New Relief Grants Awarded To Local Arts Organizations To Keep Them Afloat

Front Porch Arts Collective actors performed for a packed house at the Central Square Theater. (Courtesy Front Porch Arts Collective)
Front Porch Arts Collective actors performed for a packed house at the Central Square Theater. (Courtesy Front Porch Arts Collective)

After staggering losses in the arts sector throughout 2020 due to the pandemic, the city of Boston has awarded $450,000 in COVID-19 relief funding, through an initiative geared toward supporting arts and culture organizations run by Black, indigenous, people of color.

Grantees include the the Front Porch Collective, the Pao Arts Center, Hyde Square Task Force and Jean Appolon Expressions, among others.

Dawn Simmons, artistic director for the Front Porch Collective, said it’s been a tough year, but they’ve pulled through together.

“It will be remembered for the year that we got serious about equity and innovation,” Simmons said. “It will be a year that will be remembered for us banding together as a community of artists to support each other."

The grant program is a collaboration between the city of Boston, the Boston Foundation, and the Barr Foundation, and provides 17 organizations $25,000 each in unrestricted funds. The city plans to convene leaders from these grantee organizations, along with others, to identify obstacles to accessing support and resources.

“Relief funding for BIPOC organizations is extremely important, especially given the current times we are living in and given the history of where BIPOC organizations have been on the funding ladder,” said Shaumba Dibinga, Founding Artistic Director of OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center in a statement. “The hope is that this funding will bring awareness to other funders and create a larger pool for BIPOC organizations to receive relief funding and keep our businesses thriving.”

Also, 183 cultural non-profits across the Commonwealth have been awarded nearly $10 million by the state. The Mass Cultural Council provided grants between $1,000 to a maximum of $100,000 to organizations like the Brattle Theater Foundation in Cambridge and MASS MoCA in North Adams.

For larger organizations, the grant is limited to occupancy and personnel costs. The Council’s Acting executive director Dave Slattery shared the news with the recipients.

“Somebody mentioned that...they teared up and this was like their holiday miracle,” Slattery said. “It's just nice to see when you're working and trying to get money out to people to hear that you have immediate impact."

According to a survey by the council, Massachusetts' arts organizations have lost almost $500 million in revenue since March. The funding from the state made a big difference for the Brattle Theatre, said Executive Director Ivy Moylan.

“It is a significant amount of funding for our organization and a reason to celebrate for sure," Moylan said. “I opened the email in a staff meeting and immediately announced it to our entire staff and sent an email to the board.”

She said they received it just as they were shut down temporarily for a second time by the city of Cambridge as a result of rising COVID-19 infections in the region.

The theatre had been open since August for private rentals.

This money allows them to keep their staff working. Now, they’re watching for vaccine distribution across the state. Moylan's dream is to gather people again safely this summer, maybe for a summer viewing of "Jaws."

Simmons is also looking toward the future.

"We have been put in a position where we can take a step back and [do] some strategic planning," Simmons said. "And so what this allows us to do is take the moment and think, 'OK, what are the partnerships that we need to start putting in place to get the porch to its next phase? What is our next phase?"

The ARTery is supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation.


Cristela Guerra Reporter
Cristela Guerra is an arts and culture reporter for WBUR.



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