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Applications open for 2020 Boston Cultural Council Organizational Grants and Opportunity Fund

September 3, 2019

Arts and Culture

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Arts and Culture

This year’s round of funding marks the largest ever with more than $800,000 available to artists and arts organizations.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture today announced the 2020 applications for Boston Cultural Council Organizational Grants and the Opportunity Fund are now open. Building on Mayor Walsh’s commitment to expanding and supporting arts in Boston, this year’s round of funding marks the largest ever with more than $800,000 available to artists and arts organizations.

“In the City of Boston, we recognize the importance of investing in the arts, and the profound impact creative expression can have on public safety, community engagement, and overall well-being,” said Mayor Walsh. “It’s exciting to be able to support the incredible talent and hard work of Boston’s local artists and arts organizations in this way, and I look forward to seeing every neighborhood benefit from these programs.”

The Boston Cultural Council (BCC) works under the umbrella of the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture to annually distribute funds allocated by the City of Boston and the Mass Cultural Council for local arts and culture programming, and next year it will award general operating grants only to organizations with annual budgets under $2 million.

Under a revised grant making approach, organizations may apply for grants up to a set limit, based on their organizational size. If an organization is selected as a recipient, they will receive a grant in one of the following categories:

  • Selected organizations with budgets less than $100,000 will receive a grant of $2,000
  • Selected organizations with budgets between $100,000 and $500,000 will receive a grant of $3,500
  • Selected organizations with budgets between $500,000 and $2,000,000 will receive a grant of $5,000

The BCC will award up to five grants this year to organizations with budgets of $1-2 million, specifically focusing on those that uniquely serve the City’s arts ecosystem and prioritize cultural diversity, economic diversity, inclusion, and equity, through both their staffing and audiences served. 

These changes reflect years of discussion about how to deepen the impact of the BCC’s grantmaking, and how to make it more equitable and inclusive. Over 70 percent of the arts and culture organizations in Boston have budgets of less than $250,000, and small and mid-sized organizations make up over 85 percent of arts organizations in the City’s ecosystem. However, a 2016 study by The Boston Foundation found that "Boston's small and mid-sized arts organizations do not receive significant Foundation support. Foundation giving appears to be skewed toward larger organizations." The same study found that cultural equity is a priority for Boston’s arts organizations, and that “small and mid-sized organizations in particular expressed commitment to addressing issues of social justice, equality, and diversity through their work.” For these reasons, the Boston Cultural Council has decided to focus on providing more support to small and mid-sized organizations.

“As we continue to work toward the goals outlined in the Boston Creates cultural plan, we’re making a significant effort to address inequity in the City and making opportunities to engage in the arts available to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture. “This is one area in which we want to make change, By focusing support on small and mid-sized arts organizations that have historically not had access to funds.”

Nonprofit cultural organizations with budgets under $2 million whose mission or programming is focused on music, film and video, traditional and folk art, visual art, theater, dance, humanities, literary arts, performing arts, social/civic practice, and multidisciplinary arts are eligible to apply as long as they are based in the City of Boston, or offer programming in one or more of Boston’s neighborhoods.

BCC members are Boston residents appointed by Mayor Walsh for up to two consecutive three year terms. Council members are selected on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to Boston’s cultural community and their knowledge of various arts disciplines. 

In 2019, the BCC awarded 221 grants totaling $487,000 to 221 Boston arts organizations, making it the most amount of funding ever distributed through this program. The BCC also established an equity statement last year, and for the first time ever awarded an additional Model Equity Organization award of $5,000 each to three organizations, BAMS Fest, Arts Connect International, and Urbano Project.

The Opportunity Fund was launched in August 2016 with the goal of supporting individual artists in activities that help them share their work with the public, teach others, continue their professional development and hone their skills. The amount of funding allocated to this program doubled last year to $200,000, and the same amount has been allocated for fiscal year 2020.

The Opportunity Fund reopened with a modified structure including grants that are separated into three categories: Artist Career Development, Local Arts Experiences & Events, and a matching MCC Festivals Grant. Artists applying for Local Arts Experiences & Events grants can apply for up to $2,000, while artists applying for Artist Career Development and Matching MCC Festivals Grants can apply for up to $1,000.

Including support for more than 220 arts organizations, Mayor Walsh has dedicated over $2.5 million in funding in the past year toward arts programming, by investing in more than 200 individual artists, and 90+ free arts experiences for all residents to enjoy. Over the next five years, the City is also committing $13.4 million to the Percent for Art program. This, combined with $80,000 for temporary public art projects in the next year and several new City staff positions, is the most funding the City has ever dedicated to Boston’s arts sector. 

The deadline to apply for a Boston Cultural Council grant is October 15 and the deadline to apply for the first round of the Opportunity Fund is September 30, 2019.