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More Than $800,000 Awarded to 120 Local Artists and Creative Workers Through the Opportunity Fund

The Opportunity Fund grants provide support for career development and community arts experiences throughout the city.

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture today announced 120 grants totaling $801,343 have been awarded to artists, teaching artists, cultural practitioners, and creative workers as part of the City’s Opportunity Fund program. This is the fifth year of the program, and the most funding that has been allocated to the program to date.

“Thanks to the artists and creatives that live and work in our city, our residents are going to be able to participate in numerous free arts and cultural experiences in their communities throughout the year,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Arts and culture are a crucial element of our city’s recovery, and we’re proud to be able to support those that play such an instrumental role in our arts sector through this program.”

The City offered Opportunity Fund grants in two categories: Artist Career Development, through which artists could apply for up to $5,000 for one-time artistic opportunities that helped to further their career, including supporting an artistic project, purchasing materials or supplies, and professional development opportunities; and Community Arts Experiences, through which artists could apply for up to $10,000 to bring free arts experiences and events into Boston communities. 

This year, the City prioritized applicants who live or work in Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, and Mattapan. Artists and creatives who identify as women, people of color, immigrants, members of the LGBTQIAP+ community, or have artistic professions that were most economically impacted by COVID-19 were also prioritized.

77.5% of this year’s grantees live in one of the four priority neighborhoods, and 86.6% of the events and programs supported by the Community Arts Experience category take place in one of those neighborhoods. 76.7% of grantees identify as people of color, and 61.8% have an annual income of less than $25,000.

“Addressing inequities in Boston’s arts community remains a key priority for us in the City of Boston, and we’re really excited to be able to support those who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in this round of grant funding,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture. “We’re also looking forward to bringing more accessible arts opportunities to neighborhoods that haven’t had as much funding to support them in the past.”

Examples of this year’s Opportunity Fund grantees include: 

  • Erin Caldwell, who received a grant in the Community Arts Experiences category to support Dorchfest, the inaugural Adams-Ashmont porchfest event featuring 40 local bands on June 4, 2022.
  • Sheila del Bosque Fuentes, who received a grant in the Artist Career Development category to organize a multisensory concert in Chinatown merging music and visual arts to empower women in society.
  • Sonja Tengblad, who received a grant in the Community Arts Experiences category to produce and share a performance of "Mr. Twister and the Tale of Tornado Alley", an opera for families in East Boston.
  • Gabriel Fernandez, who received a grant in the Artist Career Development category to acquire an art studio space and invite other artists to organize around larger projects in partnership with businesses in the East Boston neighborhood. 
  • Odaine Williams, who received a grant in the Artist Career Development category to purchase equipment needed to launch online singing lessons.

“This is the first of what will hopefully be an annual and expanding event, and unlike most porchfests, we were committed to paying musicians,” said Opportunity Fund grantee Erin Caldwell. “We know that a) to get the caliber of music that will really make the event fun and b) to honor the work that creatives do, and the enrichment they bring to our lives, payment was critical. The Opportunity Fund played a major role in making that possible, boosting not just one career, but 40.”

“I'm simply thrilled I can provide my community with an event like this,” said Opportunity Fund grantee Sonja Tengblad. “East Boston was hit so hard by COVID, and we also have the highest number of essential workers. Since East Boston also faces so many environmental burdens, we will use this event as a way to spread the word about initiatives that offer mitigation and environmental protection.”

“Support for inclusive artistic projects that make us question reality, or that offer us experiences that unite us as a community is fundamental,” said Opportunity Fund grantee Sheila del Bosque Fuentes. “Boston is one of the most incredible cities I know in terms of art. I believe that artists in Boston are creating a community where the diversity of voices is highly listened to and respected.”

The City of Boston allocated more than $460,000 to the Opportunity Fund in its Operating Budget this year. An additional $300,000 was allocated through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, and the Harvard Allston Flex Fund contributed $40,000.

To learn more about the Opportunity Fund, visit boston.gov/opportunity-fund

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