Now Hiring: Operations and Marketing Manager

Issue 09 Nov 18, 2022

Radical Welcome: A Roundtable on Grantmaking as Care-Centered Work

On occasion of a special issue with Collective Futures Fund, local leaders joined in dialogue for a conversation around the future of grantmaking.

Interview by Abigail Satinsky

Headshots of eight women who held a conversation about grantmaking.

Top row left to right: Kamaria Carrington, Anneke Chan, Kara Elliott-Ortega, and Joëlle Fontaine. Bottom row left to right: Lori Lobenstine, Cecilia (Ceci) Méndez-Ortiz, Abigail Satinsky, and Kim Szeto.

What do artists need to sustain and transform our creative, vibrant, joyful, stressed-out, precarious, and beautiful Boston neighborhoods and communities? On the occasion of Boston Art Review’s special digital issue on the first cohort of Collective Futures Fund grantees, we wanted to publicly ask on these pages what it means to redistribute resources to artists here, in Boston, at this moment. How do the current social transformations underway impact how we do this work? How do the histories and patterns of this place shape this work?

Right now, there is an urgent national conversation happening about how museums and arts institutions must transform to become equitable and responsive. Similarly, funders, grantmakers, and cultural organizers are also engaged in processes to rethink how to support artists and communities. In the last few years, spatial justice has emerged as a framework for thinking about public art, especially among entities in Boston such as the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Public Art for Spatial Justice program, the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI), the Radical Imagination for Racial Justice grant (a partnership between MassArt and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture), and the Olmsted Now Equity and Spatial Justice grant (see the appendix for information on all these programs). At the Collective Futures Fund—which directly supports collaborative and public projects—we are also responding to these questions. As program director, I lead a team dedicated to making space for cooperative innovation. By granting Greater Boston visual artists, curators, and collectives funds of $2,000–$6,000, we help incubate artists’ visions for their own independent platforms and research to support collective futures that are iterative and evolving.

Spatial justice is defined by DS4SI as the intersection of spatial and social justice, where “we can see how justice and injustice are played out in the visible and invisible structural arrangements of space.” As Makani Themba wrote recently in DS4SI’s Spatial Justice: A Frame for Reclaiming our Rights to Be, Thrive, Express and Connect, “Space is a place of intersecting struggles/ oppression/opportunities. How we move or not move through it, adapt to it, monitor it, buy or borrow it, claim or cut it off shapes everything we do and big parts of who we are.”¹

This framework is relevant to artmaking in Boston because it takes a holistic view to making culture, which is impacted by our overlapping crises of gentrification, dispossession, and inequitable access to housing and health services. Everything must be rethought, from how people at all levels in these processes care for one another to how artists incorporate their own self-care and wellness in their practices. This roundtable brings together some of the funders and thought leaders who are addressing this in their work, and our conversation is an opportunity to think aloud and together about what equitable cultural opportunities could be.

This conversation took place over Zoom on August 4 and 8, 2022. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Special thanks to John Ewing for editorial assistance and Camila Bohan Insaurralde, Collective Futures Fund program coordinator.

Editors’ Note: A printed version of this roundtable included an incorrect headshot for Kamaria Carrington. We’re deeply sorry for this mistake and have included the correct image here.


Kamaria Carrington (aka Kamaria Weemz) is program officer for public art at New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). They are also a member of UnBound Bodies Collective, a multidisciplinary arts lab for QTBIPOC creatives across Boston and beyond and a community-building collective. Carrington/Weemz is co-founder of Cultivate: Queer Healing Lab and is a politicized somatics practitioner.

Anneke Chan is a rising third-year student in the combined degree program at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts studying studio art, world literature, and Asian American studies. Chan is a curatorial fellow at Tufts University Art Galleries and intends to pursue a career in arts outreach, education, and accessibility.

Kara Elliott-Ortega is chief of arts and culture for the City of Boston and an urban planner focusing on the role of arts and creativity in the built environment and community development. Previously, she served as director of policy and planning for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. Elliott-Ortega’s work to implement Boston Creates, the city’s ten-year cultural plan, includes creating new resources for local artists, developing a public art program, and supporting the development of cultural facilities.

