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Home / Education / STARS Residencies / Application Process

STARS Residencies

Application Process

One impact of a late FY21 state budget is that Mass Cultural Council’s spending plan for the coming fiscal year will also be delayed. Grant application processes that normally open in the early Fall will be paused until we are able to develop a FY21 spending plan, which is dependent upon our state budget appropriation.

To receive updates on our FY21 grant application processes, sign up to receive e-news updates from  Mass Cultural Council.​

STARS Residencies (Students and Teachers working with Artists, Scientists, and Scholars) provides grants of $500 – $5,000 to schools to support creative learning residencies in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Cultural partners – teaching artists, scientists, and scholars – work with each group of students on at least three days or more. Residencies take place during the school year to help schools bring creative learning to students, both in and outside the classroom.

We encourage you to submit your online application as quickly as possible after it opens. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are submitted, as long as funds last. A school may submit only one application for one residency per school year. Applications are reviewed within five weeks of submission.

How to Apply

  1. Review the program guidelines below and FAQs.

  2. Create an Organization Profile for the school before the application opens to be able to access the online application.

    You will need an Organizational Profile – not an Individual Profile – to access the online application. (Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted STARS applications can be used.)

  3. Use the sample STARS grant application to prepare your application content before the online application opens.

    It is advisable that you craft your narrative text responses in a word processor (such as Word) before copying and pasting the text into the online application. Pay close attention to the character count limits on the narrative sections. The count includes punctuation and spaces. Save the document for your records.

  4. Apply beginning at 4pm (ET) on Thursday, October 10, 2019. – PLEASE NOTE: the application has been closed for this cycle as all funds have been expended for the 2019-20 school year.

Questions? Contact Diane Daily at 617-858-2709.

Program Guidelines for 2019-2020 School Year

Program Description

STARS Residencies recognizes the vital role that creative learning in the arts, sciences, and humanities plays in the successful development of young people. The arts, sciences, and humanities provide students with much-needed opportunities to uncover hidden talents, discover and express their own ideas, build confidence, explore the natural world, and understand their place in history and the community. For many students, this creative learning inspires them to come to school and stay in school.

NEW THIS YEAR: Eligible residencies may start no earlier than September 3, 2019.

  • Note, however, there is no guarantee that the residency will be funded, regardless of whether it was funded in previous years. This means that if you start your residency before you hear about funding from us, you need to be sure that the residency can be paid for through another source of funds if it does not receive a STARS grant. This is very important: cultural partners need to be paid for their work, and schools need to be able to work within their budgets. No one — schools or cultural partners — should assume that their residency will be awarded a grant.

Applicant Eligibility

  • Massachusetts public, charter, and private schools serving grades K-12 may apply. The school must be recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) with a 2019 – 2020 ESE School ID.
  • Schools that operate school-based afterschool programs may apply on behalf of their afterschool programs. The grant to the afterschool program counts as the school’s one grant for the school year.
  • Schools that have not submitted a Final Report for a STARS Residencies Grant for School Year 2017-2019 or 2018-2019 are not eligible to apply for School Year 2019- 2020.

Residency Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, the residency must:

  • Start no earlier than September 3, 2019, and end by or before June 30, 2020.
  • Involve a cultural partner who is the teaching artist, scientist, and/or scholar leading the residency – not the organization for which they work (if any).
  • Focus on the arts, interpretive sciences, and/or humanities.
  • Articulate 3 clear learning objectives, one of which must be a Socially Conscious Learning Objective (defined below.)
  • Have each artist, scientist, or scholar work with each group of students for a minimum of 3 sessions over 3 separate days. One session is 40-60 minutes contact time with the students.
    • Note: We encourage you to design a residency that is as in-depth and meaningful for your students as possible. While there is a limit on the grant amount so we can fund more schools, there is no limit on how long your residency can be.
  • Include a Culminating Event if the residency is a total of five days or more in the school (see more on “Culminating Events” below.)
  • Include planning time with the Cultural Partner prior to and during the residency. Each grant includes a $200-dollar stipend to pay the Cultural Partner for this planning time.
  • Be approved by the school principal and cultural partner(s)
  • Residencies that do not meet all the eligibility criteria listed above will not be reviewed.

Review Process

  1. Each school may submit only one STARS application per school year. If a school inadvertently submits two applications, the school principal will be contacted and asked which application should be removed from the application pool.
  2. Each application must be for only one residency. A grant application that contains more than one residency will not be reviewed. The applicant will be notified, and they may resubmit a new application if funds are still available.
  3. Applications are reviewed on a “first-received, first-reviewed” basis within five weeks of submission. Only information submitted in the online application will be reviewed. We will not review additional information.

Review Criteria

Applications that meet all the eligibility criteria listed above will be reviewed based on:

  • The strength of the learning objectives.
  • The appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives.

Residency Design

Top 2 Learning Objectives: The learning goals you set for the residency are key to the value of the creative learning experience. What skills, knowledge, and understandings connected to the curriculum do you want students to develop through their residency experience? As stated above, the residency is evaluated on these two criteria: 1) the strength of the learning objectives, and 2) the appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives. See Sample Grant Application for more detail.

Socially Conscious Learning Objective: Each residency must have a Socially Conscious Learning Objective. This is creative learning that helps prepare the students to be positive contributors to their world. For example, does the residency help them connect with their own voice? Does the residency help connect them to the world around them, such as their school, their community or environment, or another culture? This learning objective helps bring Creative Youth Development principles (see below) into the residency experience.

