Nayana LaFond, ANONYMOUS, WOMAN OF THE WHITE BUFFALO, from the PORTRAITS IN RED series, acrylic on canvas, 24×36 in. Nayana LaFond is a 2023 grantee of the Cultural Sector Recovery program.
You’re a Massachusetts artist or culture bearer, and you’re looking for grants. Here are some ideas.
Direct Funding from Mass Cultural Council
When Massachusetts individual artists and culture bearers ask us about grants, we usually direct them to our Artist Fellowships. However, this grant cycle (Fiscal Year 2023), that program is on pause while we evaluate it with a focus on racial equity and expanding access.
In February 2023, Mass Cultural Council announced $20 million in grants to artists, culture bearers, and cultural workers through the Cultural Sector Recovery program. That historic investment was the result of a one-time funding allocation by the Massachusetts legislature to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no plans for another cycle of Cultural Sector Recovery grants, at this time.
Will we resume direct funding to artists and culture bearers in future funding cycles? Yes! Stay tuned. Sign up for the Mass Cultural Council’s Artist News e-newsletter to receive the most up-to-date news on our deadlines and applications or follow us on social media @MassCultural.
Other Mass Cultural Council Programs for Artists/Culture Bearers
Local Cultural Council Grants
Another Mass Cultural Council program that includes support for creative individuals is the Local Cultural Council Program. Local Cultural Councils in 351 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts award smaller grants (typically averaging $500-$750) for cultural projects that benefit a specific Massachusetts community. Most councils accept applications from individual artists and culture bearers.
When applying for a Local Cultural Council project grant, you must explain how your project will benefit that particular community and engage its residents. Funding criteria and priorities vary from town to town, so the best way to see if your project is right for a particular community is to contact that LCC (find your local Local Cultural Council). The deadline every year is on or around October 15.
Grants in the STARS Residencies fund residencies for artists, scientists, and scholars. Schools, artists, and cultural organizations apply for grants ranging from $2.500–$5,500 to support creative learning residencies (including by artists) of three days or more.
A note on timing: As a state agency, Mass Cultural Council’s funding and spending is tied to the Commonwealth’s fiscal year, which runs July 1-June 30. At this point of the fiscal year calendar, all our grant programs have closed. However we look forward to launching new funding opportunities in the fall, after the Agency’s governing Council approves our FY24 Spending Plan!
Opera singer Vanessa Naghdi performing with the St Petersburg Opera. Vanessa Naghdi is a 2023 grantee of the Cultural Sector Recovery program.
Non-Mass Cultural Council Programs
A number of other groups offer funding for Massachusetts artists and culture bearers:
Founded in response to the decline of NEA funding for individual artists, Artadia offers unrestricted grants to visual artists in specific communities. In the years 2007-2014, Artadia funded 20 artists with impactful unrestricted grants in the greater Boston metropolitan area. In February 2022, Artadia announced it would resume awards in Boston, selecting three visual artists annually to receive unrestricted $10,000 grants.
Assets for Artists
Assets for Artists is a great opportunity for artists seeking to advance entrepreneurially and financially. The program offers development workshops, coaching, working capital grants, community building, artist residencies and more. It’s administered by MASS MoCA.
The Awesome Foundation
To win one of The Awesome Foundation’s $1,000 grants, you’d be well advised to do awesome work, since that’s their only funding criteria. The foundation, which was launched in Boston and has chapters throughout the world, gives no-strings-attached grants to “crazy brilliant” projects (such as an immersive Augmented Reality project).
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Artist’s Resource Trust
These grants, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, are for New England visual artists who demonstrate a financial need. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, or mixed media artists who have lived in New England for at least two years at time of application are eligible.
Boston Art Commission
The Boston Art Commission accepts proposals from artists for permanent or temporary public art projects, providing funding sources.
Most of the grants on this list are based in or have ties to Massachusetts, but we wanted to mention a national organization, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+). It has the unique mission to serve artists who work in craft disciplines by supporting emergency readiness and relief. CERF+ offers periodic Get Ready grants for emergency readiness and relief grants whenever a disaster occurs anywhere in the U.S.
The City of Boston
The Mayor’s Office on Arts and Culture in the City of Boston offers a range of grants, opportunities, and services to Boston artists and culture bearers. They award periodic grants from the Opportunity Fund to support professional development. They also co-administer a program called Radical Imagination for Racial Justice to support BIPoC artists/collectives in Boston. It’s a great idea to sign up for their Arts and the City e-newsletter, which is filled with useful information and resources.
ASIAN WOMEN, ASIAN SISTERS (2020), ink and oil on canvas, 14×16 in by Ngoc-Tran Vu, a 2022 grantee of the Collective Futures Fund.
Collective Futures Fund
Collective Futures Fund supports visual artists and artist-run activity in the Greater Boston area through grants between $2,000 and $6,000. The Collective Futures Fund is administered by the Tufts University Art Galleries and is a part of the Regional Re-granting Program of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Iguana Music Fund
The Iguana Music Fund from Club Passim offers seed grants to aspiring local musical artists. The fund awards grants between $500 and $2,000 to individual artists with a New England residence or affiliation to support recording, publicity, instrument repair/purchase, special projects, or other activities related to career or creative growth.
