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STARS Residencies


Applicant/Residency Eligibility

Who can apply?
Any Massachusetts school (public, private, or charter school) serving grades K-12, independent teaching artists/scientists/humanists, and non-profit organizations may be the applicant and apply directly for STARS Residencies funding. Grant funds would be paid to the applicant.

Is there a limit to the number of residencies and applications per school?
Schools may host only one residency per school year. This means a school may be involved in only one STARS application per school year, whether they are the applicant or not.

What if two applications are submitted for the same school?
If two applications are submitted involving the same school, the school principal will be contacted and asked to identify the one application the school will support. The other application will not be reviewed.

Is there a limit to the number of applications per cultural partner?
No, organizations can do residencies at multiple schools. However, if we run out of available funding, we may try to prioritize funding different cultural partners’ residencies, rather than the same cultural partner with multiple residencies.

Several schools in the district are working with the same cultural partner. Can we submit a joint application?
No, each must submit its own application. However, you can indicate in the narrative that the schools are collaborating on the same project.

What if two applications are submitted for the same school?
If two applications are submitted involving the same school, the school principal will be contacted and asked to identify the one application the school will support. The other application will not be reviewed.

Working with a Cultural Partner

What is a “cultural partner”?
STARS residencies are a partnership between schools and cultural partners. Cultural partners can be either independent teaching artists, scientists or humanists, or a non-profit organization that provides the teaching artist, scientist, or humanist to lead the residency.

How do we find a cultural partner? Do we have to work with a Mass Cultural Council-approved cultural partner?
You can work with whomever you choose. Be sure that the teaching artist, scientist, or humanist who will lead the residency has the experience and expertise needed to engage the students in a successful creative learning experience.

Many schools find their cultural partners through recommendations from colleagues at other schools. For additional options to get started, you can visit

Can we work with more than one teaching artist, scientist, or humanist?
Yes, a residency may involve multiple artists, scientists, or humanists; however, they must collaborate on the same unified residency. Each person must meet the three-day minimum with their group of students (see “Residency Design” below). The application must show that the teaching artists/scientists/humanists will plan together both before and during the residency.


Is there an application deadline?
Yes. The online application will close at 11:59pm (ET) on October 24, 2023. Please note: The grants help desk will end support around 6pm that day.

Can we apply if we don’t know yet exactly when the residency will take place?
Yes. When filling out the application, just make your best estimation of the residency start and end dates.

When can a residency start?
Eligible residencies may start on or after September 1, 2023. 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 – teaching artists, scientists, scholars, and non-profit organizations – need to be paid for their work. No applicant should assume that their residency will be awarded a grant.

Can residencies take place afterschool or in the summer?
Afterschool programs that are operated by the school are eligible to host a residency. This residency will count as the one residency the school may host during the 2023-2024 school year. Summer programs are ineligible – all residencies must be completed by June 30, 2024.

User Accounts/Registration for Online Application

Please read the information below. If you need further assistance, contact the grants help desk.

Can I use the same login username/password as last year?
Yes. Your email address is your username. You can log in with the same password you used last year. If you are applying on behalf of an organization and you have moved to a different organization or school, you will need to create a new registration connected to your new organization/school.

I’ve forgotten my password. What do I do?
If you forget your username and password, from the grants management landing page, click “Forgot Password” and follow the instructions.

  • Check to see if you already have a user account in the grants management system.
    • Go to our grants management system.
    • Click “Forgot Password?”
    • Once you submit your email address, you will receive an email with a temporary password and a link to the site. Copy the password to use on the login page. You will then be prompted to create a new password.

This is my first application to STARS. How do I start my application?
If you’ve applied to other Mass Cultural Council grants, but not STARS, you may be able to use your existing account in our grants management system. Log in using your existing credentials.

If this is your first application to ANY Mass Cultural Council grant, you will need to register as an organization or as an individual to apply. See below for instructions:

If you are applying on behalf of an organization…

How do I register as an organization?
As a contact person at an organization, when you register, you will be acting on behalf of the organization and any applications submitted will list the organization as the applicant and you as the primary contact for the application.

To register as an organization:

    • Go to our grant management system.
    • Click “Register”.
    • Select “Organization”.
    • Organization Name: Search for the organization name in the organization name field, select your organization, provide your contact information and submit.
    • If you cannot find your organization in the search field, you will need to register it manually using the link at the top of the page. The manual registration form will ask you about the organization and ask for your contact information.
    • After clicking the submit button, you should receive an email with a link to activate the user account and create a new password.