Joëlle Fontaine is an artist and entrepreneur who utilizes art and fashion to empower disenfranchised women artisans all over the world. Her business, Kréyol, serves as a platform for this work. As a creative with over fifteen years of practice in the arts in Boston, Fontaine brings to her role as DS4SI’s art and creative placemaking lead her strengths in relationship building, facilitating, and community organizing, as well as her deep commitment to supporting Black and Brown artists. She most recently served as the assistant director of the Fairmount Innovation Lab, where she managed day-to-day operations, culture, programming, communication, and collaboration within the Boston arts and entrepreneurial community at large.

Lori Lobenstine is a cofounder of the Design Studio for Social Intervention. Lobenstine grew up in a family of community and union organizers and decided early on that working with youth was her passion and route to creating change. She was a youth worker for twenty years in settings as diverse as classrooms, basketball courts, museums, and foreign countries. Her consulting practice includes national facilitation work around diversity, equity, and design, as well as evaluation and documentation work for the fledgling social justice practice field. Her new book (coauthored with DS4SI) is entitled Ideas Arrangements Effects: Systems Design and Social Justice (Minor Compositions, 2020).

Cecilia (Ceci) Méndez-Ortiz is a Latin@ artist and educator whose creative voice and community-building practices advance cultures of belonging, justice, and joy. Méndez-Ortiz is executive director of the Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP) at MassArt, where she collaborates with a team to partner with people and communities within and beyond MassArt to radically expand access to transformative creative experiences. She is also co-director of the Radical Imagination for Racial Justice (RIRJ) regranting program in Boston, designed to support BIPOC artists in imagining and creating justice in collaboration with their communities.

Abigail Satinsky is curator and head of public engagement for Tufts University Art Galleries as well as program director for Collective Futures Fund. She is editor of the book Support Networks (School of the Art Institute of Chicago/University of Chicago Press, 2014), which chronicles socially engaged art in Chicago over the last one hundred years, and Phonebook (Threewalls, 2011 and 2015), a resource guide on artist-run culture across the United States. Her most recent book (with Erina Duganne) is Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities (co-published by Inventory Press and Tufts University Art Galleries, 2022).

Kim Szeto is program director of public art at New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) and has worked for the organization since 2015. In her current role, Szeto oversees NEFA’s public art grantmaking and partnerships, striving to uphold equitable public art practices in New England. Her background in environmental justice and food systems has informed her work with Boston Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services to bring a “farm-to-school” model to children, as well as her sustained engagement with NEFA and commitment to the possibility for social change.

Abigail Satinsky: How have the organizations you represent reoriented in the past few years around supporting artists and distributing resources, and what have you learned while doing so?

Kamaria Carrington: What the pandemic initiated in all of us was this collective shake to our systems: We need to do something differently and, some might say, everything differently. When you reached out, the first thing that came to mind was a reorientation of perspective that I received from adrienne maree brown, which was that we’re going through a portal and this could be a real opportunity for us to learn things on a massive collective scale. How do we do care-centered work? What are the needs of a collective?

At NEFA, we started in February 2020 with the first in-person cohort gathering for Creative City Boston, which was a public art grant program that engaged artists who are doing community-centered work and are funded with support from other community organizations. The idea was to help them where they were at—not to be in their projects as an individual but with more shared resources. And then we had this pandemic moment where everything shut down right before the summer, which is public art season here in Boston. Folks were like, what is happening? Do I even have the tools to meet this moment?

None of us knew what to do. So in that moment of pause, we decided to hold cohort gatherings and do a series led by artists—including jaamil olawale kosoko, bashezo, and Shey Rivera Ríos—called the Intentional Adaptation Series. We asked artists to come in and hold space for the artists in our cohort, because artists are great creative problem solvers. We really needed to shift some expectations and time frames while providing breathing room and options. Now, two and a half years later, we’re in a different place, but everything we’ve learned was seeded in that pause moment.

