Live Arts Boston awards nearly $1 million to 65 artists in commitment to strengthening arts equity

LAB program grants to date exceed $4 million; 82 percent of funded projects in 2021 led by artists of color

June 25, 2021

The Boston Foundation and Barr Foundation today announce the largest slate of grantees and most significant support for artists in the history of the Live Arts Boston (LAB) program. In 2021, sixty-five artists, groups, and small organizations will share $975,000 in grants to create, produce, and present new performing works in the fifth year of the program. The artist partners, representing a cross-section of performing arts styles and genres, were chosen from more than 300 applicants, using an open community review process that included nearly 50 national and local artists and arts administrators.

A strong message for racial equity

Live Arts Boston has made a commitment to highlighting and uplifting the work of BIPOC and immigrant artists, and in 2021, that commitment reached a new milestone, with 82 percent of grantees identifying as artists of color or groups and organizations led by artists of color. In consideration of the ongoing pandemic’s deep impacts on the performing arts sector, the Live Arts Boston partners decided to fund every selected project with a full $15,000 grant, plus project advising, skill-building workshops, networking opportunities, and support for professional development that bring the total support for the projects in 2021 to well over $1 million.

“It is long past time for arts philanthropy in Greater Boston and across the country to place greater emphasis on direct investment in Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and immigrant artists, and we are excited that LAB this year represents an historic investment in artists of color,” said Eva Rosenberg, Interim Director of Arts and Culture at the Boston Foundation. “As we emerge from the immediate crisis phase of the pandemic and continue to confront deep-seated racism, artists can imagine and inspire us to move towards a more just and joyful future - but they need resources and support to do so. We celebrate this year’s Live Arts Boston grantees and are grateful for the opportunity to partner with them in pursuit of that vision.” 

The Boston Foundation’s commitment to racial equity in the region’s cultural ecosystem is also illustrated in this week’s announcement of $600,000 in multi-year, general operating support grants for Black-led arts organizations BAMS Fest, Castles of Our Skins and Front Porch Arts Collective, bringing the total amount of recent grants directly to artists of color and BIPOC-led arts organizations to $1.4 million.

Since 2017, Live Arts Boston funding has made it possible for recipients to provide millions of dollars in direct payments to artists working on their projects. In addition, the 310 grants since the beginning of the program have created a network of shared and peer resources for local artists across all performing arts disciplines and genres. A review of the first three years of LAB by Animating Democracy found LAB funds supported over 1,100 performances of new works, and that more than half of LAB funds were spent to pay artists and creatives who support their work - in commissions, collaborations and rehearsal and performance compensation.

“In challenging times, artists and the arts are more critical to society than ever as our truth-tellers, conscience, bridge-builders, and dreamers of a better, more just and equitable future,” said San San Wong, Director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “With our communities upended by global pandemic and uprisings for racial justice, we are grateful for our continued partnership with The Boston Foundation to make meaningful investments in this exciting group of artists bringing the healing, hope, and vision that will inspire communities throughout Greater Boston.”

Facts about the 2021 LAB Cohort:

Number of grantees: 65
Grants to individual artists: 35
Grants to groups and organizations: 30

Percentage of groups and organizations led by BIPOC: 70%*
Percentage of individual artists identifying as BIPOC: 91%**

Grant recipients by self-described career-level:
Early career: 29%; Mid-career: 53%; Experienced: 18%

Grant recipients by primary discipline: 
Music: 43%; Dance: 14%; Theater: 14%; Performance Art: 12%; Spoken Word: 8%; Opera/Musical Theater: 5%; Traditional/Folk Art: 3%; Circus Arts: 2%

Grantees receiving LAB support for the first time: 65%

Grantees who had never previously applied for a grant of any kind: 17%

Artists in the 2021 LAB Cohort represent neighborhoods across the City of Boston, as well as 16 other communities – Amherst, Arlington, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Gloucester, Malden, Medford, Milton, Quincy, Randolph, Sharon, Somerville, and Watertown. A full list of the 2021 grantees is attached.

* : This percentage was calculated as the number of grantees who identified a majority of the lead members of their project team as non-white
** : Percentage of individual artists defining themselves as: Black/African American, Asian/Asian American, Spanish/Hispanic/Latinx, Middle Eastern, North African, or Multi-Racial

Live Arts Boston 2021 Grantees

AATAB x CHUANG Stage x Pao Arts Center (Theater) - Found in Translation is a series of virtual or hybrid theater events, live-streamed with captions to amplify the power and complexities of being multilingual, immigrants, or identifying as AAPI in Greater Boston.