Why can’t I find my non-profit organization on the list?
If you cannot find your non-profit organization in the list, you must register the organization manually using the link at the top of the registration page. NOTE: It may take up to 2 business days for your registration to be reviewed so Mass Cultural Council staff can give your organization a category to ensure you see the funding opportunities that the organization may be eligible for.

This means that you will need to begin your registration at least three business days before the STARS application deadline.

If you are applying on behalf of a school…

How do I register as a school?
As the primary contact for the application on behalf of the school (i.e., teacher, principal, department head, etc.), when you register, you will select “Organization” when it asks you which type of registration you will be completing. You will then search for your school name in the field at the top of the registration page.

All schools with Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) identification numbers have been imported into our system. When you register, be careful to make sure you are connecting yourself to the correct school. For example, there are many Lincoln Elementary Schools. Make sure you are selecting the school in the right city or town, which will also be displayed along with the name of the school.

To register as a school, follow these steps:

    • Go to our grant management system.
    • Click “Register”.
    • Select “Organization”.
    • Organization Name: Search for the school name in the organization name field, select the school, and provide your contact information, and NOTE: You MUST be an employee of the school to be listed as the school contact person. Schools with a DESE Identification number have been populated on this list. If you cannot find your school, contact Amy Chu.
    • After clicking the submit button, you should receive an email with a link to activate the user account and create a new password.

Need assistance? Contact the grants help desk.

Where do I find the STARS Application?
After you complete your registration, you will see “STARS” in the Funding Opportunities page of our grants management system. Click on that to access the STARS application.

If you are applying as an individual…

How do I register as an independent teaching artist, scientist, or humanist?
If you are a teaching artist, scientist, or humanist who is not connected to an organization, then you are registering as an “Individual”. Select “Individual” when the system asks you which type of registration you will be completing. You will provide your name and contact information as well as answer some optional demographic questions.

Then submit your registration.

Where do I find the STARS application as an individual?
After you complete your registration, you will see “STARS” in the Funding Opportunities page of our grants management system. Click on that to access the STARS application.

Starting the Application

Can I see the application without creating a user profile?
Yes. Sample applications for individuals and schools & organizations are available as PDFs to look at. To apply, you will need to create a user profile.

How do I start the application?
To start a new STARS grant application:

  1. Go to the grants management system. Log in with your email address and password.
  2. Go to the Home page – Welcome [Your Name] – then click “Funding Opportunities”. The number of opportunities that are currently open is listed.
  3. Find the STARS Residencies Funding opportunity. The grant is only listed when the application has officially opened (September 21, 2023).
  4. Click “Apply” to start a new grant application.
  • Use the “Open” button to create an application record. (FY24-ED-RES-####) When you open the application for the first time, click Save Draft before answering any questions.

What is a Co-Applicant? Do I need to have a co-applicant?
Because STARS residencies are a partnership between a school and a cultural partner, the application allows both partners to work on the application and the final report. The applicant is the one who receives the payment. The co-applicant helps with the application.

Having a co-applicant is not required.

You must invite your co-applicant during the application process. You can’t invite the co-applicant after the application has been submitted.

How do I invite our residency partner to be a co-applicant?
The co-applicant can be an independent teaching artist/scientist/scholar or a contact at a school or an organization. The co-applicant must be registered in the grants management system before they can get the invitation to access the application.

Once you complete the eligibility quiz successfully, you can proceed to the application form. The first tab of the form is called “Applicant Information.” On that tab, there is a section called “Co-Applicant Invitation”. . If you hover over it, you can see the text “Invite”. Click the Invite button, and a new window will open.

To add the co-applicant to the invitation, click the plus button on the top left. Then you can enter the co-applicant’s information. Then click on the “Invite” button.

Technical Issues

Why do I get a message that says “This record is locked. Checked out by another user (showing the date and time)” when I try to edit my application?
Only one user can make edits at a time. If you are working on an application with a co-applicant and see this message, then your colleague is actively working in the application. When the other user has logged out, then the application becomes “unlocked” and available for you to edit.

Can I change the email address linked to my account?
You can log into the system with your old email address and then change your email address to the new one in your account profile. After that, you can log in with the new email address.

I’m having other technical issues. Who can help?
Contact the grants help desk.

Saving and Submitting the Application

Can I save my application and come back later to make changes?
Yes. Be sure to click “Save Draft” frequently while you work and again when leaving the page. You can continue to make changes until you hit the “Submit” button or until the grant deadline. Your draft application can be found on your home page in the Applications section under “In Progress”.

Where will I see my saved application?
Login to the site with your email address and password and scroll down until you find the “Applications” section. Under “In Progress”, a list of all of your draft applications is displayed. You can reopen the application and continue working on it until you are ready to submit it or until the deadline.