Kim Szeto: Kamaria is my colleague at NEFA, and I just want to add that I think we were already in the process of pivoting prior to COVID, but that time just made it so much more clear that we needed to change direction. I’d point to the DS4SI’s concept of spatial justice, which asks who has the right to be, thrive, express, and connect in public space, and who doesn’t? What role does public art play in fostering spatial justice or perpetuating spatial injustice? In the beginning of 2020, that was something that we were wrestling with as we were going through our visioning processes—to name our values in this work. Then the pandemic started, and George Floyd was murdered, and spatial injustice became more apparent in a much broader context, which gave space for us to more explicitly name our Public Art for Spatial Justice grants.

Lori Lobenstine: I want to underscore that you two at NEFA are really serious about that, and I continually try to explain to artists who have spatial justice funding how much you understand what’s important and what’s not. It doesn’t matter what you wrote to get that grant. What matters is making sense right now, in the moment, for you and your community. That is hard for artists to believe because they don’t get that message from other funders.

Last fall [2021], DS4SI organized the inPUBLIC festival, which was supposed to be four weekends in September and ended up being one weekend in November. The response from NEFA was never on our minds because you all were partners and we knew you were with us and trying to figure out what was safe, what was okay to ask artists to do, and what would really be nurturing for artists.

Joëlle Fontaine: Just to add to that, what NEFA has done to think through these issues is something a lot of grantmakers are looking at now. When we did our grantmaking process with the Fairmount Cultural Corridor, which was a Radical Welcoming Art Commission, this was a time when artists were stressed and in need of funding, and so one of the major things was not to make the application process a heavy lift. That’s often a deterrent, and so is the reporting process afterward. How do we make it easier for folks to access the funding that’s available to them?

I just facilitated a process with the Committee of Neighborhoods as part of the Olmsted Now Parks Equity and Spatial Justice grant. From the beginning, we thought about how to put the artists at the center of the grantmaking process. A lot of funded projects have issues with getting permitting, so we’re working on an advisory group that supports artists and their needs in that way. A lot of people have never done budgets before, so we provide a template and info sessions. We want to reduce the barriers that would deter someone from applying.

In terms of placing care at the forefront, we give 80 percent of funding up front and hold 20 percent until the project is completed, because we recognize that artists often don’t pay themselves. We’re asking that at least 20 percent go to the artist so they don’t overspend and go out of pocket and so they actually pay themselves in the end. I think these tangible things really consider the artist, even when artists are not considering themselves.

Cecilia (Ceci) Méndez-Ortiz: I’ll start by focusing on the work of RIRJ and how we conceived the program to address these concerns. In 2018, F. Javier Torres, director of the Thriving Cultures program through Surdna Foundation, brought together about thirty people across the US to imagine a national regranting program whose guiding values and philosophy were rooted in the fact that those persons sitting in the ivory towers with a lot of money are not the same people who are going to be in relationships with the folks on the ground. They are not closest to the radical work, especially around racial justice and community collaboration, that is actually happening.

One example of a thread that ran through all of the eleven regranting partners, including RIRJ—a partnership between MassArt and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture—was that grants are too often made for that sexy, big, public spectacle, and not enough resources— time, money, care—are given to artists and creatives who, as we know, are the ones who do the work and live their lives in the midst of all of this. So there was agreement that budgeting for artists’ and creatives’ well-being was not just a welcome or invited aspect of the grant budget, but a requirement.

Across the country, we each implemented the idea of artist payment slightly differently. Some people’s floor for artist compensation was 12 percent. We went higher, with 20 percent, which we found was really radical. We had to coach artists to make sure that they paid themselves, and even then some didn’t. It’s a process of connecting and planning for a different way of engaging in philanthropy and acknowledging along the way the power imbalance and power(s) present in all of these interactions, where money and access to opportunity is concerned.

We ended up building essentially a jobs program for RIRJ in Boston, with an advisory group that included young people ages fourteen and up. We had review panels for large and small grants that also included people fourteen and up. We had a dedicated street team of high school students getting the word out, because we knew that we wanted anyone and everyone who was creative, whether they define themselves as an artist or not, to see themselves in this opportunity. By the time we actually launched in 2020, we had worked for almost a year building a community-driven process, with a website, access to information, and materials. And then our national and global racial reckoning(s) exploded to new heights in May 2020. Applications were due a week after George Floyd was murdered. This notion that we’re doing these things to support artists and give life to new ideas, and the need for space and time, dictated that we had to do something very different, and all the other plans we had laid out needed to change. To do that through RIRJ, with such a large community of people, required a lot of care, space, and time. Our focus was always on the artists and the applicants. We opened office hours to all of the 300 people who applied for any level of grants. There are so many resources that are beyond the actual dollars.