LEF Foundation Moving Image Fund
These grants are for New England documentary filmmakers. Founded in 1985, the LEF Foundation is a longtime supporter of New England arts and now focuses its funding on nonfiction film. New England documentary filmmakers applying for LEF grants will need to find a nonprofit organization to act as fiscal sponsor (Filmmakers Collaborative, Center for Independent Documentary, and Documentary Educational Resource all offer this service). Currently, LEF accepts proposals for pre-production, production, and post-production funding.
Live Arts Boston Grants
Live Arts Boston (LAB), from The Boston Foundation in partnership with the Barr Foundation, supports visionary performing artists creating new work. LAB provides up to $15,000 in project-specific funds to create, produce or present new performing arts work for Greater Boston audiences. Please note that LAB Grants are on pause for 2023.
Mass Humanities offers pre- and post-production and distribution grants to film projects that benefit and engage Massachusetts residents through the humanities. Similar to the LEF application process, individuals will need a fiscal sponsor to apply.
The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA)
Whereas Mass Cultural Council is the state cultural agency, NEFA is the regional agency, serving Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. There are numerous grant programs through NEFA that individual artists and culture bearers can benefit from, including programs for artists touring New England states, public art, and much more.
Prilla Smith Brackett Award
Funded by artist Prilla Smith Brackett and administered by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, the Biennial Prilla Smith Brackett Award honors an outstanding woman visual artist based in the Greater Boston area. The $15,000 cash award will be given to an artist at any career stage beyond the first five years of professional practice.
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant
Grants are offered to American painters aged 45 or older who demonstrate financial need. The fund honors its namesakes, in particular Lillian Orlowsky, who sought to provide financial support to mature artists due to her passionate commitment to art. The goal of the grant is to promote public awareness and a commitment to American art, as well as encouraging interest in artists who lack adequate recognition. Grants range from $5,000 to $30,000. Generally, there will be three or four grants awarded annually.
Society of Arts + Crafts
Based in Boston, the Society of Arts + Crafts, supports and celebrates craft makers and their creativity. The Society administers the John D. Mineck Furniture Fellowship, a monetary award of $25,000 to help a young-in-career furniture artist succeed in their artistic journey. Also, the Society’s Craft Innovation Jumpstarter (launched in 2022) focuses on craft artists who take chances, learn through experimentation, and want to connect with others working on similar creative problems.
Marilyn Arsem (Grantee ’17), EARTH AND ORANGES (2012). The artist received the 2015 Maud Morgan Prize from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
By nomination only
Why mention grants/prizes that are by nomination only? To save you the trouble of hearing about these grants, thinking, “Hey, maybe I should apply,” only to find unsolicited applications are not accepted. Or, maybe you’ll be nominated, in which case, yippee!
Brother Thomas Fellowship: $15,000 unrestricted grants to Boston-area working artists of all disciplines
The James and Audrey Foster Prize: $25,000 biennial award from The Institute of Contemporary Arts for Boston-area artists; one award winner but finalists have ICA Boston exhibition
Maud Morgan Prize: $10,000 awarded biennially by Museum of Fine Arts Boston to honor a Massachusetts woman artist
Rappaport Prize: annual $25,000 award by the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum for an artist with New England ties
Rebecca Blunk Fund: $2,500 grants to support the creation of new work and for professional development for New England artists, to honor the legacy of former NEFA director Rebecca Blunk
St. Botolph Foundation Grants: $3,000 for emerging New England artists, plus a $7,500 award for a distinguished artist.
DJ WhySham, CEO of Boston Got Next Entertainment and founder of The Social Justice Trap Movement. DJ WhySham is a 2023 grantee of the Cultural Sector Recovery program.
Further research on arts grants
Philanthrophy Massachusetts offers a range of resources to grantseekers, including access to the Foundation Directory Online as well as other research tools.
NYFA Source is a searchable database of national grant opportunities, sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Don’t be alarmed that the site is hosted by a New York organization; the database includes opportunities from throughout the country. You can set your own search criteria, which is useful for filtering out those that don’t apply.
- Read our article Fundamentals of Applying for Grants
- Read tips for artists from editors, presenters, curators
- Check out our weekly Artist Opportunities round-ups
LAST PLACE EVER (2014) by Pat Falco (Grantee ’19), recipient of grants from the Awesome Foundation and Collective Futures Fund.
Not every grant opportunity listed here is right for every artist. Before applying, you need to decide whether a particular grant is a good fit and thus worth taking time and energy away from your work. Also, this is by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to let us know about other funding opportunities for individual Massachusetts artists and culture bearers. Mass Cultural Council’s Artist Department is always looking to learn about these types of opportunities and is proud to share them with Massachusetts artists, culture bearers, and creatives!
Images: Nayana LaFond (Grantee ’23), ANONYMOUS, WOMAN OF THE WHITE BUFFALO, from the PORTRAITS IN RED series, acrylic on canvas, 24×36 in; opera singer Vanessa Naghdi (Grantee ’23), performing with the St Petersburg Opera; Marilyn Arsem (Grantee ’17), EARTH AND ORANGES (2012); DJ WhySham (Grantee ’23), CEO of Boston Got Next Entertainment and founder of The Social Justice Trap Movement; LAST PLACE EVER (2014) by Pat Falco (Grantee ’19).
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