Can I edit my application after I hit “Submit”?
No, if you hit the “Submit” button, you will not be able to make any changes to your application. Do not click submit until you have completed your application and are ready to submit it to Mass Cultural Council.

If you discover an error and need to correct something before the application deadline, or accidentally hit “Submit”, you may contact Amy Chu to reopen it for you.). You must then re-submit the application before the deadline for it to be considered on time and eligible for review. You cannot make changes after the deadline.

How do I know my application was successfully submitted?
After you submit your grant application, you will get an email with a copy of your submitted application attached as a PDF for your records. When you log into your portal, the application appears in the “Applications” section under “Submitted/Declined”.

 What happens if I click “Withdraw”? What if I click on it by accident?
If you started or submitted an application, but no longer want to have it reviewed, you can click “Withdraw” to cancel your application. Applications that have been withdrawn are not reviewed for funding. If you clicked “Withdraw” by mistake, contact Amy Chu and request to change the application status back to “Draft”. Please reference the application ID (FY24-ED-RES-####) in your request.

Residency Design

Does my residency design, such as the grant amount requested, the discipline, or the number of sessions, affect whether I will be funded?
No. These factors will not be used to make funding decisions. We review the design questions for eligibility.

Where can residencies take place?
The residency can take place anywhere the school and cultural partner agree on.

Is there a minimum length for a residency or a limit on how long it can be?
Each teaching artist, scientist, or humanist must work with their group of students for at least one session on three separate days. While we set a maximum grant amount of $6,100 to be able to fund as many residencies as possible, there is no limit to how long a residency can be.. We encourage schools to design residencies that provide as in-depth and meaningful a creative learning experience for students as possible.

How long is one “session”?
One session is 30-75 minutes contact time with the same group of students. A class 80-120 minutes long counts as two sessions.

Our residency will involve more than one cultural partner. Does each one need to meet with ALL the students involved in the residency?
No. Each cultural partner can work with their own group of students. Each cultural partner, however, is required to meet with their group of students for at least one session on at least three separate days. All cultural partners must be working on the same, unified residency.

Can a residency involve more than one grade?
A residency may involve more than one grade; however, all grades must work on the same, unifying theme and explore the same content (adjusted for grade level).

Are culminating events required this year for residencies of five days or more?
No, culminating events, such as exhibits or performances of student work, are not required this year for any residency. However, culminating events, can provide important opportunities for students to share their learning with other students, teachers, families, and the community. Culminating events also help the families and the community understand the value of creative learning.

Culminating events count as a session. They can only be included in the grant calculation if the cultural partner is present.

This is my first STARS residency. Do you have any advice?

  • Be sure to choose a cultural partner with the right experience and expertise for your learning Ask for a resume and references from previous residencies.
  • Meet with the cultural partner before and during the residency to discuss learning objectives, connections to the curriculum and extensions, and how best to engage the students.
  • Ask the teacher to stay in the in-person or virtual This signals to students that the residency is an important learning opportunity. It also helps with classroom management – whether in-person or remote.
  • After the session or at the end of the day, have the school and the cultural partner talk about what worked and what could be improved for the next session.

What other tips and considerations do you recommend for a successful residency?
Read our blog post with some great advice from STARS-funded cultural partners.

Grant Amount

How large a grant can we receive?
The maximum grant award is $6,100. Your maximum grant amount is determined by the number of sessions with students and the cultural partner plus the planning stipend.

What if the cost of the residency is more than $6,100?
You will need to find additional funding sources, but STARS is able to fund up to $6,100 of the residency.

How much is the planning stipend?
Each grant will include one $250 stipend (total) to pay the cultural partner(s) for time spent planning with the school before and during the residency.

What is the per-session rate?
The per-session rate is $150. One session is 30-75 minutes contact time with the students. A double session is 80-120 minutes.

If we work with more than one cultural partner in each classroom, do we receive additional funds per artist?
No, you will receive $150 per session to support the implementation of the residency – cultural partner fees, materials, technology, etc., (but not classroom teacher salaries).

Can we use grant funds to fund technology?

Yes, if the technology is needed to create or deliver the residency, grant funds may be used to cover the cost.

Can we use the grant to fund more than one residency in the school?
No. Grants must be used to fund the one residency described in the approved application.

Do we need to come up with a match?
No. There is no match required for this grant. However, the applicant (whether that is the school or the cultural partner) is responsible for all residency costs that exceed the grant award amount.

How soon will we hear whether we will receive a grant?
We will notify applicants by email in November 2023, as to whether their application has been approved or not. Be sure your email is set to receive messages from the grants management system:

Review Process

What is new about the review process this year?
This year, the review process has changed. Historically, the STARS grant used a panel of external reviewers that scored each application to determine which application receives funding. This year, if eligible applications exceed available funding,Funding Prioritization will be used to determine which applications get funded.

