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Program Director, Public Art


Thanks for sending us your questions about our two new grant opportunities: Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice and Public Art for Spatial Justice. The public art team, took a moment to answer some of your questions in this short video and hope you will find it helpful. If you have further questions, you can email us at publicart@nefa.org

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.  

NOTE: This is NOT a project grant. If you are looking for funding for a specific project you may be interested in the Public Art for Spatial Justice Grant. 

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

Apply to Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice

Deadlines: August 24, September 21, and October 19

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.

Apply to Public Art for Spatial Justice

Deadlines: August 24, September 21, and October 19

Video Transcript

Kamaria Carrington: Hi. I'm Kamaria Carrington, Program Coordinator for a public art.

Kim Szeto: And I'm Kim Szeto, Program Director for Public Art here at the New England Foundation for the Arts, also known as NEFA.

Kamaria: As we launch these two new grant opportunities that focus on spatial justice, we've received some questions from folks. And we thought it'd be helpful to take a few minutes to answer them in this video. But let's start with the basics. What is the difference between collective imagination for spatial justice and public art for spatial justice?

Kim: Good question. I'll start by explaining collective imagination for spatial justice. So this is one of our two new grant opportunities. And as you may have guessed by the name, it is about imagination.

And Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice supports imagination teams. And what do we mean by that? We mean teams of artists, creatives, culture bearers, cultural organizers, and community-based collaborators who are doing the important work of imagining public art that fosters and contributes to more just futures for our public spaces and public culture.

We recognize that our publics are plagued with racial injustices from the policing of black bodies to the resounding impacts of historical disinvestment of some communities through the redlining policies of the last century, and not to mention the original displacement of indigenous peoples from this land and the attempts to erase that history that lies beneath the surface of our concepts of public. We acknowledge that public spaces are not neutral. And public art made in public space is not neutral, either.

We're reminded by our colleagues at the US Department of Arts and Culture that everything created must first be imagined, including our collective future. Social imagination is a prerequisite to positive social change. Before creating public art, we want to encourage artists, activists, space keepers, and community members to come together and do the necessary work of imagining. What does justice look, feel, sound, and smell like in your community's public spaces?

Artists, we don't expect you to do this work alone. And we knew that there are others deeply rooted in this work towards more just futures. That's why this grant supports collective imagination teams, and because we also know that the work of imagination tends to be more fun and more fruitful in collaboration with others.

Kamaria: Yeah, the work of imagination is a journey. We hope Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice Grant supports this imagination work without the pressure at the application stage of already knowing what might come from this journey together. Grants range from $2,000 to $5,000. Please see the Collective Imagination Grant page for more details at www.nefa.org/ImagineSpatialJustice.

Kim: Awesome. We also recognize that many have been doing the work of imagination and are ready for planning, implementing, creating opportunities to cultivate more just and vibrant public spaces. If you're at this stage, we'd recommend applying for the Public Art for Spatial Justice Grant.

So Kamaria, can you tell us what Public Art for Spatial Justice is all about?

Kamaria: Sure. Public Art for Spatial Justice is a project grant. 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. How might public art play a role helping others imagine, embody, experience, and see the possibilities for a more just, more vibrant futures for our public spaces? The grants range from $5,000 to $10,000. Please see the Public Art for Spatial Justice Grant page for more details at www.nefa.org/Cre ateSpatialJustice.

So let's take a step back. Kim, can you tell us what is spatial justice?

Kim: Sure. Well, let me-- I can't see the slide. Here we go. So what is spatial justice? So our colleagues at the Design Studio for Social Intervention frame spatial justice as the right to be, thrive, express, and connect in and across public space. When we think about our public spaces, who has the right to be, thrive, express, and connect in our public spaces and who doesn't?

George Floyd didn't. Ahmaud Arbery didn't. Both structural and cultural injustices contribute to these spatial injustices and many more. At NEFA, we believe that the arts are a critical vehicle for social justice and social change. Through Public Art for Spatial Justice, we want to support public art that's working towards realizing more just futures for our public spaces, rather than reinforcing or perpetuating these injustices in the process and/or presentation of the art of making.

So here's some resources from our colleagues at the Design Studio. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully, a good start if you're interested in learning more about spatial justice.

Another question that we've received is, why are these grants prioritizing artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color?

