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Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture's COVID-19 response

We changed many of our programs in the past year to respond to artists and organizations affected by COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced venues to close, artists to lose work, and organizations to change programming. Since March 2020, we’ve been working hard to support Boston’s arts community during this time. We're providing resources so communities can come together and express themselves creatively.

Immediate COVID-19 Response


We held regular meetings with artists and arts leaders to:

  • share updates on COVID-19 closures and reopening
  • spread the word about resources and grants available for COVID-19 relief, and 
  • hear how organizations are adapting and responding creatively to COVID-19 closures.

You can watch past meetings online.

Photo of presentation on Boston Artist Relief Fund given during weekly Arts & Culture COVID-19 calls
A screenshot of the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture's COVID-19 call with arts organizations.

Boston was the first municipality in the United States to establish an Artist Relief Fund. On March 12, 2020, we reopened our Opportunity Fund grant as a relief fund grant for artists. The grant supported artists whose creative practices and incomes were affected by COVID-19. 

We partnered with Boston Center for the Arts to accept additional donations to the program. We have since supported more than 600 artists through the grant.

"This funding is allowing artists to be ready for when the city opens back up in the traditional way, to fill those theaters, to fill those performance spaces, but we’re also using these resources during this time to think of creative ways we can continue to enliven the community from a social distance." 

-Alexander Davis, Boston Artist Relief Fund grantee

Pivoting our programs


We released a call to artists in April 2020 for the second year of the Transformative Public Art Program. We had a particular interest in temporary and new media art projects. We looked for artworks that:

  • responded to COVID-19, and
  • provided creative approaches to public connectedness.

Flow Into Stillness: Portrait of Guy from The Quarantine Self Care Series by Chanel Thervil
Flow Into Stillness: Portrait of Guy from The Quarantine Self Care Series by Chanel Thervil.

Twenty-four public art projects received grants totaling $35,000. Projects included:

  • a Quarantine Self-Care series by Chanel Thervil
  • the HipStory House Party (HSHP) alternative nightlife series, and
  • “ReachYou”, an augmented reality app that features performance art and community engagement.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reimagine our artist residency program. Our artists found creative ways for community engagement. 

Since then, many of our artists have led impactful online programs. You can learn more about their projects online.

Photo of Golden's We Been Here Poetry series
Photo of Boston Artist-in-Residence Golden's We Been Here virtual poetry and kickback series.

Supporting Arts Organizations


We established a $1 million Arts and Culture COVID-19 fund in July 2020. We awarded grants to 146 local arts and cultural organizations. The fund supported cultural nonprofits that experienced changes due to COVID-19. Funds helped small and mid-sized arts and culture nonprofits adapt their programs, spaces, and operating models. 

"Supporting the organizations that bring transformative arts programming to every neighborhood in our city is imperative during this unprecedented time. These organizations have put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure Bostonians can still participate in the arts and express themselves creatively, and it's important that we do what we can to ensure they remain a part of Boston's arts community in the future."

-Mayor Walsh


In December, we formed a partnership with The Boston Foundation and Barr Foundation. We awarded $25,000 grants for COVID-19 relief to 17 local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) organizations.

Mayor Walsh announced $450,000 COVID-19 relief funding initiative for Boston-area BIPOC arts and culture organizations
Grantee OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center

We allocated an extra $50,000 to convening these organizations. We want to identify the needs of BIPOC organizations to thrive in the city.

These findings will directly inform future grant-making, technical assistance, and other supports.

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