Last year, Mass Cultural Council made important changes to the STARS Residencies as part of the agency’s commitment to equity, access, and inclusion across all programs. This is the second year that,

  • Cultural Partners can now apply. For the sake of greater access, cultural partners – teaching artists/scientists/humanists or non-profit organizations – can now apply directly for the grant. This means that grant funds would be paid to the cultural partner. NOTE: The cultural partner must have a school partner for the application to be eligible. As always, schools may apply directly and must have a cultural partner.
  • The minimum grant amount is $2500. We’ve made this change in recognition of the time and work required to prepare an application and to improve access.

Will applications be reviewed on a first-come, first-reviewed basis?
We will review all eligible applications received by the grant deadline.

How will funding decisions be made?
IF we don’t have enough funding to fund all applications, funding decisions will then be made using a combination of the following factors:

  • Funding priorities
  • Geographic distribution
  • For applications that receive the same rating, geographic distribution will be used to determine the order in which the applications will be funded. We will fund down the list until all funds are allocated.

What are the funding priorities?
Funding priorities are used in the situation where we don’t have enough funding to fund all eligible applications. We use funding priorities to support equity, access, and inclusion initiatives.

IF we cannot fund all applications, we will consider these factors, including:

Should I still apply if I don’t meet any funding priorities?
Yes. Funding priorities are not the same as eligibility. If you are eligible for STARS, we still encourage you to apply.

Contracts & Payments

What is the significant update for the new fiscal year regarding the grant payment process?

  • Transition to electronic contracts through DocuSign.
  • The revision of the Contractor Authorized Signatory Listing Form by the Commonwealth Comptroller’s office.

Why is there a push towards electronic contracts?
The transition to electronic signature contracts aims to streamline processes, reduce paperwork, and ensure timely grant disbursements.

Where can I find step by step instructions for completing the contract document?
Instructions will be emailed to grantees and you can also read detailed instructions about the Agency’s contracts, and contract Frequently Asked Questions.

Why do individuals need to get the Contractor Authorized Signatory Listing (CASL) Form notarized? Do I have any other options?
The updated directive from the Comptroller mandates the use of a new Contractor Authorized Signatory Listing Form by individuals to receive payment. If you apply for funds and receive a grant as an individual, you will have to complete the form and have it notarized.  As an individual, you also have the option of having the school you are working with serve as the applicant and grantee for your residency.  In that case the school will be able to complete an electronic, organization CASL form and you will not need to complete the individual notarized CASL form.  If you pursue this option, keep in mind that the grant will be paid to the school, and they will then pay you.

We submitted our contract but have not yet received our payment. Where is the money?

  • Independent teaching artists/scientists/humanists and nonprofit organizations: The funds will be sent electronically as a direct deposit 2 to 4 weeks after we receive the completed contract.
  • Schools:  If a school was the primary applicant on your application, your grant funds will be electronically transferred within 45 days after we receive your completed contract. The funds will be sent electronically as a direct deposit as follows:
    • Public schools: Grants are sent to the town treasurer. Please keep a copy of your signed contract. Your town treasurer will likely need it for their records and to help them get your school’s reimbursement onto a warrant. You must contact the town treasurer to access your funds.
    • Charter schools, schools within a regional school district, or private schools: Grants will be sent directly to the school or school district.
    • Boston Public Schools: If the residency is in a BPS school, you must work through the BPS standard contracting and payment process. Note: there are several steps to this process that schools and cultural partners must follow. Contact: BPS Executive Director for the Arts Anthony Beatrice.
    • Worcester Public Schools: Contact Linda Nowosacki at the WPS Grant Office at 508-799-3112.

Final Report

Do we have to complete a final report? When is it due?
Yes, every grantee must complete a final report on the grant activities and expenditures. The report is due within 30 days after the residency is completed or no later than July 19, 2024.

An example of the final report (PDF) can be found online. The report asks for things like feedback, number of attendees, and photos from the residency.

Grantees that fail to submit a final report will not be eligible to apply for another Mass Cultural Council STARS grant in a future school year until the report has been completed or until two years have passed.

Where do I find the final report?
The final report is not available in the grants management system until we have approved your contract. When it is available, you can find it in the section called “Requires Attention” under “Pending Reports”.

Other Questions?

My question still hasn’t been answered! Who do I talk to?

  • Technical questions about the online application or grants management system? Contact our grants team.
  • Programmatic questions about application requirements? Contact Amy Chu at 617-858-2735.

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