Public art has the power to inspire more just, vibrant, and welcoming public spaces and public life. The Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art honors and celebrates the individuals behind this good and important work in Massachusetts.

Founded in 2020, the Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art annually honors two Massachusetts artists/curators/arts administrators in public art who have demonstrated leadership in contributing to the evolving field of public art and inspiring more just, vibrant, and welcoming public spaces and public life. Each recipient is awarded $5,000 of unrestricted funds in celebration of their leadership and impact in the field. 

The Award is named after Newell Flather for both his relationship with NEFA since 1993 and his leadership in establishing and championing the Fund for the Arts, which was established in 1981 to advance and provide visibility for the arts in Boston and expand public recognition of the contributions the arts and artists make to the quality of life in our communities. As one of the co-founders of GMA Foundations, Newell Flather has been a respected figure in the field of philanthropy since the early 1980s. 

Nomination Criteria 

Nominees must be an artist, curator and/or arts administrator who resides full-time and works within the state of Massachusetts to create/curate/support public art that aligns with NEFA’s public art vision and values

  • Strong nominees may be creating/curating/supporting public art that: 
  • Helps us to see, feel, experience, and imagine more just futures for our public spaces and public culture. 
  • Addresses  the intersectionality of spatial justice and racial justice as critical to cultivating a more vibrant public art ecosystem. 
  • Recognizes the importance of context in public artmaking. 
  • Inspires more just, vibrant, and welcoming public spaces and public life in Massachusetts. 

Nominations for the 2021 Awardees were accepted through February 26, 2021. Self-nominations were welcomed. 

Past Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art Recipients 

2020 Awardee - Kate Gilbert 

In a parade, Kate dances next to a float with color inflatable lawn decorations.
Kate Gilbert, by Dominic Chavez

Kate Gilbert is on a mission to transform Boston into a public art city. As artist, curator, and cultural producer, Kate sees contemporary art as a catalyst for transformation. In 2015, she launched Now + There, the reinvigoration of UrbanArts Institute, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to delivering impactful, accessible, and temporary public artworks that challenge Boston’s cultural identity by taking artistic risks and consistently producing compelling projects that engage the public. As one of the original program staff at the Greenway Conservancy, Kate developed a vision for how the Greenway could deploy public art as a vehicle for community connection and public expression. Her vision included using interactive and temporary work which is now the pillar of the Greenway’s long-range public art strategy. In 2013, she was tapped by the Massachusetts Convention & Exhibition Center to curate artLab, an exploration of public art and a key contributor to the success of the Lawn on D, Boston’snewest outdoor event space. Curating 40 different artists over two seasons for Lawn on D inspired Kate to bring art deeper into Boston neighborhoods and prompted her to found Now + There. Through her leadership, Now + There is producing high-impact temporary artworks in Boston while also supporting a pipeline of local artists and neighborhood-centric projects with a first-of-its-kind Public Art Accelerator. Kate holds an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and in her own multi-disciplinary artwork, focuses on the nature of consumption and the exploration of distinct alternates.

2020 Awardee – Silvia López Chavez 

In front of a colorful mural, Silvia looks back over her shoulder.
Silvia López Chavez; by Dominic Chavez

With roots in the Dominican Republic, Silvia López Chavez holds a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. She is a seasoned community-based artist and collabo-rator who uses art as a vehicle for connection. Public art projects include murals on the Charles River Esplanade, Northeastern University, Punto Urban Art Museum, Harvard University, Boston Children’s Museum, Underground InkBlock and Central Square, Cambridge. Silvia’s work has received recognition through grants and residencies including New England Foundation for the Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston Children’s Hospital, Vermont Studio Center and Google. In addition to her fine art practice, she is an award-winning design professional and works with high-profile local and national companies and institutions. She continues her studio work at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End.