The Power of Funding Individual Artists | City of Ideas

Posted 03/08/2017 by Allyson Esposito, Director, Arts and Culture

Boston Creates called for new funding mechanisms provided directly to individual artists as one way to keep artists in Boston and attract new artists to our city. Providing flexible funding directly to some of our region’s most talented and, in many cases, vastly under-recognized creative performing artists to do what they do best – experiment, create, make, build and put out a wide variety of performative work – is crucial. With the addition of resources to deploy in, say, increasing the production values of a show, paying artists for their time, expanding marketing efforts to reach new audiences, or pushing the artistic process through an additional investment in rehearsal time and space give the necessary breathing room for creativity. We see this as a critical investment in the artistic career development of our creatives in the performing arts.

LAB also responds to another recommendation that emerged from Boston Creates: a call for more investment in the development of new platforms and funding streams that enable risk-taking and innovation across the entire arts and culture sector. Boston is a center of innovation in so many industries and sectors, but until recently the focus of much of the support going to the arts has been on presenting and preserving existing art rather than supporting new creation, or bringing in experimental work from outside of Boston, rather than supporting our own artists and organizations to push boundaries and develop new ideas. Our hope is that LAB funds will encourage new levels of experimentation of our local creatives without as much fear of loss of ticket sales or other support to recover production costs. An environment that supports innovation and experimentation becomes fertile ground for risk-taking and creative development across the entire arts and culture sector.

LAB also intentionally supports culturally specific work that upholds cultural traditions or provides opportunities to share traditional, cultural works with Greater Boston audiences, with particular priority given to traditions that have not received significant historical philanthropic support. Responding to Boston Creates’ goal to cultivate a city where all cultural traditions and expressions are respected, promoted and equitably resourced, we sought to create a fund to support the creation or presentation of artwork addressing disparities or deepening understanding across divides.

There is no question that this funding source was desperately needed, with more than 170 applications received for LAB during this pilot round. A very high percentage of the projects supported (87%), will fund the creation of new work. Thirty percent of funding was distributed to emerging artists at the beginning of their careers, many of whom have never received grant support of any kind. In addition, a broad range of disciplines are supported, including dance, circus arts, spoken word, music, performance art, theater, and all multi-disciplinary combinations of the above.  There was also tremendous geographic diversity among those applying and funded, with artists coming from more than 30 cities, towns and neighborhoods in our region. It will be fascinating and energizing to all of us to witness the projects that emerge from these artists and organizations—and the impact that work will no doubt have on our entire cultural sector and the communities that are so enriched by their presence and their work. In the coming months, Boston will be home to 60 new, exciting, culturally rich and highly innovative projects—a wealth of creative riches for our city, open to all.

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