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Neighborhood and Downtown Activation Grant

This grant program supports community-focused arts and cultural activations in public spaces.

Update: Round 3 of the Neighborhood and Downtown Activation Grant is now open. The deadline is Monday, February 26, 2024, at 11:59 p.m.

Background

The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture’s (MOAC) believes artists have a crucial role in creating a thriving, healthy community for all and that everyone should have access to creative expression through lifelong arts programming across all Boston neighborhoods. The Neighborhood and Downtown Activation Grant is a program to support community-focused arts, cultural, and creative activations in public spaces that foster joy and strengthen community wellbeing across Boston neighborhoods. 

Who can apply?  

This fund will support individuals, nonprofit organizations, collectives, fiscally sponsored groups, and/or businesses working alongside community partners to implement creative activations across a variety of scales in Boston, with a priority for projects that center communities who have been impacted by long-standing systemic inequities.

What is a creative activation? 

Specific to this grant, a creative activation is an arts, cultural, and/or creative experience in a publicly accessible space that imagines and explores new possible uses for that space. This includes experiences that: 

  • Result in permanent or temporary changes to the physical, social, and/or atmospheric components of the space. 
  • Center the social fabric, traditions, norms, and conversations happening within the  community, highlighting its existing strengths and history. 
  • Demonstrate many kinds of creative elements, cultural traditions, artistic disciplines, artists and community engagement processes. 
  • Are designed, planned, and executed in partnership with, and to benefit, residents, local organizations, business owners, and workers within and surrounding the space.

This grant is open to both existing creative activations that are ongoing and new activations that are being launched for the first time. General examples of creative activations include (but are not limited to): performance art, community celebrations, a community-led stage, interactive theater productions, film screenings with conversation, cultural festivals, arts and cultural markets, community dialogues that center the arts, a digital arts festival, and more.

Please read through the full grant description prior to applying. A strong application will fit the full criteria outlined in this description. 

The Basics

Contact

For questions regarding the Neighborhood and Downtown Activation Grant, please email artsgrants@boston.gov. If phone is preferred, please leave a message at 617-910-0048 and someone from the grants team will be in touch with you. 

Funding Source

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Boston Planning and Development Public Impact Contribution Funds

Total Funds Available

Up to $5 million

Size of grants
  • Cultural Festival: $5,000, one time grant
  • Small-Scale Activation: Less than $20,000, one time grant
  • Mid-Scale Activation: Less than $50,000, one time grant
  • Large-Scale Activation: $50,000 - $100,000, one time grant and multiyear up to 2 years
  • Multiyear Activation: $100,000 - $200,000 multiyear up to 3 years
Additional Information
  • Events and programs of all scales will be considered, including those with a budget under $10,000. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a budget that is commensurate with their proposed activation. 
  • Individuals with proposals over $100,000 are required to submit an application in partnership with a nonprofit organization or business.
  • Pending on funds available, approved proposals may receive partial funding of the total requested grant amount. 
  • For large multiyear funding, we encourage applicants to list additional funders that you have either confirmed and/or are considering pursuing.
  • There is a limited number of large, multiyear funding opportunities. 

Eligibility, Criteria, and Priorities

Eligibility, Criteria, Priorities

Applicants need to meet all of the following criteria to be eligible: 

  • Be an individual, non profit organization, collective, fiscally sponsored group, or business working in partnership with community partners
  • Be Boston residents or demonstrate that their project is led by partners and/or artists who are Boston residents 
  • Have a direct relationship to the community or area in which the activation or program is taking place. This can include being from that community, having spent a significant amount of time working and building relationships in that place, etc. 
  • All projects and related programming are located in the City of Boston and are free and open to the public 
  • Have a concrete location(s) in which the activations will take place, even if those places are not yet confirmed. Project ideas that list entire neighborhoods will not be considered. 
  • Demonstrate strong alignment with MOAC’s definition of creative activation as an arts, cultural, and/or creative experience in a publicly accessible space that imagines and explores new possible uses for that space. This includes experiences that: 
    • Result in permanent or temporary changes to the physical, social, and/or atmospheric components of the space. 
    • Center the social fabric, traditions, and norms of the community, highlighting its existing strengths and history. 
    • Demonstrate many kinds of creative elements, cultural traditions, artistic disciplines, artists and community engagement processes.
    • Are designed, planned, and executed in partnership with, and to benefit, residents, local organizations, business owners, and workers within and surrounding the space.
  • All events and programs funded by the Neighborhood and Downtown Activation Grant are required to be accessible for persons with disabilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including additional accommodations to be made available upon request of any person who requires alternately formatted materials, auxiliary aids, or other accommodations.
  • Grant recipients will work with MOAC on an evaluation plan as a part of the grant agreement, to document and communicate the impact of the program to the public