Abria Smith (Spoken Word) - Abria Smith will present a live showcase of theater, music, spoken word and movement based on her poetry book, Somebody Soup.

Adrian Anantawan (Music) - Adrian Anantawan will perform musical works inspired by his disability identity, collaborating with other musicians with disabilities around the world.

ANSON RAP$ (Music) - ANSON RAP$ will explore 3D sound with a live, 360-degree performance of the musical composition NOSE.

Anthony Paul De Ritis; Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (Music) - Experimenting with the textual settings in Lillian-Yvonne Bertram's book Travesty Generator and its themes of racial and social justice, this project will culminate in an evening-length musical presentation.  

Artists' Theater of Boston (Theater) Artists' Theater of Boston is collaborating with accomplished poet Ashley Rose Salomon on her first full-length play, The Roslindale Love Canal, based on personal narratives that surround this little-known tragic event in Boston’s history.

Balla Kouyate (Traditional and Folk Performing Arts) - Djeli and Balafonist Balla Kouyate is creating an album of traditional West African and fusion music with his brothers. (Dance Suite Talk) - will be a full-length performance that layers rap/spoken word, contemporary and hip-hop movement, and original music from a diverse ensemble of artists who represent vibrant cultures emerging from Boston’s inner city neighborhoods.

Billy Dean Thomas (Music) - Malcolm X to Malcolm X will be a compilation album commenting on a journey towards belonging, finding a place to call home, and sharing common ground with roots in both Boston and NYC.

Bordes/Borders/Bordes/Dancemakers from Boston and Puetro Rico Collaboration (Dance) - Puerto Rican artists Beatriz Irizarry, Cristina Lugo, Marili Pizarro will collaborate with Boston-based artists Emily Beattie, Jimena Bermejo, and Callie Chapman, and composer Guarionex Morales-Matos, to create a performance through chance, research, and telematics.

Boston Dance Theater / Jessie Jeanne Stinnett (Dance) - Jessie Jeanne Stinnett teams up with ocean physicist Dr. Larry J. Pratt and Boston Dance Theater to create an art+science performance work which focuses on climate change through the lens of sea level rise.

Burcu Güleç (Music) - For her debut album Inherited, Burcu will rewrite lyrics to her father's unreleased songs from the 70s, talking about being an immigrant and mental illness, in the form of letters to her father.

Cakeswagg (Music) - Cakeswagg will be creating an innovative hiphop album supported by captivating visuals and live performances.

Circus 617 (Circus Arts) - Circus 617 will be creating an evening-length contemporary circus show focusing on the theme of artistic community and connection.

Claudia Medina (Music) - Claudia Medina is a female saxophone player. She will create an album of original music that will showcase the best of Peruvian music fusion with jazz and the rhythms of different cultures around the world.

David McMullin (Music) - In collaboration with patients recovering from neurovascular injuries, David McMullin will create music that challenges and benefits them in their rehabilitation, to be performed by a combined ensemble of patients and professional musicians.

DoYeon Kim (Performance Art) - Gapi (DoYeon Kim and Chase Morrin) will be creating a multi-cultural album dedicated to immigrant and women's rights.

Dzidzor(Spoken Word) - Dzidzor is curating a live multi-disciplinary performance centered on God, black church, and West African griot and folklore.

Elae Weekes (Music) - Elae Weekes will be composing an Alternative R&B album and visual project inspired by the stories of young men in his community.

Fabiola Méndez (Music) - Fabiola Méndez will be producing an audiovisual series of duo collaborations with musicians from diverse origins and backgrounds, in which they'll arrange and perform music written by composers of color.

Faye Dupras (Theater) - In collaboration with community members and artists, Faye Dupras will create a sensory-friendly interactive production using puppets, music, and live action for family audiences around themes of inclusion and belonging.

Forbes Graham (Music) - Forbes Graham will be composing a electroacoustic work for chamber ensemble inspired by the migration of the Charles Street A.M.E. Church from Beacon Hill to Roxbury.

