Creative City Boston Artist Grant provides project-specific funding to artists to create work that sparks public imagination, inspires community members to share in civic experience, and seizes opportunities to creatively engage important conversations taking place in Boston’s communities. By funding artists directly, we are investing in artists’ creative agency as civic leaders in shifting public culture in Boston to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

About NEFA’s Public Art Programs

Creative City Boston is one of NEFA’s grant programs supporting artists in the field of public art.

The program design for Creative City Boston has been informed by the learnings gathered by Animating Democracy during an assessment of the three-year pilot phase of Creative City (2015-2018).

Learn more about the pilot phase and learning assessment

For more information about other elements of NEFA’s Public Art programs, visit the Public Art program page.

Visit the Program Page

Program Values & Goals

NEFA’s organizational values, articulated in the 2018-2021 strategic plan, guide each of the program areas of Creative City Boston.  More specifically, our value statement regarding Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA) informs our program design, funding criteria and grantmaking processes:

“NEFA values an equitable, diverse, and inclusive world, which we interpret as all people having fair access to the tools and resources they need to realize creative and community endeavors. We acknowledge structural inequities that have excluded individuals and communities from opportunity based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, class, age, language, culture, and geography, and strive to counter those inequities in our work.”

Creative City Boston supports the evolving field of public art by funding socially-engaged public art that also aligns with the following program values.

Program Values

  • Diverse cultural and artistic expressions are essential to more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant public spaces and public life.
  • Socially engaged public art practices should authentically honor the integrity of the people, places, stories, and ideas – past, present, and future - that are engaged in the process and presentation of the art-making. 
  • Fostering a community of practice, among artists and community partners, is essential to supporting artists taking creative risks in the public realm.

NEFA hopes to contribute to more equitable and inclusive public culture in Boston by striving to hold ourselves accountable to these values in Creative City Boston’s program design and grantmaking.

Why? Because access to funding and opportunities to create public art have historically been inequitable. Because community engagement processes that reduce people, places and stories to tools for art-making are harmful. Because we know we can’t do this work of shifting public culture alone.

Program Goals

By upholding these program values Creative City Boston aims to:

  • Support artists as civic leaders and contribute to a public culture that truly welcomes and supports diverse artistic expressions in Boston’s public realm
  • Explore, in partnership with our grantees and collaborators, NEFA’s unique role in cultivating a community of public art makers and supporters who authentically honor the integrity of the people, places, stories and ideas – past, present, and future - that are engaged in the process of creating or presenting public art.



  • Lead artist(s) must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Lead applicant(s) must be a practicing artist(s). 
    Individual artists and artistic collaborations (more than one lead artist) are welcome to apply. Artists of all artistic discipline(s) with roots in diverse cultures, forms and aesthetics are encouraged to apply. Examples include but are not limited to dance, theater, music, visual art, literary art, multimedia art, or interdisciplinary art. Self-taught as well as institutionally-trained artists are also welcomed to apply. There is no requirement for minimum years of experience.
  • Lead artist(s) must reside within I-495 in Massachusetts.
    Recognizing that living in Boston may not be affordable for working artists at this time, we welcome artists residing in the greater Boston area to apply; priority may be given to artists demonstrating deep connections and relationships with Boston communities and neighborhoods.
  • Proposed project must be sited in the public realm in the city of Boston.
  • Proposed project must be available to the general public.  
    Although some projects may engage specific communities in the art-making process, there needs to be a publicly accessible element to the project.  Does your project allow for someone passing by to happen upon your work and feel welcomed into the experience?

Not Eligible

  • Projects with a lead applicant who is a current Creative City grantee. Creative City Boston grantees are not eligible to apply until 12-months after the completion of their final grantee report.   

    For example: Lead artists in the Creative City Boston 2020 cohort are expected to complete their final grant report in January/February 2021, after the completion of their grant year (Jan-Dec 2020).  These artists are not eligible to apply until Spring 2022, for the 2023 cohort grant year. 

    Artists may participate in multiple applications as collaborators or participants. 

  • Projects that are part of lead artist(s)’ work for an employer or educational accreditation.  (e.g. an artist who works for a health center on community engagement is not eligible to apply as a lead artist for a project in partnership with the health center/their employer)
  • Projects that are not open to the public and/or have barriers to access for the general public. A few examples of barriers to access may include:
  • A mural on the inside of a public school; although this space is “public property” owned by the city, it is not open to the general public to experience
  • A performance intended for an exclusive audience, e.g. public school students during school time or community members enrolled in a particular program
  • Installation/Performance/Events that require pre-registration and/or admissions fees. These barriers could be reduced by eliminating registration and admissions fees.

Funding Criteria

Creative City Boston funds a range of artist-led socially engaged public art projects that meet each of the following funding criteria and demonstrate alignment with our program values outlined above. These criteria aim to help us understand and evaluate a project’s alignment with our values.

Concept Proposal Criteria

Artist Vision and Values: Clearly articulates the lead artist(s)’ artistic vision for success and values for this project.  Creative City Boston intends to fund projects that demonstrate alignment with program values.   

Artistic Process: Clearly articulates the lead artist(s)’ artistic process for this project. Creative City Boston intends to fund projects that authentically honor the integrity of the people, places, stories, and ideas -past, present, and future - that are engaged in all phases of the artistic process – e.g. research, art-making, installation, performance, and/or presentation phases. 

