Public Art

Supports the field of public art through grantmaking and field-building collaborations.

Public Art for Spatial Justice supported Jean Appolon Expressions | photo by Keren He

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 


Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice

Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grants support teams of Massachusetts-based artists, creatives, culture bearers, cultural organizers, and community-based organizational collaborators, to do the important work of imagining: 

What does public art that fosters positive social change look, sound, and feel like in your community?  

Through a six-month imagination journey together with us, Collective Imagination Teams will be selected to participate in a cohort learning model and receive a $6,000 grant. 

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

Public Art for Spatial Justice

Public Art for Spatial Justice aims to support public artmaking that helps us see, feel, experience and imagine spatial justice now, while we are still on this journey towards realizing more just futures for our public spaces and public culture. 

Massachusetts-based artist(s) and Massachusetts-based organizations working with artist(s), are welcome to apply for a project grant. Projects must take place in Massachusetts and creatively cultivate expressions or embodiments of spatial justice through public artmaking. All artistic disciplines are welcomed to apply. 

Public Art for Spatial Justice grants range from $15,000-$30,000, for up to a two-year grant period. 

Public Art Learning Fund

The Public Art Learning Fund provides grants to support professional development opportunities for New England artists to strengthen their public art practices. By investing in individual artists, NEFA aims to see the ripple of more equitable, inclusive, and vibrant public spaces and public life throughout New England. 

Public Art Learning Fund grants range from $500-$2000. 

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.

Making it Public: for MA Artists and Municipalities

Through a collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s (MAPC) Arts and Culture Department and Forecast Public Art (FPA), Making it Public (MIP) offers artists and select municipal staff a five-week workshop series aimed at strengthening a more diverse and equitable public art ecosystem. The artists track of MIP supports artists who are interested in expanding their artistic practice into a public art practice and aims to equip more diverse artists in responding to public art opportunities. Parallel to the artist track, the municipal staff track of MIP trains municipal staff to prepare calls for more diverse public art, conduct equitable review processes and support artists through implementation. By equipping more artists to respond to calls for public art and training municipal staff in supporting calls for public art, we aim to foster more diverse, inclusive and equitable public artmaking across the state.

Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Art 

2020 marked the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival on this land and reminded us all that our concepts of “public” are overlaid on stolen lands. Centering Justice: Indigenous Artists’ Perspectives on Public Art was a collaboration in partnership with artists and educators, Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota) and Elizabeth James Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag). This collaboration centered 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 and web-based symposium we had the honor of hearing from several artists from regional tribal communities on these topics.

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

From 2017-2020, NEFA’s Public Art Team 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 explored intersections of public art and planning.

For reflections, recordings and summaries of past public art discussions, professional development opportunities, and more check out the 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. 

To get a quick introduction to our three Public Art grant programs, watch the video above or read the transcript.

See Past Recipients of the Public Art for Spatial Justice Grant




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

Barr Foundation logo

Fund for the Arts

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