Kamaria: That's a great question, Kim. Spatial justice is about racial justice. As an organization, NEFA values and is committed to the work of dismantling the legacies of racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy culture. This necessary work includes centering Black, Indigenous, People of Color-led creative exploration and expression in public space.

It is not only about what we fund, the content of a project, but who we fund, the artists and thought leaders behind the project. As many organizations, NEFA included, made statements on racial justice earlier this year, these shifts in our program design reflect our efforts to put our words into action. To learn more, read our Executive Director's statement on racial justice. You can find that on our website.

Kim: Thank you.

Kamaria: Yeah. We have also been asked, I am a white artist. Can I apply for these grants?

Kim: Good question. So the short answer is yes. If you're based in Massachusetts, you're welcome to apply.

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. Through Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice and Public Art for Spatial Justice, we aim to hold ourselves accountable to our values through our program design and brand thinking.

For both grants, this means prioritizing teams and projects that are led or co-led by artists, particularly by POC artists, and that's artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color. We believe that dismantling the legacy of racism, white supremacy culture, and anti-Blackness includes centering by POC-led creative exploration and expression in public spaces.

To learn more about the specific eligibility criteria, as well as the funding criteria and funding priorities for each grant, we really encourage you to go to our website and visit each of the grant pages. The Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice can be found at www.nefa.org/Ima gineSpatialJustice. And Public Art for Spatial Justice can be found at www.nefa.org/Cre ateSpatialJustice.

Awesome. So our next question is, can I apply to the Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice and Public Art for Spatial Justice at the same time?

Kamaria: Good question. The answer is, technically yes. So these are new grants and we are learning and figuring these out along with you.

And at this time, if you are the lead on Collective Imagination for Social Justice and a Public Art for Social Justice application, we will likely only award one or the other in a grant round. You may be a collaborating artist on multiple applications. We just ask that you be mindful of your own capacity.

So if all applications are awarded, will you have the capacity to fully participate in both imagination work over here and project work over there? Just a question to start with. So let's see. Next question-- where do I start?

Kim: Awesome. So the best place to start, as I said before, is to carefully review the eligibility criteria, the funding criteria, and the funding priorities for the specific grant that you're applying for. So if you're looking to form an imagination team and do some imagination work, you'll be applying for Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice. And that's at our website backslash Imagine Spatial Justice.

And if you're applying for a specific project, you've already done the imagination work, you have an idea in mind, and you're looking for some funding to support bringing that idea to life, you'd probably want to apply for Public Art for Spatial Justice. And that's, once again, at our website backslash Create Spatial Justice. On each of the grant pages, you'll notice there is a gray menu box at the top right corner of the page. And you can click Preview Application Questions, so you can see the application questions before you start an application.

Kamaria: Yeah, that's a great place to start. And that leads to step two. Step two is to start an application in our grants portal.

So you choose which application is for you, your team, and your work. The link to start your application is, as Kim mentioned, in the gray menu box in the top right section of each grant page. There's also a link to return to your application if you want to save edits and come back to it later before submitting.

We highly recommend you use this Return to Your Application embedded link, because we don't want you to just keep starting and restarting a new application. This can be a common mistake. So be sure that you're familiar with Start Your Application versus Return to Your Application.

Kim: That's great advice. Awesome. Great. So I think those are all of our questions so far. Thank you all for emailing us and asking these good questions. I hope that this video has been helpful.

And just to remind you that we have three upcoming deadlines. And there's one a month-- August 24, September 21, and October 19. It's kind of a pseudo-rolling deadline. So you can think about when it makes more sense for your team or your collaboration to apply. When you're looking to start your project, we'll plan to announce awards for roughly a month or a little more than a month after each deadline to give you a sense of timeline. And you can also go to the grant page and look at the Process and Timeline section for these dates as well.

Kamaria: Great. Thank you for your questions so far. And we're also here to answer more. So if you have more questions, you can email the Public Art Team at publicart at NEFA.org.

And then if you have more specific questions about your application that you've already started, you can setup office hour sessions. And you can do that from each grant page. In that gray box that we keep mentioning, there is a link for accessing office hours and to sign up. And so if you have any questions, please choose whichever route makes sense for you to spend time with us or to just shoot a quick email.

Kim: Great. So we look forward to your visions about spatial justice. We want to learn about what's happening in your communities and what you're looking to create.

Kamaria: Yes. Thank you and good luck.

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