
  • Non-Discrimination
  • Local Criteria

Arts, Humanities, and Sciences

LCC funds may only be used to support programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences in Massachusetts. This definition includes the study, pursuit, performance, exhibition, and appreciation of cultural activities in the broadest sense.

How does Mass Cultural Council define the arts, humanities, and sciences?

  • Arts refer to the creation of work in the crafts and performing, visual, media, folk, design, literary, and interdisciplinary arts. They also include the presentation and preservation of, and education about works in these disciplines.
  • Humanities are types of learning that deal with human values and aspirations, human thought and culture, language, and creativity. Examples include, but are not limited to, history, social studies, philosophy, criticism, and literature.
  • Sciences are types of learning that deal with nature, science, and technology in ways that explain how they relate to people’s lives. Organizations that conduct this type of activity include aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, natural history museums, planetariums, and science centers.

Public Benefit

Funds must be used to support activities that contribute to the cultural vitality of the community as a whole rather than benefiting any private individual or group. This does not mean that a large crowd of people needs to participate in order to satisfy the public benefit requirement. For example, an artist working with a small group of teens is a valid public benefit. Whenever possible, activities funded by LCCs should be available to the general public by exhibit, performance, demonstration, reading, or other means.


In accordance with state law, LCCs may not discriminate against applicants based on race, gender, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, or age nor may they fund projects that discriminate based on these attributes.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that persons with disabilities have access to public programs or services on an equal basis with the rest of the public. Federal law mandates that any programs or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities. All events and programs funded by the LCCs must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including the facility or event location as well as the content of the program. See our Accessibility Guide for a background and ideas about how to ensure that your projects can still take place while being accessible.

Local Criteria

LCCs are encouraged to develop additional local guidelines and priorities and may give different weight to their criteria to reflect local concerns and community cultural needs. Council priorities must be posted on a council’s profile before the grant cycle begins in September.

Grant Restrictions

  • Refreshments: Grant funds received from an LCC may not be used to purchase food or beverages of any kind.
  • Scholarships: An organization may apply to an LCC to sponsor a scholarship, provided the council feels the scholarship program provides sufficient public benefit and meets all other state and local criteria. Individual students are not eligible to apply for scholarships.

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