AS: One thing that came up for us in starting the Collective Futures Fund is that artists told us about not wanting to be in competition with one another to get resources, and that sometimes they don’t apply for things because they want other people to have that opportunity. So I want to hear from you all about the role of competition in grantmaking processes and if there are other models that you’re considering.

JF: inPUBLIC is a great example of collaborating without that spirit of competition, and it starts with the leadership. Last year, we co-designed with NEFA the “What Are You Tending To” version of inPUBLIC, where sixty artists applied and sixty artists were accepted. We wanted to create a sense of no competition. We’re already thinking about next year and the next leadership team and what manual we can share—this is what worked well, this is what we would have done better. And then we continue to build that over time with each cohort and the artists who are coming on, and that creates a completely different dynamic overall.

KC: This is really a collective approach. We each carry something meaningful, and when we converge and build together, the ripples from that can be substantial. That’s what’s so beautiful about inPUBLIC; it is foundationally seeded with spatial justice in mind. A lot of my inspiration comes from the artist collective I am part of already, UnBound Bodies. This is a place where I also learn and unlearn things, like how to sustain myself and how to think collectively about resources in times of abundance and in times of scarcity.

LL: In the spirit of thinking creatively about competition, when Joëlle was leading the Committee of Neighborhoods process for Olmsted Now, we experimented with the idea of having everybody who applied for grants also be part of the selection committee. Would they collaborate more? Would they prioritize in particular ways that we hadn’t imagined? We didn’t have time to totally play that out, but I think we came to understand that people who were interested enough to be on the Committee of Neighborhoods were residents in the neighborhoods, and some of them were also artists. We had really interesting conversations about their discomfort with being able to apply for the grant and then their discomfort with being on the selection committee. We’re all weighing in on artists whom we know and love, or don’t know. We have relationships with different artists in different communities. So thinking about new ways for them to participate is also kind of moving in a different direction around competition.

Kara Elliott-Ortega: I think the format of people “competing” for funds through an application process is dictated by the funding source. We’re used to that from grantmaking. But in terms of other models, a lot of what we’ve been thinking about through RIRJ, but also more broadly, is: Where are the opportunities for artists and communities of any kind to control the funding that is going into the community? I think we see some versions of that through participatory budgeting or assembly-style budgeting, and there are different ways to facilitate that kind of experience. But it’s really about saying, “The funding is not ours to give away; it should be stewarded by the people who are ultimately receiving the funds.”

What does it look like to not just set up a nice community decision-making process, but actually create a financial governance structure that doesn’t live within a grantor- grantee relationship? That is a super interesting, exciting, and complicated place, because it also implies all sorts of work and labor that artists and the people doing the projects we want to support may not be interested in. It raises a question for me about all of the other roles we need in order to do that kind of self-governance and financial governance, including radical administrators and CFOs. Who’s going to help with the kind of alternative economic model for governing and distributing that funding?

KS: It’s so true. Many of our processes are baked in. It’s hard for us to unpack how and why they’ve always been done that way. I think programs like RIRJ are starting to open Pandora’s box, and it feels like it’s going to get messier before we find a more direct way forward. But I think that’s the path we’re all on. Often, when we get to panel season, I ask, is this the best way to fund artists? And inevitably, every round, we’re reading applications, and I think, nobody makes me compete for my salary every year; nobody makes a doctor compete for their salary every year. But for artists, it’s this feast or famine. They’re competing for multiple grant opportunities, and they might get five opportunities in one year and zero for the next five years. That just doesn’t feel like a healthy or sustainable system that we’ve set up for our creative sector. But working with what we’ve got, we do have to move this money in the interim before we figure out where the radical CFO is. We’ve been trying to get away from the idea of competing for artistic merit. I think that was something of the past, especially in public art. Now, we focus on value alignment and really looking for a relationship with the community so the public art making isn’t just about the “wow” factor, but also about attention to community care.