Cultural Partners: Your cultural partner is the artist, scientist, or scholar who leads the residency (not their organization). You may work with any cultural partner you choose. Be sure to choose a cultural partner with the right experience and expertise for your learning objectives. If you have not worked with the cultural partner before, ask for a resume and references from previous residencies.

  • Many schools find their cultural partners from recommendations from colleagues in other schools. Also, you can find listings of cultural partners on
  • We encourage schools and cultural partners to sign a contract for the residency work. This helps both parties understand what is expected and agreed-upon before the residency begins.

Multiple Cultural Partners: If your residency involves more than one cultural partner, they must work on the same project with the same students. Every cultural partner must meet the three-day minimum with all students. Be sure your application narrative makes this clear. You should also describe how the cultural partners will plan together both before and during the residency.

Multiple Grades: If your residency involves more than one grade, it must be one residency. All grades must work on the same, unifying theme. They all must explore the same content, adjusted for the grade level. For residencies of five days or more, all grades must be part of the same Culminating Event whenever possible. If this is logistically impossible, then the Culminating Events must be clearly connected.

Location: The residency can take place either at the school and/or at the cultural partner’s site (for example, at an artist’s studio or a museum.) The residency also can take place afterschool. Afterschool programs must apply through the host school.

Culminating Events: Culminating Events – such as exhibits or performances of student work – are important for students to share their learning with other students, teachers, families, and the community. Culminating Events also help the community understand the value of creative learning.

Residencies with a total duration of five days or more must include a Culminating Event. All students must be involved in the same Culminating Event whenever possible. If this is logistically impossible, then the Culminating Events must be clearly connected. Culminating Events must be open to parents, teachers, students, and others in the school community.

Planning: Each grant will include a $200 stipend to pay the Cultural Partner for time spent planning with the school before and during the residency. This is a critical step in developing a valuable and high-quality learning experience for your students.

Creative Youth Development Principles

Creative Youth Development (CYD) is a practice that fosters active, creative expression in the arts, sciences, and humanities while developing core social, emotional, and life skills for youth of all ages. CYD approaches young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The goal is for culture to play a major role in the growth of creative, productive, and independent-minded citizens.

These six CYD principles have been shown over 20 plus years to be essential:

  • Provide safe and healthy spaces for youth
  • Be assets-based: focus on the strengths of young people, not their deficits
  • Foster positive relationships and social skills
  • Be youth driven
  • Set high expectations for learning and growth
  • Address the broader context in which young people operate: “it takes a village.”

While school residencies have class time limits, teachers and Cultural Partners can still use the principles of CYD in their residency.


The anticipated grant award amounts will range from $500 to $5,000. The grant amount is determined by the number of sessions with the students and cultural partner. The grantee is responsible for any and all residency expenses, that exceed the grant award amount.

Grant funds may be spent on any residency expense – cultural partner fees, materials, culminating activity, etc. – except the teacher’s salary.

All grant funding is subject to the annual State budget appropriation, recommendations of Mass Cultural Council Grants Committee, and the final approval of the Mass Cultural Council.

Grant Requirements

Contract Package

Grantees cannot receive payment until they return a completed contract package. Contracts are due by February 1, 2020. Learn more about the contract package.

The Mass Cultural Council is required to follow a strict July 1 – June 30 fiscal year calendar for payments. Grantees that fail to return completed contracts in a timely fashion risk forfeiting grant funds.

Final Report

STARS grantees must complete the online Final Report 30 days after the residency ends or no later than July 15, 2020, whichever is first.

The report asks you to report on the successes and challenges of the residency and actual project expenditures. The online Final Report form will be accessible to grantees after they return their contract (Log-in with the username/password you used for your FY20 STARS application. The site can send you a reminder if you need one.) View a sample Final Report.


The Mass Cultural Council and its grantees are contractually committed to abide by state and federal regulations which bar discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and which require accessibility for persons with disabilities. The Mass Cultural Council’s grantees sign a contract certifying that they will comply with ADA and Section 504. The Mass Cultural Council aims to help grantees understand their obligations and recognize the opportunities that increasing access can provide for both the public and the grantee. Resources and additional are available on the Mass Cultural Council’s website.

Modifications and Cancellations

Grantees are expected to notify the Program Manager, Diane Daily as soon as possible if a residency will be scaled back, significantly altered, or will not take place, as soon as possible. If it anticipated that the grant funds will not be spent in full on the residency project, grantees must notify the Program Manager no later than May 1, 2020 and return all unexpended funds to the Mass Cultural Council, no later than June 3, 2020. Failure to do so, may jeopardize eligibility for future funding opportunities.

Grant Timeline

July – Sept: Create an online Organization Profile for your school. Prepare your application content (see Sample Application).

Aug – Sept 27: Residency and application counseling available. Contact Program Manager Diane Daily.

Sept 3: Eligible residencies may start. Note there is no guarantee of STARS funding.

Oct 10, 4pm: The online application opens. The application closes when demand for funds exceeds the funding available.

Oct 10 – Nov 15: Mass Cultural Council reviews applications on a “first-received, first reviewed” basis. Funding decisions are emailed to applicants.

June 30, 2020: Residencies must end.

July 15, 2020: Deadline for Final Reports.

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