By investing in artists and a community of practice, NEFA is contributing to the evolving field of public art and inspiring more vibrant public spaces and public life throughout the region.

Vision and Values

Guided by NEFA’s organizational values, articulated in the 2018-2021 strategic plan, NEFA’s vision for our public art programs is rooted in the beliefs that: 

  • Public art has the power to shift public culture and change the future.  
    • Public art can help us all see, feel, experience and imagine decolonized and/or indigenized places. These tangible experiences are essential on the journey towards realizing more just futures for our public spaces and public culture.  
  • Diverse cultural and artistic expressions of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) are essential to more equitable and vibrant public spaces. 
  • Context is important in public artmaking.  
    • NEFA aims to support public art that honors the integrity of the people, places, stories, and ideas – past, present, and future - engaged in the artmaking.   
    • Disrupting harmful historic narratives that uphold structural inequities requires understanding context.  
    • Public spaces are not neutral. And public art made in public spaces is not neutral. 
    • Public art practices that reduce people, places and stories to tools for artmaking are harmful.  

NEFA acknowledges that the arts sector has a legacy of benefiting from and perpetuating white privilege, and therefore we are committed to working towards racial justice

The Public Art Team at NEFA aims to uphold and hold ourselves accountable to these values through our public art program design and grantmaking.  

Program Goals

Through our public art grantmaking and field-building opportunities NEFA aims to: 

  • Invest in artists and the creative process. Foster public art practices that are dynamic and aesthetically impactful, and authentically honor the integrity of the people, places, stories, and ideas that are engaged in the process and presentation of the artmaking. 
  • Cultivate artists as civic leaders. Support public art that positions artists to directly inspire, disrupt and engage the public sphere to strive for greater equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in our public culture.  
  • Strengthen a community of practice by fostering partnerships that facilitate knowledge building and sharing to support the evolving field of public art throughout the New England region. 

Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art

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 extraordinary service.  

Learn more about Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art 


NEW: Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice  

Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grants support teams of artists, creatives, culture bearers, cultural organizers, and/or community-based collaborators to do the important work of imagining public art that fosters and contributes to more just futures for our public spaces and public culture. 

The work of imagination is a journey. Project deliverables are not expected or required to begin this journey. 

Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grants range from $2,000-5,000.  

Learn more about Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice 

NEW: Public Art for Spatial Justice 

Public Art for Spatial Justice grants support Massachusetts artists and artistic collaborations to create public art in Massachusetts that fosters public imagination and contributes to more just futures for our public spaces and public culture. 

These grants may or may not support the outcomes of a Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grant. 

Public Art for Spatial Justice grants range from $5,000-10,000. 

Learn more about Public Art for Spatial Justice 

Public Art Learning Fund

The Public Art Learning Fund provides small grants of $500 to $2,000 to support professional development opportunities for New England artists to strengthen their public art practices. Through the Public Art Learning Fund, NEFA intends to foster the continued development of more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant public spaces and public life throughout New England.

Learn more about the Public Art Learning Fund

Creative City Boston - Artist

Creative City Boston (CCB) invests in artists of all artistic disciplines who are creating socially-engaged public art in Boston. CCB provides project-specific grants to artists, and additional resources including professional development, technical assistance, access to a peer-learning cohort, and additional support for collaborating organizations through Community Partner Grants. By funding artists directly, NEFA is investing in artists’ creative agency as civic leaders in shifting public culture in Boston to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

The program design for Creative City Boston has been informed by an assessment of the three-year pilot phase of Creative City (2015-2018), completed by Animating Democracy. For more information about the pilot phase and learning assessment go to:  

Creative City Boston is not accepting applications at this time.

Learn more about Creative City Boston - Artist Grant

Creative City Boston – Community Partner

Invitation Only. Creative City Boston Community Partner Grants provide additional support to organizations that are collaborating with artists on a Creative City Boston artist-led public art project.  CCB Community Partner Grants are by invitation only.  Invitations are initiated by the lead artist(s) of a proposed CCB project during phase two of the application process. Based on the project and artist needs, a community partner’s role in realizing the propose project may vary.

Learn more about Creative City Boston – Community Partner Grant

Fund for the Arts

As a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts since 1992, Fund for the Arts has historically funded organizations in greater Boston to commission artists from greater Boston to plan and implement site-specific, temporary, and permanent public art that will have lasting impact on communities.

In 2018, Fund for the Arts provided multi-year financial support to a cohort of organizations in Boston that exemplify the Fund for the Arts commitment to advancing public art in greater Boston. NEFA’s priority for this round of Fund for the Arts grantmaking is to support organizations that are currently strengthening the public art sector through diverse approaches including artist development. By investing in this cohort of organizations, NEFA aims to learn in partnership with these organizations about how NEFA may be able to better support more equitable and sustainable public art practices in the Boston area.

Fund for the Arts is not currently accepting applications.

Learn more about Fund for the Arts

Field-Building Resources & Collaborations

In addition to grantmaking, NEFA also engages in collaborations to continue fostering a more equitable and inclusive field of public art.  

Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Art 

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival on this land and reminds us all that our concepts of “public” are overlaid on stolen lands. Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Art is a collaboration in partnership with artists and educators, Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota) and Elizabeth James Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag). This collaboration centers indigenous artists’ voices from regional tribal communities in this moment of reflection to examine the ongoing legacies of colonization and how it intersects with public art and our understandings of place, including the intertwined economic, ecological, cultural, and social impacts. Through a blog series (summer/fall of 2020) and web-based symposium (fall 2020) we will have the honor of hearing from several artists from regional tribal communities on these topics. To honor this process and actively model centering justice through public art making, this collaboration also aims to culminate in a collaborative public art installation by/for/with Indigenous artists. 

Arts & Culture Discussion Series in collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) 

Since 2017, NEFA’s Public Art Team has partnered with MAPC’s Arts & Culture Department to organize a series of discussions designed to broaden understandings of how art can contribute to planning, and provide new entry points for planners, artists, and cultural practitioners to work together on planning and community development projects, and explores intersections of public art and planning. The series aims to: 

  • Share key concepts and practices that are used in public art initiatives to improve arts and culture literacy and bridge the gaps between funders, artists, and planners. 
  • Facilitate connections between planners and creative practitioners who have the skills to contribute to municipal planning and community development projects. 
  • Build cohesion among artists, arts administrators, and municipal planners, and seed cross-sector relationships that can advance creative community development in Metropolitan Boston. 

The series launched in 2017 under the direction of Carolyn Lewenberg, MAPC’s first Artist-In-Residence, with a focus on innovative approaches to planning challenges that emerge from artist leadership. The series is continuing under the direction of Emma Boast, MAPC Arts and Culture Fellow, with a focus on public art and public history as vehicles for social change.

For reflections, recordings and summaries of past public art discussions, professional development opportunities, and more check out NEFA Blog. Please note, this is not an exhaustive archive of past events and discussions but will provide a sense of some of the topics covered in the past. 

Another way to receive updates on from NEFA including the Public Art program, is to sign up for NEFA's mailing list to receive these updates in your inbox. 


NEFA’s public art program is made possible by funding from the Barr Foundation and the Fund for the Arts, an endowed fund at NEFA.

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