Permitting: All activations must obtain all required permits for the activation, separate from this grant program. For more information on permitting requirements and process, you can go here.

Projects that include some or all of the these elements will be prioritized:

Location

  • Priority will be given to activations that occur or include the following neighborhoods: Mattapan, Roxbury, Dorchester, Hyde Park, East Boston, and Chinatown.

Public participation / co-creation

  • Going beyond the public as an audience and strategically building opportunities for the public to contribute to the vision, creation, and enjoyment of the activation. 

Youth participation and training:

  • Integrating outcomes for young people (ages 14 to 24) into the activation, facilitating opportunities for young people to inform and lead work, including opportunities to learn specific skills or gain career exposure.  

Partnerships and Collaborations:

  • Authentic partnerships and collaboration that bring communities that are segregated due to race, income, or geographic boundaries, into conversation and cross-neighborhood collaboration with each other.  
  • Applications from for-profit organizations that are partnered with non-profits, artists, or community groups will have priority over applications from for-profit organizations that do not have local non-profit partners.
  • Fundraising events, advertising, or any activity that is primarily for the commercial benefit of one entity 
  • Religious programs of any kind
  • Ticketed events that have an entry fee (ticketed free events are eligible)
  • Other foundations or grant-giving organizations
  • Events that have taken place prior to the application deadline

Once the activation(s) proposed is complete, grantee partners will be asked to complete a brief final report form, as well as a survey about the grant process. This will allow MOAC to improve our grantmaking processes in the future to better support community work. Some applicants will be required to meet with the Grants + Programs team periodically and to review the final report.

Application Process and Timeline

The application is available on Submittable here. Funds will support activations starting in July 2023. All American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds must be in contract by the end of the calendar year 2024 and be fully spent by grantee partners by the end of calendar year 2026. Funds will be dispersed in 1-2 installments for one time grants and over 3 installments for multiyear grants. 

A condensed application process is as follows:

  • Submit application via Submittable
  • Initial review of application by the Grant Review Committee 
  • Virtual questions and answers / Conversation between applicant and grants team (only some applicants will be asked to join a conversation)
  • Final Proposal and approval
Due Dates

Grant applications will be reviewed on a quarterly basis. The following quarterly due dates for applications in fiscal year 2024 are as follows: 

  • Round 1: July 3, 2023, by 11:59 p.m.
  • Round 2: October 31, 2023, by 11:59 p.m.
  • Round 3: February 26, 2024, by 11:59 p.m.
  • Round 4: To be determined (there will be a Round 4)

Applications submitted after 11:59pm on the due date will be reviewed as part of the following quarter’s application round. A member of MOAC will inform all applicants on the status of their application within 8 weeks of the due date. If approved, payment can take up 30 days to process. Funds will be limited for each quarter to ensure future funding rounds through 2024.

All applicants will be notified of their application status. Qualifying applications that are not selected for the round they submitted will roll over to the next round of applications. If a qualifying application is not selected during the second round, the application will be removed from the pool and the applicant will be notified by a member of MOAC that their application was not approved. 

Grant Review Committee

MOAC is committed to implementing transparent, equitable and inclusive grantmaking practices, including the way we determine and distribute funding. The Grant Review Committee (GRC) is a diverse cohort across age, race, cultural backgrounds, professional and lived experiences, artists and community members, ability, gender identity, and more. It is comprised of MOAC staff members and community members, positioning community members as decision makers on systems and structures that ultimately have the power to shape their lives and the well-being of their communities. 

