The Boston Foundation announces $750,000 in critically needed funding to individual performing artists

March 7, 2017

Grants go to create, produce or present artistic work for Greater Boston audiences.

BOSTON, Massachusetts (March 7, 2017) – The Boston Foundation, with support and partnership from the Barr Foundation, has awarded 60 project-specific grants to small nonprofit performing arts organizations, collaboratives and individual artists in Greater Boston totaling some $750,000. Grants for the special program, called Live Arts Boston (LAB), were decided through an open application process and community review process that engaged 18 panelists including local artists, presenters and producers. The funding will support the creation, production or presentation of artistic work for Greater Boston audiences.

“This is a first in Boston and we thank Barr for its tremendous partnership,” said Boston Foundation President and CEO Paul S. Grogan. “Not only are these grants going to an extremely underfunded but very vibrant segment of the arts community, they were chosen through a truly inclusive community process.”

The Boston Foundation provided $500,000 and the Barr Foundation contributed $250,000 to the program’s pilot this year.

“Supporting my work as an artist directly is potentially life-changing,” said Ryan Edwards about the grant he received for SOUND/SCULPTURE, a public-art project that consists of a constantly evolving sound and light sculpture that invites dancers, musicians and the public to co-create a sculpture that in turn creates a sound score. “No matter how much we as artists believe in our work, stay up late, give weekends to our projects, it is nearly impossible to truly turn the corner toward professional art without the assistance of funding.”

“Individual artists and small companies are the lifeblood of creativity in our region,” said San San Wong, Senior Program Officer, Arts and Creativity, for the Barr Foundation. “Their work brings vital stories and ideas to life. It challenges, inspires and connects us to beauty, to meaning and to each other. Barr is pleased to have joined the Boston Foundation to launch LAB and support this first set of artists and small companies. And we look forward to others joining in this important effort going forward.”

Live Arts Boston provides up to $15,000 in project-specific funds to artists, collaborators, unincorporated groups or bands, and small performing arts organizations with annual budgets less than $250,000. Grants will support the creation, production or presentation of new work or culturally specific work, new and unique interdisciplinary partnerships—and offerings that push creative boundaries through experimentation, risk-taking and innovation. More than 170 applications were received.

The critical need for this type of funding was one of the key findings of a Boston Foundation report released in 2016 titled “How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts,” which showed that while smaller organizations make up 90 percent of the 1,572 arts and culture nonprofits in Boston’s densely populated arts ecosystem, they receive less than 10 percent of all contributed funding. As a result, small or medium-sized nonprofits and individual artists are less likely to produce new works, partially because they are so dependent on earned revenue. 

Live Arts Boston also targeted specific needs identified through the City of Boston’s “Boston Creates” cultural planning process, which engaged more than 5,000 Bostonians in discussions about the future of arts and culture in Boston. The plan calls for more investment in Boston’s individual artists, the development of new platforms and funding streams that enable risk-taking and innovation across the arts and culture sector—and the cultivation of a city where all cultural traditions are promoted and equitably resourced. “The Boston Foundation, through all of our newly defined arts initiatives, is focused on supporting the implementation of the themes and goals stemming from the democratically created Boston Creates cultural plan,” said the Foundation’s Arts and Culture Director Allyson Esposito.

Another grantee, Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Fest, works to break down racial and social barriers to arts and culture for underserved communities of color. “Because of the LAB grant, we are able to ensure that both the history and future of our local musicians of color are presented to diverse audiences that may not have otherwise have heard of them,” said BAMS’ Catherine Morris. “The Live Arts Boston grant program is proof that organizations such as the Boston Foundation believe in the healing power, social impact and shared experiences that music and live performances have on people.”

A grant also went to “We Create! Celebrating Women in the Arts,” a festival that features women artists in the fields of dance, music, spoken word, mixed media arts and acrobatics.  “The LAB grant guarantees that all women creators will be paid and we will also be able to defray the expenses for the venue, rehearsal space, stage manager, lighting design and photography among other expenses,” said Marsha Parrilla, a local choreographer and dance artist.”  The grant will support this year’s festival, which will be held in Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.

Eva Rosenberg, Arts Program Manager of Harvard Ed Portal, was one of the panelists who reviewed proposals. “I am proud to have served as part of a process that I believe will directly contribute to making Boston a more hospitable, and indeed fertile, place for the artists and creative and cultural workers,” she said. “In turn, these artists will contribute to making this city a place where I’m proud to live.”

Another panelist, David, Henry, who is the Bill T. Jones Director of Performing and Media Arts at the ICA, said, “Live Arts Boston offers desperately needed funding for local artists to create new and culturally specific work.  It will help artists grow creatively by taking new risks, exploring collaborative possibilities and reaching new local audiences. The support is one thing, the acknowledgment that their work is worthwhile is every bit as important—for them and other artists who have found new hope.”


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2016, the Foundation and its donors made $100 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of more than $107 million. In celebration of its Centennial in 2015, the Boston Foundation launched the Campaign for Boston to strengthen the Permanent Fund for Boston, the principal endowment fund focused on the most pressing needs of Greater Boston. The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with more than 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, think tank and advocacy organization, commissioning research into the most critical issues of our time and helping to shape public policy designed to advance opportunity for everyone in Greater Boston. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), a distinct operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit our websites or call 617-338-1700.