Genie Santiago (Music) - Inner Space: A Collective Journey is an accessible, free, and immersive album release concert by Genie Santiago based around three themes: The Awakening, The Healing, and The Ascension.

Guerilla Opera (Opera/Musical Theater) - I Give You My Home is a site-specific opera that paints a portrait of Rose Standish Nichols and her efforts to effect change through the Women’s Peace Movement, Women’s Suffrage, and in her professional work.

Guy Mendilow & Regie Gibson: Radio Play(s) Series (Spoken Word) - Episode 2 of Radio Play(s) will be a stage-performed podcast in which a timely theme is unpacked through a collection of stories, told through the spoken word, musical segments and connected by a powerful score.

Hyphae: Emily Beattie, U-Meleni Mhabla-Adebo, and Rosa Weinberg (Dance) - Hyphae is an interactive performance inspired by the behavior of wild mushrooms that brings choreographer Emily Beattie, poet U-Meleni Mhabla-Adebo, and designer Rosa Weinberg together with their audience to create a single, networked organism.

Ilya Vidrin and Company (Dance) - First-generation Russian-Jewish artists, choreographer/dancer Ilya Vidrin and multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Alec Hutson, will create a multimedia evening-length production in response to Soviet-era bard songs of oppression and hope.

Jackie O'Riley & Rebecca McGowan (Traditional and Folk Performing Arts) - Jackie O'Riley & Rebecca McGowan will create a show of traditional Irish dance and music blurring the distinction between movers and band.

Jacques Schwarz-Bart (Music) - Jacques Schwarz-Bart will write an Afro-Caribbean jazz repertoire based on his Sone Ka-La concept and perform it in a concert series.

Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE) (Dance) - Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE) will present Kiltirèl Conexiones (Cultural Connections in Haitian Creole and Spanish) a collaborative dance project with Gerardina Halloran that highlights and celebrates the deep connections between Haitian and Dominican cultures.

Jha D Williams (Spoken Word) - Jha D will produce a series of spoken word poetry flashmob events throughout the city of Boston that recall and honor the experiences of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

Jonathan Bailey Holland (Music) - Jonathan Bailey Holland will create an electroacoustic work for string quartet that deals with the relationship of live vs. prerecorded sound in a live concert setting, as well as the concepts of memory and perception.

Jose Soto (Music) - Jose Soto will record an album of original music that reflects the life philosophy and social values of the Bribri indigenous community and how this philosophy is expressed culturally.

KAIROS Dance Theater (Performance Art) - In collaboration with vocal chamber ensemble Renaissance Men, KAIROS Dance Theater will create FOXY, a contemporary cabaret interpretation of Stravinsky's famed satirical opera-ballet RENARD.

Kim McLarin (Theater) - Kim McLarin will stage back-to-back readings of her one-woman play Divorce Dog across Boston to explore cultural segregation in the Boston theater community and how audience shapes the creative production of Black artists.

Laura Sánchez García (Dance) - Laura Sánchez will be creating a multimodal live production combining flamenco with poetry, visual art, drama and creative expression inspired her award winning short film After Dark.

Little Uprisings & The Gottabees (Theater) -Play for Change, led by Tanya Nixon-Silberg (Little Uprisings) & Bonnie Duncan (The Gottabees), will be an immersive theatrical experience for families featuring puppetry, live music, and art-making to talk about power, joy, and liberation.

Medusa Reclaimed (Theater) - The Medusa Reclaimed team will connect art to action for justice by creating a theatrical fantasia with songs to stir Medusa's voice in all of us.

They Watch You Thrive (Performance Art) - In community with two-spirit, trans* & queer kin of color, They Watch You Thrive will cultivate a series of live artspace activations rooted in care, belonging, and intergenerational power.

Mohamed Eltayeb (Music) - Mohamed Araki’s Al-Murtaja is a livestream, studio recording, and short documentary film showcasing traditional and original music from Sudan.

Muhammad Seven & the Spring (Music) - Uniting local activists, comedians, musicians, and other performers, Muhammad Seven & the Spring will produce Awakenings, a three-act showcase focused around one important theme and accompanied by a musical album.  

Naseem Alatrash (Music) - Naseem Alatrash will be recording an album of his original contemporary Arab music compositions, as well as traditional music from the eastern Mediterranean basin and North Africa.