Accessibility and Accommodations 

If you need accommodations or assistance with your application, please contact the grants team at artsgrants@boston.gov or leave a message with Sam Fidler at 617-910-0048 and someone from the grants team will be in touch with you. 

Notice of Accommodations

English: Interpretation, translation, and disability accommodation services are available to you at no cost. If you need them, please contact us at artsgrants@boston.gov,  LCA@boston.gov, or 617-635-4445 by January 26.                                 

Spanish - Español: Hay servicios de interpretación, traducción y adaptaciones para discapacidades a su disposición sin costo alguno. Si los necesita, por favor póngase en contacto con nosotros mandando un correo electrónico a artsgrants@boston.gov, LCA@boston.gov o llamando a 617-635-4445, hasta esta fecha: 26/1        

Haitian Creole -Kreyòl ayisyen:  Sèvis entèpretasyon, tradiksyon, ak sèvis akomodasyon pou andikape disponib pou ou gratis. Si w bezwen sèvis sa yo, tanpri kontakte nou nan artsgrants@boston.gov LCA@boston.gov oswa 617-635-4445, ant:  26/1      

Traditional Chinese - 繁體中文:  我們可以為您提供免費的口譯, 筆譯, 和殘疾人士合理照顧服務。如有需要,請在 26 月 1 日, 前與我們連絡,發電子郵件至 artsgrants@boston.gov  LCA@boston.gov 或致電 617-635-4445

Vietnamese - Tiếng Việt: Các dịch vụ thông dịch, dịch thuật và hỗ trợ người khuyết tật được cung cấp miễn phí cho bạn. Nếu bạn cần họ, vui lòng liên lạc với chúng tôi theo địa chỉ artsgrants@boston.gov LCA@boston.gov hoặc 617-635-4445 trước ngày: 26/1

Simplified Chinese -  简体中文:  我们可以为您提供免费的口译, 笔译, 和残疾人士合理照顾服务。如有需要,请在 26 月 1 日 前与我们联系, 发电子邮件artsgrants@boston.gov LCA@boston.gov  或致电 617-635-4445

Cabo Verdean Creole - kriolu:  Nu ta oferese-bu sirvisus di interpretason, traduson y sirvisus di komodason pa gentis ku difisénsia di grasa. Si bu meste kes sirvisu la, kontata-nu pa email artsgrants@boston.gov  LCA@boston.gov  ó pa telefóni, pa númeru 617-635-4445. Na es data: 26/1

 Arabic - العربية

خدمات الترجمة الشفوية والتحريرية والتسهيلات لذوي الإعاقة متوفرة لك دون تحملك أي تكلفة. إذا احتجت لهذه الخدمات، يرجى التواصل معنا على البريد الألكتروني artsgrants@boston.gov ،(LCA@boston.gov)، أو على رقم الهاتف 6176354445 بحلول يوم 26/1.

Russian -Русский: Услуги устного и письменного перевода и по приспособлению инвалидов предоставляются бесплатно. Если Вам они нужны, просьба связаться с нами по адресу электронной почты artsgrants@boston.gov LCA@boston.gov либо по телефону 617-635-4445 до 26/1

Portuguese - Português: Disponibilizamos serviços de tradução e interpretação e adaptações especiais para pessoas com deficiências gratuitamente. Para solicitar, envie e-mail para artsgrants@boston.gov, LCA@boston.gov ou ligue para 617-635-4445 até o dia 26/1

French - Français: Les services d'interprétation, de traduction et d'adaptation aux personnes handicapées sont à votre disposition gratuitement. Si vous en avez besoin, veuillez nous contacter à artsgrants@boston.gov, LCA@boston.gov ou au 617-635-4445, d'ici au: 26/1 

Somali - Af Soomaali: Adeegyada tarjumaadda luuqadaha iyo hoyga naafada ayaa diyaar kuu ah adiga oo aan wax kharash ah ka bixin. Haddii aad u baahatid iyaga, fadlan nagala soo xiriir artsgrants@boston.gov, LCA@boston.gov ama 617-635-4445 markay taariikhdu tahay: 26/1

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