With A Focus On New Work And Underrepresented Artists, Here Are This Year's Live Arts Boston Grant Recipients

The 2019 Live Arts Boston (LAB) grantees include a queer rapper living in Jamaica Plain, a Brighton-based violinist from Turkey and a Roxbury jazz festival — to name but a few.

Sixy-one recipients were awarded a total of $796,293 in grants of up to $15,000 each to create or produce music, theater, opera, dance, spoken word and multidisciplinary work.

Funded by the Boston Foundation in partnership with the Barr Foundation, the LAB program is now in the final year of a three-year pilot. The program was designed to fill a void in grant funding available to Boston-area artists, with a focus on individual artists and small nonprofits working in the performing arts. (Full disclosure: The ARTery is supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation. Also, I sat on the panel to select the second round of LAB grantees.)

“I’m really excited about this group,” said Allyson Esposito, the senior director for arts and culture at the Boston Foundation. “Fifty-one percent of this year’s grantees have never received this grant before, and a similar number have never been grant funded at all. That’s notable to me, in that we’re continuing to reach new folks every single year.”

The Boston Foundation received a total of 268 applications for the 2019 LAB grant program, a slightly smaller applicant pool than last year’s, which topped 350. Esposito said the drop was probably related to a change in eligibility rules requiring applicants to present new work. The aim was to unburden artists of the financial risk involved in creating new projects — risk smaller organizations and individuals are generally less equipped to take on.

As in past years, the program prioritized marginalized artists, with 71 percent of funded projects headed by people of color and almost half involving immigrants and new Americans.

The 2019 cohort was selected through a new, two-step application process. “Most of the applications in Year 1 and 2 fell apart a little bit when looking at the budget,” Esposito said, probably because many applicants lacked experience applying for grants. This year, the first round of applications were evaluated solely on their conceptual strength. The Boston Foundation assisted a group of finalists with budget creation before advancing their applications to the final round.

The revamped application process “helped us to become more clear about our projects in our mind,” said the Boston-based violinist Ceren Turkmenoglu, who received $10,000 to fund a performance exploring the connections between Turkish traditional and Western classical music. “[The budget] was kind of a map for me.”

This is Turkmenoglu’s second LAB grant. She plans to put the money toward promotion, venue rental, rehearsal space, transportation of instruments and most importantly, paying performers. “Sometimes when somebody has an idea, somebody has a dream, it's a lot of expenses to cover to put it together,” Turkmenoglu said. “And without such support, it is sometimes not possible to make it happen.”

Now that the LAB pilot has entered its final year, the Boston Foundation plans to undergo an internal study to determine what shape the program will take in 2020. It could be split into separate programs that target specific groups. “It's been hard to have a one-size-fits-all approach to the program,” Esposito said, because nonprofits, individual artists and independent producers all have slightly different needs. Whatever the case, “the program will absolutely continue.”

Here are the 2019 Live Arts Boston grantees:

  • Benjamin Evett | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Theater/Music
  • Elisa Castrogiovanni | Music
  • Jorge Perez-Albela | Music
  • Mehmet Ali Sanlikol | Music
  • Fresh Ink Theatre Company | Theater
  • Palaver Strings | Music
  • Ceren Turkmenoglu | Music
  • Gabriela Martina | Music
  • MassOpera | Opera
  • Fredrick Woodard | Music
  • Isaac Albeniz Rios (Isaac de los Reyes) | Dance
  • Josie Bray | Theater/Dance
  • Kera Washington | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Traditional & Folk Performing arts
  • Latrell James | Music
  • Zakiyyah Sutton | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Dance
  • Ashton Lites | Dance
  • Tim Hall | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Music/Spoken Word
  • Fort Point Theatre Channel | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Theater/Music
  • Isnard Dupoux (Seraah) | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Performance Art/Music
  • Juma Inniss | Music/Spoken Word
  • Anthony Romero | Peformance Art/Visual Arts
  • Billy Dean Thomas | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Film
  • ALFii | Music
  • Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam, Inc. | Spoken Word
  • Karen S. Young | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Performance Art/Media
  • Non-Event | Music
  • Tanya Nixon-Silberg | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Theater/Trad. & Folk
  • UnBound Bodies Collective | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Performance Art/Visual Arts
  • STL GLD | Music/Visual Arts
  • Nedelka F. Prescod | Music/Media
  • New Movement Collaborative / Sarah Mae Gibbons | Multi-Interdisciplinary/ Dance/Performance Art
  • Anjimile Chithambo | Music
  • D. Farai Williams | Theater/Media
  • Guy Mendilow Ensemble | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Film
  • Humano Multicultural Project | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Theater
  • MASARY Studios | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Music /Media
  • Madhvi Venkatesh | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Dance/Music
  • Triveni School of Dance/Triveni Ensemble | Traditional and Folk Performing Arts/Dance
  • Anna Musselman | Multi-Interdisciplinary
  • Asian American Playwright Collective (AAPC) | Theater
  • Jane Park Music
  • Oompa | Music/Spoken Word
  • Rosalind Thomas-Clark (TC Squared Theatre Company) | Theater
  • Sumati Ram-Mohan Traditional and Folk | Performing Arts/Dance/Music
  • Yara Liceaga-Rojas | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Performance Art/Spoken Word
  • Prometheus Dance | Dance
  • Yo Soy LOLA | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Performance Art/Dance
  • Jean Appolon Expressions | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Dance/Music
  • Omar Najmi | Opera
  • Elaine Schulbaum | Music
  • Felicia Chen | Music/Performance Art
  • Joel LaRue Smith | Music
  • John Kordalewski | Music
  • Arlekin Players Theatre | Theater
  • Catherine Siller | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Dance/Media
  • Charan Devereaux | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Music/Visual Arts
  • Cliff Notez | Multi-Interdisciplinary/Music/Media
  • Emily Beattie | Multi-/Interdisciplinary/Dance
  • Marshall Gillson | Performance Art/Theater/Spoken Word
  • Rebecca McGowan | Traditional and Folk Performing Arts
  • FUKUDANCE | Dance/Performance Art

This article was originally published on April 11, 2019.


Headshot of Amelia Mason

Amelia Mason Senior Arts & Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live