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

Over this past year, we have leaned into our vision and values for public art to guide the changes we’ve made to our Public Art programming. In July 2020, we launched our newest grant opportunities, Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice and Public Art for Spatial Justice. And in April 2021, we provided more specificity in our funding priorities as we continue to explore the role of public artmaking in shifting public culture.

On a black metal fence, a box hangs next to a sign that reads "Love Letters to Lynn."
Love Letters to Lynn installation | Raw Art Works 2021

Through this ever-evolving pandemic that is pushing us all to reimagine what is possible on micro and macro scales, we continue to ask ourselves: How has public art intentionally, and unintentionally, reinforced a dominant public culture that centers the white spatial imaginary? And what might it look like to support public artmaking that questions and shifts this dominant public culture 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?   

A year into this inquiry, we are taking a moment to share some reflections as we look ahead to what’s next. We are thankful for the artists, thought partners, and co-conspirators (including our funders at the Barr Foundation, for their continued generosity and support of our public art programs at NEFA!) who have held us accountable to our values and continue to affirm this exploration in what it means to support public artmaking through a spatial justice lens. 

At NEFA, we believe that public art has the power to shift public culture and change the future. Sometimes that change is linear and measurable (e.g. cause and effect), and more often it’s like a ripple or vibration that is creating change that we might not be able to see or know how to measure in the moment. But we feel it. We know something is happening, even if we can’t quite describe it in a grantee report. And sometimes the impact is simply beyond what we can imagine in this moment.  

We know something is happening, even if we can’t quite describe it in a grantee report. And sometimes the impact is simply beyond what we can imagine in this moment. 

Funding the process of collective imagination, often results in less linear, less measurable outcomes. And that’s OK! In our Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice grantee reports we ask grantees, “What advice might you give to others as they embark upon a collective imagination journey?” 

Mar Parrilla, a Boston-based artist shares, “Be ready to be flexible. The journey is so important, and it might take you places you did not imagine. Take it in, and allow yourself to grow with and within it.”  

And Carolyn Cole of Creative Collective MA reflects that, “The seeds of change can never grow if not planted.” 

Through these collective imagination journeys, artists and community leaders are planting seeds of change as they reimagine the power and possibilities of public artmaking in their communities. What we are hearing from our grantees is the importance of this space for artists’ creative process, for their ability to heal and confront the injustices that plague our public spaces, and imagine new possibilities for the future.   

As we think about what decolonizing public spaces may look like, we are simultaneously exploring what it means to decolonize our grantmaking practices (think: reimagining the micro and the macro…). Perhaps we’ll see more public art for spatial justice applications come from these journeys in the future, but that’s not the goal! We are investing in the creative process, allowing imagination to plants seeds of change, and giving ourselves space to learn and grow along the journey. Funding collective imagination journeys IS part of what it looks like to support public artmaking that questions and shifts this dominant public culture 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. 

What’s Next? 

Grantee Blog Series – Reflections from the Field

We’ve asked a few of our grantees from this past year to share their reflections on their public artmaking practices and collective imagination journeys. 

Stay tuned for more reflections from the field! 

inPUBLIC 2021 – Now in October at Boston’s Downtown Crossing!

Text over tie-dye: we will tend to the grief. We will tend to the future. We will tend to the body. We will tend to the margins. We will tend to the children. We will tend to the elders. We will tend to the tears. We will tend to the music. We will tend to the displaced. We will tend to the conversation. We will tend to the water. We will tend to the spaces between us. We will tend to the laughter. We will tend to... [fill in the blank].
Text in the image: We will tend to the grief. We will tend to the future. We will tend to the body. We will tend to the margins. We will tend to the children. We will tend to the elders. We will tend to the tears. We will tend to the music. We will tend to the displaced. We will tend to the conversation. We will tend to the water. We will tend to the spaces between us. We will tend to the laughter. We will tend to... [fill in the blank].

NEFA’s Public Art team is collaborating with the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) and the Downtown Boston BID, to engage artists in co-creating a space for collective healing at the heart of the city in Boston this October. We thank everyone for your patience as we figured out how to navigate this Delta moment, while also wanting to hold space in the heart of Boston to celebrate and support BIPOC artists and communities. 

To honor this moment, we want to invite artists and community members to collectively create an installation at the Downtown Crossing Steps. The installation will turn the steps into a space of reflection and collective commitment to tending to one another.

With the prompt “We will tend to…”, we invite artists to submit a 2D, 3D or audio piece that will be featured at inPUBLIC. All featured artists will receive a $400 honorarium.

Want to Join Us?

If you are an artist, cultural worker, teacher, or healer, you can learn more about how to contribute your own 2D, 3D or audio response to the prompt by attending our upcoming information session:

Info Session: September 21st, 7-8pm (zoom). Register here

For more information about how to be involved in inPUBLIC, contact Dzidzor Azaglo.
As details for inPUBLIC 2021 continue to shape up, more information will be available on the DS4SI website.

Public Art Grant Opportunities – Fall 2021 Deadlines

Applications opening soon!

Click the links above to learn more about each grant opportunity!  

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