AS: Many granting opportunities (Collective Futures Fund included) value community involvement, but often the artists are responsible for narrativizing that involvement and impact. Are there processes, creative or otherwise, in which communities themselves have a voice in the early stages of project funding, or in evaluating a project’s success or long-term impact?

KC: I have so many thoughts about this. When we talk about relationships, I think we need to be really process- and practice-centered. And narrativizing is so strange too, since with applications, the whole thing’s a pitch. In most cases, it’s an imaginary proposition for a project that hasn’t happened yet. What are you setting out to do? And how grounded are you in that process? As artists who center Black and Brown, queer and trans liberation and expression in our work, and community-building as well, we [at UnBound Bodies Collective] situate ourselves as part of that community; not as folks who are deciding who is in and who is out of that community, but also as people who are interested.

It’s important to acknowledge in our work and also in grantmaking that sometimes we’re funding projects where risks are being taken and we can’t know the end goal, but we want folks to have some foundational questions that help us get there with integrity, care, and respect. Those are the things we look for in evaluation processes and assessments. What’s your understanding of this particular community and from what perspective are you arriving? Are you coming in thinking that you know more? How do we make sense of the configuration we’re in, and how does it move toward community-centered work and impacts that are beneficial and not too interventional?

KS: One way to rethink evaluation is realizing that we can’t really assess impacts in the timeline of a grant year or grantee report. Sometimes it’s many years out. Sometimes it’s so nonlinear you don’t even realize where the initial pebble dropped. We’ve been talking about this concept internally and recently published a series of blogs by some dear colleagues and thought partners on this idea of ripple effect.² Is artmaking about doing the thing exactly as we said we were going to do it? Or bringing X number of people to this particular corner? What if we were thinking about impact by the ripple effects that artmaking is having on culture and in the community? Those things are hard to gather. In some ways, we just have to trust that if we’re funding things that are value- aligned, those ripples are happening in the community whether or not we can count them or even recognize them in this moment.

KEO: The only thing I would add, from the City perspective, is that we have so much public process and opportunities for people to engage, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as being community-led or driven, or handing over decision-making power. But what does that engagement really do from an evaluation standpoint? What do we do with that information, and how does that relate to trust for the work? And on top of that, which community are you talking about? Who’s representing that community? I think we’re excited to have an actual cultural planning team for the first time in the mayor’s office, with two new staff positions. Part of the hope is to be geographically embedded in place to understand what is happening at a smaller-than-neighborhood level, and how what is coming out of our office is responding to those concerns.

But even that is complicated, because a community may not be a geographic community. It’s something else. How we define that for an artist is really tricky. In RIRJ, our application had language that was too broad for people to understand, but we tried to define community. We basically said, “You have to tell us what your community is. It could be a school, it could be your block, it could be something else entirely. We don’t know—you have to tell us what that is.” We invited a lot of voices into the process and handed over a lot of decision-making power, and I think that’s always a good thing to do. In terms of impact, at some point we have to trust people to do their work. We’re investing in them and the continuation of everything they’ve been doing, so I don’t know how much it makes sense for us to try to evaluate that community.

AS: How is burnout showing up for you and your work, or in the artists that you support here in Boston? Are there any models of care that you want to share, or new kinds of solidarities that you see as emerging and bringing you out of that burnout space?

JF: We actually have Kamaria coming to do a workshop on the word no, in Design Gym [DS4SI’s project space at 572 Columbia Road in Dorchester], so that we are not experiencing burnout. Kamaria and I and others were in a meeting the other day, and we were all feeling burnt out and able to say, “Okay, you know what, let’s reconvene at a different time.” It was more important for us to honor ourselves and each other; everything doesn’t need to be done right now in this moment. Everything is not as urgent as we make it out to be. That’s one of the things I’ve learned coming into the Design Studio. I’m an artist, and I’m constantly doing too much. But the atmosphere we create at the Design Studio is that we come first: The person, the human, the body, the spirit, the mind, comes first. This kind of culture needs to come from leadership at an organization.