Nathaniel Justiniano / Naked Empire Bouffon Company (Theater) - Naked Empire Bouffon Company will be creating an outrageously satirical, anti-colonial comedy about the diasporic Puerto Rican experience.

New Gallery Concert Series (Music) - Director/pianist Sarah Bob of the New Gallery Concert Series will produce Adopt and Adapt, an evening of new music and new visual art examining how one navigates new realities in family, country, and lifestyle.

Nolan Tesis (Performance Art) - Nolan Tesis will be producing a live ballroom show exploring how the underground House / Ballroom scene grew from its roots in the Harlem Renaissance to existing as a global freedom movement and LGBT subculture.

Octavia Bryant (Music) - Octavia Bryant is creating with a goal of bringing what R&B does for Black intimacy back to the forefront of the conversation, and making an R&B project that reflects a healthy, evolved psyche for Black people.

Omar Najmi (Opera/Musical Theater) - Omar Najmi will be composing and producing a workshop of his new opera This is not that dawn, about the Partition of India.

Palaver Strings Inc. (Music) - Palaver Strings joins forces with the genre-defying chamber ensemble Warp Trio to present Affirmation, a program centering music and stories that have been suppressed or misrepresented in mainstream media narratives.

Pedro Reina-Pérez (Performance Art) - Pedro Reina-Pérez will be sharing a multidisciplinary artistic and scholarly presentation on the life and work of cellist virtuoso Pablo Casals, with an original score by Boston musicians Brian and Rosi Amador.

Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion (Performance Art) Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion and collaborators offer a platform for "Queer Cabarets" through their multi-media installation Queerhenge, a culmination of intersectional and intergenerational dialogues within the project Stones to Rainbows/Gay to Queer Lives.

Phoebe Potts (Spoken Word) - Phoebe Potts will be writing and performing a tragic-comic one woman show about adoption, capitalism, and the tyranny of American motherhood.

ReachYou : Katrina + Jonah Goldsaito (Performance Art) - ReachYou is a transmission from the future to help us be in the present. It is an immersive, free, interactive, performance in Augmented Reality made by Katrina + Jonah Goldsaito with compositions by Beau Kenyon.

Reynaliz Herrera (Music) - Continuing her exploration of music for bicycles, Reynaliz Herrera will compose, present and record BIKEncerto: a concerto for solo bicycle and orchestra, performing it at Somerville Community Growing Center with her company Ideas, Not Theories.

Smirna Ortiz (Music) - Smirna Ortiz will compose and record a collection of Latin transcendental etudes for piano.

Soyoung L Kim (Performance Art) - Soyoung L Kim, Ashley-Rose Salomon, and Fernadina Chan will be creating performance art comprised of of spoken word, dance, and visual art, inspired by 강강술래 Ganggangsullae, a traditional Korean dance.

TC Squared Theatre Company (Theater) - TC Squared will be creating a devised virtual theatre piece that explores people's biases and prejudices through an incident in a laundromat.

Theatre of Eternal Values (Theater) - Theatre of Eternal Values will be creating a devised play about the power of womanhood, based on a historical meeting between Harriet Tubman and Pandita Ramabai.

Todd Dahn (Music) - Todd Dahn will create an urban musical that tells the story of how women of color have been affected by the founding and growth of America.

Transient Canvas (Music) - Transient Canvas is commissioning and recording new works by four BIPOC composers: Jonathan Bailey Holland, Yoon-Ji Lee, Jennifer Jolley, and Matthew Evan Taylor.

Triy (Music) - Triy will create an album based on love, fatherhood and being a black man in America.

Victoria L. Awkward, VLA DANCE (Dance) - In the Space Between follows VLA Dance Director Victoria L Awkward and company members on a journey from reality, to a dream world, and to uncomfortable spaces "between."

VILLADA (Performance Art) - Villada will be staging a Fashion Theatre piece inspired by the way that our bodies hold emotion and the textiles we choose to hold ourselves.

White Snake Projects (Opera/Musical Theater) - White Snake Projects, Cerise Lim Jacobs, Mary Prescott & Elena Araoz explore the "pandemic within the pandemic," the surge of Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19 through the lens of Homer's Odyssey using live, virtual opera.

Zayra Ocasio (Music) - Zayra Pola will be creating a grand release live concert for her very first Salsa album "Te Va Gustar", that was made possible by 2020/Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation.