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Starting the year off strong with the Opportunity Fund

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Arts and Culture

In the third year of the Opportunity Fund, we have already funded opportunities and experiences for 78 individual artists through $106,787 in grants.

Here in the City of Boston, we’re committed to supporting individual artists and making sure that every neighborhood has access to the arts. We’ve made those goals a priority through the Boston Creates cultural plan, and have since developed programs that directly respond to these goals. 

One of these programs is the Opportunity Fund, a low-risk grant of $1,000 or $2,000 that artists can use to fund professional development opportunities, or community arts experiences and events. We also award this grant as a double match for anyone who receives a Festivals Grant by the Mass Cultural Council, for festivals happening in the City. 

In the first two years of this program, the Opportunity Fund supported 321 artists with $290,000 in grants. Now in its third year, we have already funded opportunities and experiences for 78 individual artists, through a total of $106,787 in grants. These artists represent neighborhoods all over the City, and support a wide variety of art forms and cultures.

Some recent grantees include:

  • Neil Horsky of Roxbury, who received an Artist Career Development grant to cover printing costs for 2019 Women in Community Arts Trading Cards, the second-annual set of trading cards honoring a new cohort of women in Boston who have made significant creative contributions to the City in 2019. 
  • Shalayah Washington (Red Shaydez) of Dorchester, who received an Artist Career Development grant to complete the recording of a new collaborative album that features fellow artists from the City.
  • Sam Fish of Allston, who received a Community Arts Experience/Event grant to help fund and support an art installation and timely community arts experience called 'FASTEST FASHIONS' inside a temporarily vacant storefront at 254 Newbury St.
  • J. Michael Winward, who received a Community Arts Experience/Event grant to cover teaching 20 weeks of free, all-level Ballroom Formation dance classes at Veronica Smith Senior Center in Brighton.
  • Yo Soy Lola, which received a Community Arts Experience/Event grant to support a gallery event, DURA, at Croma at Arlington Street Church featuring visual and performance art that celebrates the strength and essence of Latinas in our community.
  • Several festivals, including the Co-Incidence Festival in Dorchester and Boston Book Festival in Roxbury

Photo: Opportunity Fund grantee Yo Soy LOLA’s 2019 Visual and Performance Art Gallery, DURA, courtesy of Vania Jasmin Arroyo

In addition to seeing more community events popping up throughout the entire City, we’ve also heard from several artists about how this small grant has had such a major impact on their careers as artists in Boston. We recently got this note from local artist Jennifer Passios: 

In 2018, my partner Jacob was awarded the Opportunity Grant for a project that took both of us to Boulder, CO to perform in the Boulder International Fringe Festival. We made a 30 minute work that occurred in 6 variations, keeping us on our toes each night and allowing us to revel in the excitement, frustration, and focused puzzle solving of creating an interdisciplinary performance injected with a healthy dose of improvisation.

That creation was also our first time making something together. Now, we're hooked. Thanks to the experience of living together on the road and riding the wave of accomplishment that comes with doing something meaningful for the first time, we are dreaming bigger.

Performing at the Fringe opened up a window for us. We are both avid dancers, hopelessly restless, endlessly curious, and eager for exploration. As we forecast forward into 2020, we are excited to announce that we will be casting off on a year-long road trip around the United States beginning in August 2020 and culminating in July 2021. During that time, we aim to perform, teach, create, write, learn, jam, and create a digital archive to help keep those experiences of dance across the country alive. The Opportunity Grant got us to Boulder. Our time in Boulder catalyzed this next leg of our creative journey.

It is such a rare blessing for individual artists without fiscal sponsorship or a 501(c)(3) connection to receive institutional support, yet that support is VITAL. I am grateful that the Office of Arts and Culture invested in us and continues to create opportunities for artists and dreamers ready to take brave leaps forward. Thank you for helping us move the needle forward not only as creators, but as connectors, thinkers, and partners. We look forward to keeping up with you while we're on the road!

We’re excited to continue this momentum of helping local artists thrive in 2020, and bringing opportunities for engaging in the arts to every single neighborhood of Boston. The Opportunity Fund application is open now through January 31, and will reopen again in March and May. Interested artists can learn more here.