LL: What we’re seeing, for artists who are embracing an opportunity to do their work full-time versus doing it after work or weekends, is that instead of feeling freed up, they’re facing a different kind of burnout because of the hustle and grind of chasing funding that would help them do their work full-time. Or if they can’t yet do their work full-time, they’re doing it and fundraising for it on top of whatever other gigs they have. Those might be associate professorships or jobs as full-time art teachers or jobs not within the arts at all. It’s interesting to think about the tensions of doing what we love and getting to do it full-time and then feeling burnt out by it because of all the requirements that come with the funding.

How do we think consciously about what allows and supports artists to do their work, particularly BIPOC artists and BIPOC communities? And also not assume that it’s as simple as getting paid, because that comes with its own hurdles and unintended consequences. How do we collectively think about that?

KC: I love this question of burnout. I feel like I’ve been marinating in it for a long time. When we prioritize deadlines, work schedules, linear timelines, those things can sometimes shut down or block our ability to really refine what we’re aiming for.

I think burnout is an indicator that something’s off, something’s wrong. The systems and ways that we’re operating are actually working toward self-harm. I believe in experimenting in microsystems and habits. Ask yourself: Where are you exhausted in your relationships? Where are you exhausted in your work? Are you exhausted from what you eat? There is information there to help us—and it’s very hard to pivot, like Joëlle shared, unless you’re in an environment that wants that for you.

There is such a lineage of artistry in Boston, of Black and Brown and Indigenous artists, and all those intersections. I want us to break out of this colonial mode that is so entrenched in Boston. There is so much space and canvas—buildings, streets, spaces—so much! And I really wish Boston, culturally, could snap out of its cold, austere approaches to public space. I’m talking about public art, in particular, because there is so much vibrancy already among artists. Black and Brown and Indigenous artists already have so much vibrancy that is connected to a cultural wisdom I wish was uplifted. And not just in terms of diversity and inclusion. I don’t think that it needs to be a way to add pepper or spice. I think it can actually be a respected way of acknowledging the culture and the culture workers here, and a way for people to walk down the street and recognize themselves across neighborhoods. I appreciate the vibrancy here; I just want Boston to invest in unleashing it and sustaining it, because people leave. They leave because they cannot live as artists here. And the folks who do stay usually have to make some compromises and are doing the best they can.

Again, this is a collective effort and there’s so much that we have learned. In this next round of Public Art for Spatial Justice grants, we’re doubling the amount and we’re doubling the time that people have to do the work. This is an invitation to maybe pay yourself better, maybe consider time in a more cyclical way, one that matches your artistic practice—and also, just breathe.

LL: We’ve really increased our communication with folks interested in supporting and investing in artists. We’re regularly talking to Pao Arts Center, and we’re also talking to RIRJ. There are so many organizations trying to do this work, and we have all succeeded and failed in different ways. We all know different artists and we want to be in relationship to each other. There is an advantage, along with some disadvantages, to Boston being a small city. Over the last ten years or so, we’ve built relationships and are trying to learn from each other, such as new ways of granting, supporting artists who are experiencing burnout, or connecting with community members and organizations. I do see strength there, even though it’s very much a work in progress.

JF: I agree, Lori. I think the communication is definitely getting better. However, I do think we could always do a better job of seeking out new artists so we don’t see the same people at the table.

KS: I think we are definitely feeling stretched at NEFA, recognizing that we are a team of three folks of color really working to try out new things here and take care of ourselves while caring for our community. Our motto, at least for this season, is “looking for ease.” We’re not necessarily referencing the easy way to do things, but we’re looking to find ease in the process and the partnership. And lean into that, rather than just climbing uphill all the time.

KEO: My burnout is sort of hard to encapsulate. What I’m seeing through RIRJ, and just in general, is a lot of artists who are looking at what they can do for other local artists, whether that’s elevating the next group of people they think are going to do something, or creating a platform for each other, or just collaborating, and there is so much excitement for that kind of work. There’s a narrative that Boston is too expensive, there’s not enough opportunity, and artists wind up leaving. Obviously, some of that is real, but I also see a lot of people doubling down and saying, “No, I want to be a part of this community and invest in my fellow creative people and collaborators.” That’s really exciting to see.