Intentions for Public Impact: Clearly articulates the intended impact of the project on the places and communities where a project is sited, and the general public who may experience the project. Creative City Boston intends to support a range of projects that may spark public imagination, inspire community members to share in civic experience, seize opportunities to creatively engage important conversations, increase access to the arts, advance cultural equity and foster more vibrant public spaces and public life throughout Boston.

Full Project Proposal Criteria (in addition to criteria above)

Community Partnership(s): Demonstrates meaningful community partnership(s) and clearly articulates the community partner(s)’ relationship to and role in realizing the proposed project. Some areas to consider are shared values and goals, skills, expertise, and social capital that the artists and community organization(s) are each bringing to the partnership.

Feasibility: Exemplifies the lead artist(s) readiness to implement this project during the upcoming grant year.  Provides a thoughtful workplan/timeline and project budget, examples of support, resources, permits, etc. that may be necessary to make this project a success.

Community of Practice: Demonstrates interest from the lead artist(s) in fully engaging in the grantee learning cohort to develop their socially engaged public art practice and contribute to strengthening a community of practice.

Process & Deadlines

The Creative City Boston grant selection process is divided into two phases:

Phase 1: Open Call - Submit a Concept Proposal

Eligible artists are welcome to submit a concept proposal in the spring. Concept proposals will be reviewed by a panel of advisors who will offer guidance on selecting finalists. Finalists will be notified and invited to participate in Phase 2 of the application process. Each finalist will receive a $1500 stipend (per project) for participating in Phase 2.

Phase 2: Invitation Only – Submit a Full Project Proposal

Finalists will have time to work on their project budget and workplan with the support of program advisors, confirm community partnerships, and nominate community partners to apply for the supplemental CCB Community Partner Grant.  Finalists will be invited to submit Full Project Proposals that include a project budget, workplan and confirmed community partnerships.

Artist Grants range from $10,000-$20,000 per project.

Community Partner Grants may be up to $5,000 per project.

During Phase 2, finalists will have time to:

  • Meet with Program Advisors: Advisors will be available to provide mentorship on further developing concepts into full project proposals.  Advisors may serve as a sounding board for artistic concepts or questions related to community engagement and partnerships, or provide guidance on permitting and feasibility, developing a project budget, etc.
  • Confirm community partnerships: In the full proposal, artists are required to confirm at least one community partner. Finalists will have time to strengthen relationships with community partners and determine agreed upon roles in realizing their proposed project.
  • Nominate up to two community partners for CCB Community Partner Grant: CCB Community Partner Grants are an optional, supplemental resource that artists can offer to up to two collaborating community partners. See CCB Community Partner Grant page for more details.
  • Complete and submit a full project proposal: The full project proposal expands upon the concept proposal. Artists will provide a project budget, workplan, confirm community partnerships, and more to show.

Additional professional development related to project development may also be available during this time. NEFA staff is also available and ready to work with you on your proposal development and answer any questions about the form or process.

Requirements & Reports for Grant Recipients

Creative City Boston artist grantees are required to:

  • Complete the proposed project during the designated grant year. If the project cannot be completed in this timeframe, an interim report requesting a project timeline extension must be submitted to NEFA for approval.
  • Participate in at least two grantee cohort gatherings: These are opportunities are for artists and community partners to:
    • Get to know each other
    • Build a sense of community
    • Troubleshoot challenges
    • Celebrate successes
    • Share best practices with one another

      NEFA staff will work with artists and community partners to determine the best possible dates for each gathering.  Although grantees are only required to attend the opening and closing gatherings, we highly encourage making the mid-year gatherings a priority as well.
  • Participate in optional professional development and technical assistance opportunities. Throughout the grant year, NEFA will partner with various arts service providers to deliver professional development workshops on the business aspects of being a socially-engaged public artist, communications training (e.g. social media for marketing) and discussions related to equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the arts.  Although it is not required to participate in all of these opportunities we highly encourage taking advantage of these resources. 

Grant Disbursement 

Grant disbursement is made in two installments:

  1. Upon receipt of signed contract agreements, NEFA will issue 75% of the total award amount to the artist or the artist’s fiscal agent
  2. After the project is successfully executed, grantees are required to complete a final grantee report. Upon approval of the final grantee report and supplemental materials, NEFA will issue the final 25% of the total award amount

Major changes to your workplan, budget, or project concept may impact your final payment. Please notify NEFA staff as soon as possible regarding these changes.  Major changes may require the completion of an interim report and approval by NEFA staff, prior to completion of the project and final grantee report for NEFA to issue the final installment of the award (25% of the total award). These procedures will be detailed in the grantee contract at the time of the award.

Program Advisors

Creative City Boston program advisors represent artists, arts administrators, independent consultants, and community partners with knowledge and expertise in public art practices and the arts in Boston. Selection of advisors takes into account knowledge, experience and expertise with public art and public art processes in Boston, gender, cultural and racial equity, and includes new and established leaders in the field. 

Program advisors may offer guidance on selection of concept proposal finalists, provide mentorship to finalists as they refine their full project proposal, offer guidance on selection of projects to be funded, and may be available as a resource to artist during their grant year. The advisors who serve as mentors to finalists, and resources to grant recipients, may not always be the same advisors that serve on our selection panels. Learn more about how to become a program advisor.