Woman in green smiles in a studio space
Program Director, Public Art

This fall we are announcing updates to our public art grantmaking programs. At New England Foundation for the Arts, we are continuously learning from and with our grantees. We aim to invest in artists, the creative process, and strengthen a more just and equitable community of public art makers. We are making these program adjustments in response to what we are seeing, hearing, and observing in the field, as well as direct feedback we’ve received from some of our grantees (thank you for your candor!). 

In our grantee reporting we ask for feedback. We listen. Based on that feedback, here is a summary of the changes we are making in 2022.

Public Art for Spatial Justice

Public Art for Spatial Justice grants are still supporting 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. And we are providing more support with more funding and more time to implement these projects:

  • Public Art for Spatial Justice grant amounts are increasing from $10-15K to $15-30K. We recognize the impact that our global economy has on local artmaking. Increases in the cost of gas, materials, housing, etc. means it costs individual artists more money to make art and to afford to be rooted in community.
  • Public Art for Spatial Justice is moving from a 1-year grant period to an up-to-2-year grant period. Shifting the white spatial imaginary that dominates much of our public spaces towards embracing, embodying, re-centering, and anchoring the rights of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) to simply be, thrive, express, and connect in public can be hard work that takes time! Recognizing that projects don’t always fit neatly into a grant year, we hope this will provide artists a little bit of flexibility to move at the speed of trust and center community care (and self care!) in the artmaking process.  We aren’t looking for artists to do twice as much with the increase in funding and time, but rather to be able to move with more care and intentionality in the artmaking process (e.g., honoring the integrity of the people, places, stories engaged).
  • Public Art for Spatial Justice is moving from 75% to 90% of the funding being provided before the end of the project.  Traditionally we’ve provided 75% of the grant at the beginning of the project and 25% upon completing the final grantee report. We recognize that for some individual artists receiving Public Art for Spatial Justice, waiting for the final grant payment of 25% after the project is done, can present an economic hardship. We are moving to 45% upon signing the grant agreement, 45% at an interim check in, and 10% upon approval of final report. And we’ll also continue to work with grantees on an as-needed basis if the final payment of 10% is creating an economic burden for a grantee. Our hope is that this gets more of the funding into the hands of our grantees when they need it.

We aren’t looking for artists to do twice as much with the increase in funding and time, but rather to be able to move with more care and intentionality in the artmaking process.

Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice

Learning alongside our grantees is essential part of imagining new possibilities when it comes to public art grantmaking. This year, we are also making some changes to our Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice opportunity.

Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice has supported “collective imagination journeys” or space for folks to come together and explore what public art that fosters positive social change might look, sound and feel like in their communities.  Without the usual expectations of project deliverables, Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice supports collaborations in focusing on the relationships, intentions, and possibilities of accountable public artmaking. The core of Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice is staying the same! Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice will continue to strengthen collaborations to collectively imagine creative, impactful, accountable public artmaking in Massachusetts. 

Without the usual expectations of project deliverables, Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice supports collaborations in focusing on the relationships, intentions, and possibilities of accountable public artmaking.

We are inviting Collective Imagination Teams to participate in a learning cohort with us. We’ve heard from past grantees that although it was refreshing to have space to imagine without being tied to deliverables, it could also feel lonely as folks questioned if they were “doing the right thing.” At NEFA we believe this work of collective imagination is essential to our collective liberation and should not be done in isolation! 

In 2023, Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice teams will be a part of a learning cohort with other collective imagination teams. NEFA’s Public Art team will facilitate monthly gatherings to offer some space to connect with other collective imagination teams and to see what sparks may come from virtually being in proximity to one another. To honor the additional time of participating in these virtual gatherings, we are increasing Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grant amounts to $6,000 (from $5K).

Reflecting on how this grant is different from a project grant, we are moving away from the written final grantee report for Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grants. Grantees have shared that the formal written report is a lot of work given the grant amount. And as staff, although reading Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grantee reports has been illuminating, we’d rather be in a more dynamic conversation with these reflections. Instead of a written report, Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice teams will be asked to participate in a reflective conversation with fellow Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice Teams during the June 2023 cohort gathering.    

Public Art Learning Fund

And last but not least, we are making a small adjustment to the Public Art Learning Fund. This fall we are offering a rolling deadline from September 2022 through December 19, 2022.  The hope is that if an artist is applying for funds to register for a learning opportunity in early 2023, we’ll be able to review applications sooner, so that artists may be able to access Public Art Learning Fund support before the registration deadline (e.g. for an opportunity in January 2023, the registration deadline may be at the end of November 2022).

Conclusion and Fall Deadlines

We hope these program updates continue to strengthen a more just and equitable community of public art makers, here in Massachusetts and across New England.

Applications for our Fall 2022 public art grant opportunities will be opening in Aug 2022! More details about each grant program can be found on their respective program pages:

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