Boston Foundation Names Newest Live Arts Boston Grantees, Most Diverse Cohort Yet

Artist Dzidzor, a 2021 Live Arts Boston grant recipient, will curate a live multi-disciplinary performance. (Courtesy Ellie Nguyen)
Artist Dzidzor, a 2021 Live Arts Boston grant recipient, will curate a live multi-disciplinary performance. (Courtesy Ellie Nguyen)

Musical works inspired by disability identity created by artist Adrian Anantawan, and a contemporary, evening-length circus show by Circus 617 are some of the projects that will come to life this year through 2021 Live Arts Boston (LAB) grants.

The grants are funded by the Boston Foundation in partnership with the Barr Foundation. (The ARTery is supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation.) LAB has hit new records this year, setting a strong tone for racial equity. While LAB has had a longstanding commitment to supporting diversity, 82% of the grantees are people of color (POC) or POC-led organizations.

Out of 308 applicants, there are 65 grantees, reflecting the program’s biggest slate ever. Finally, LAB is sharing $975,000 in grants, representing their largest outlay ever.

Artists' Theater of Boston, pictured above, will collaborate with poet Ashley Rose Salomon on a full-length play. (Courtesy Matt Samolis)
Artists' Theater of Boston, pictured above, will collaborate with poet Ashley Rose Salomon on a full-length play. (Courtesy Matt Samolis)

“The program has come to be seen as a place where BIPOC artists, who are too often shut out of mainstream philanthropy, can meaningfully share their ideas and receive support,” said Eva Rosenberg, interim director of arts and culture at the Boston Foundation. “That has resulted in BIPOC applicants continuing to share their ideas with us, to be considered in the process, and rise to the top of the pool.”

This deeply held commitment to uplifting artists of color shapes different aspects of the program, such as who is on the review panel and who the program partners with. “There is a special timeliness this year, but I want to make clear that LAB has had this priority prior to and will have after the current overdue moment of racial reckoning,” Rosenberg said.

Many of the projects that were chosen are interdisciplinary and “take risks,” said Rosenberg. The Naked Empire Bouffon Company will put together a satirical, anti-colonial comedy about the diasporic Puerto Rican experience. Artist Todd Dahn will create an urban musical, telling the story of how women of color have been impacted by the founding and growth of America. Jha D. Williams will produce a series of spoken word poetry flash mob events, hitting locations throughout Boston, that honor the experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities.

“We need a critical mass of artistic experiences to process what we’ve gone through, to facilitate difficult conversations, to start to heal, to come together. I think there’s urgency around how do we support these artists who make our community vibrant and more equitable, but also, how do we support the creation of new work that can help us make meaning of the world as it is now?” Rosenberg added.

"Artists are the people who dream up what we don’t have or what we’re not in yet. We need that so much right now."

Eva Rosenberg

LAB put several changes in place this year. In the past, $15,000 has represented the maximum amount of funding a grantee can be awarded; but in 2021, LAB will award that maximum value of $15,000 to every grantee selected, “to robustly support their projects.” The requirement to include a proposed budget as part of the application process has been removed, as LAB acknowledges that it may be difficult to envision a budget with the amount of uncertainty artists are currently facing. The program will also reallocate a portion of the 2021 fund to provide $2,500 grants to each 2020 LAB grantee. In addition, they are providing 6-month extensions to 2020 grantees on an opt-in basis. Finally, LAB will be working in partnership with local arts service organization, Dunamis, which supports emerging artists of color.

The pandemic has impacted the way that artists create work, said Rosenberg, as she said she has observed some make “intensely personal” pieces about mental health challenges brought about by the virus. Others have developed work that reflects racial inequity, social response, and ongoing struggles with injustice. Some have not been able to create for a variety of reasons: perhaps they typically work collaboratively and have not been able to be in the same space as others, or perhaps isolation has been difficult.

“Artists are imagining the future for us,” said Rosenberg. “Artists are the people who dream up what we don’t have or what we’re not in yet. We need that so much right now. It’s about seeding and resourcing these brilliant geniuses that have creative imaginations, that are going to help us move forward and help us belong and feel together. In a time of necessary but painful reckoning around race and racism, artists are going to be critical interpreters of where we are and where we might go.”

Here are the 2021 Live Arts Boston grantees:

  • AATAB x CHUANG Stage x Pao Arts Center | Theater
  • Abria Smith | Spoken Word
  • Adrian Anantawan | Music
  • ANSON RAP$ | Music
  • Anthony Paul De Ritis; Lillian-Yvonne Bertram | Music
  • Artists' Theater of Boston | Theater
  • Balla Kouyate | Traditional and Folk Performing Arts
  • | Dance
  • Billy Dean Thomas | Music
  • Bordes/Borders/Bordes/Dancemakers from Boston and Puerto Rico Collaboration |Dance
  • Boston Dance Theater / Jessie Jeanne Stinnett | Dance
  • Burcu Güleç | Music
  • Cakeswagg | Music
  • Circus 617 | Circus Arts
  • Claudia Medina | Music
  • David McMullin | Music
  • DoYeon Kim | Performance Art
  • Dzidzor | Spoken Word
  • Elae Weekes | Music
  • Fabiola Méndez| Music
  • Faye Dupras | Theater
  • Forbes Graham | Music
  • Genie Santiago| Music
  • Guerilla Opera | Opera/Musical Theater
  • Guy Mendilow & Regie Gibson: Radio Play(s) Series | Spoken Word
  • Jacques Schwarz-Bart | Music
  • Hyphae:Emily Beattie, U-Meleni Mhabla-Adebo, and Rosa Weinberg | Dance
  • Ilya Vidrin and Company| Dance
  • Jackie O'Riley & Rebecca McGowan| Traditional and Folk Performing Arts
  • Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE)| Dance
  • Jha D Williams | Spoken Word
  • Jonathan Bailey Holland | Music
  • Jose Soto | Music
  • KAIROS Dance Theater | Performance Art
  • Kim McLarin | Theater
  • Laura Sánchez García | Dance
  • Little Uprisings & The Gottabees | Theater
  • Mariona Lloreta | Dance
  • Medusa Reclaimed | Theater
  • Micah/They Watch You Thrive | Performance Art
  • Mohamed Eltayeb | Music
  • Muhammad Seven & the Spring | Music
  • Naseem Alatrash Music
  • Nathaniel Justiniano / Naked Empire Bouffon Company | Theater
  • New Gallery Concert Series | Music
  • Nolan Tesis Performance | Art
  • Octavia Bryant Music
  • Omar Najmi Opera/Musical | Theater
  • Palaver Strings Inc. | Music
  • Pedro Reina-Pérez | Performance Art
  • Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion | Performance Art
  • Phoebe Potts Spoken Word
  • ReachYou : Katrina + Jonah Goldsaito | Performance Art
  • Reynaliz Herrera | Music
  • Smirna Ortiz | Music
  • Soyoung L Kim | Music
  • TC Squared Theatre Company | Theater
  • Theatre of Eternal Values | Theater
  • Todd Dahn | Music
  • Transient Canvas | Music
  • Triy | Music
  • Victoria L. Awkward, VLA DANCE | Dance
  • VILLADA | Performance Art
  • White Snake Projects | Opera/Musical Theater
  • Zayra Ocasio | Music


Headshot of Shira Laucharoen

Shira Laucharoen Arts Writer
Shira Laucharoen is a contributor to WBUR's arts and culture section.



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