CMO: How are we also taking care of ourselves as we’re radically reimagining and creating different ways of doing things? It’s really tough. All of the conversations, getting to know one another, has been wonderful. And, in some cases, the power dynamic that comes with being the funders was also very present. For newbies like me, I was like, “What do you mean, I’m the man now?” I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I was—it was really deep.

But this is actually about creating material conditions in wealth in broad terms for BIPOC artists. These are just the beginning stages. These projects, these collaborations— bringing visions of BIPOC artists to life—it’s just the beginning. There are many interrelated strands in the work and the world that have to do with research and documentation at the community level, and also policy work and impacting structures and systems. How can these projects plant seeds for actual policy change around how arts and culture are supported in different ways, through and in municipalities? What are the real shifts in power that can also be strived for and attained through these actions? It’s a long game.


Collective Futures Fund: Launched in 2020, the Collective Futures Fund is an initiative directly supporting collaborative and public projects by visual artists, curators, and collectives in the Greater Boston area through grants of $2,000–6,000. A project of the Tufts University Art Galleries, the Collective Futures Fund is part of a national network of funders supporting grassroots artistic activity through the Regional Regranting Program of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts with additional support from an anonymous donor. Applications are due every spring with grantee announcements in the fall.

Design Studio for Social Intervention: The Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) is an artistic research and development outfit for the improvement of civil society and everyday life. DS4SI is dedicated to changing how social justice is imagined, developed, and deployed in the United States. Recent projects include the inPUBLIC Summer Series, a series of events held from May through August 2022 in Downtown Crossing that provided tools and inspiration for participants to show up as their full selves in public space. Its most recent project, Design Gym at 572 Columbia Road in Dorchester, was created in partnership with the Radical Imagination for Racial Justice, as well as the Fairmount Cultural Corridor, the Barr Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.

NEFA 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 a journey toward realizing more just futures for our public spaces and public culture. Massachusetts-based artists in all disciplines and Massachusetts-based organizations working with artists 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. Starting in 2022, Public Art for Spatial Justice grants range from $15,000 to $30,000 for a two-year grant period beginning in January 2023.

Olmsted Now Parks Equity and Spatial Justice Grant: Launched by the Committee of Neighborhoods in partnership with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Olmstead Now Parks Equity and Spatial Just Grant is comprised of five grants at $20,000, five grants at $10,000, and ten grants at $5,000. Each grant is intended to explore how we can turn the idea of “parks equity” into strategic action. Applications for 2022 are now closed; check the website for updates.

Radical Imagination for Racial Justice Grant: In May of 2020, Radical Imagination for Racial Justice (RIRJ) launched with a call to BIPOC artists and creatives living and/or working in Boston. Grounded in the belief that artists of color know what is essential for the freedom and liberation of their communities, RIRJ has sought to support artists’ creative practices and their collaborative world building visions for racial justice. For this coming year, RIRJ will be working in partnership with Design Studio for Social Intervention to create a hub/space/ curriculum that focuses on providing support for BIPOC artists/creatives/cultural organizers engaged with civic practice work centered on racial justice. This space—the Design Gym—will include different levels of engagement, from dropping in for a workshop or an event all the way to deep mentorship and support in prototyping and testing collaborative projects.

The Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture: Public art in Boston is vibrant and transformative. The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture and the Boston Art Commission believe in the power and impact of art that can be experienced by everyone for free. The curatorial vision for the City of Boston is to foster the creation and collection of artworks that reflect the people, ideas, histories, and futures of Boston, the traditional homeland of the Massachusett people and the home of the neighboring Wampanoag and Nipmuc peoples. Opportunities are available on their website. arts-and-culture/public-art-boston

¹ Design Studio for Social Intervention, Spatial Justice: A Fame for Reclaiming Our Rights to Be, Thrive, Express and Connect, accessible at

² New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). “The Ripple Effect: How Communities are Defining Public Art through Impact,” accessible at

Abigail Satinsky


More Info