Arts + Culture

Enhancing civic and cultural vitality in Greater Boston

The Arts and Culture impact area works in concert with the City of Boston’s cultural plan, Boston Creates, to drive investment, innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness across all levels of Greater Boston’s arts ecosystem.


Performing Arts    

We partner with mid- to large-size organizations, aiming to create programming that serves, uplifts and better positions Greater Boston’s artists and small arts organizations.

How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts 

Our 2016 Understanding Boston report researching Boston’s arts and culture landscape, How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts, showed that small organizations, which make up 90 percent of the local arts ecosystem, receive less than 10 percent of all funding, and that individual artists likewise receive little support.

In response to needs identified in the local arts ecosystem and articulated by the City of Boston’s first cultural plan, Boston Creates, and in our own research, we support a wide range of performing arts entities and artists to create new work, forge new collaborations and create culturally diverse programming, while offering career advancement and organizational development opportunities. For small arts organizations and individual artists we provide project specific funding through Live Arts Boston, Next Steps for Boston Dance and the Free for All Fund.


We invest in the infrastructure and systems needed to realize a vibrant, sustainable, rigorous and inclusive arts ecosystem. 

For example, Boston’s arts service organizations  (ASOs) play an important role in supporting the work of artists and nonprofit agencies, and in developing the sector’s cohesion and ability to meet its collaborative needs. We have formed a cohort of local ASOs to perform a needs assessment of the arts ecology, map existing program offerings with the needs, identify the gaps and identify appropriate partners to create new programs and approaches.

Public Art

Zodiac Heads
Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads on the Greenway

In support of another key need articulated in the City’s cultural plan, we invest in the creation of a more “fertile ground” for increased high-quality, contemporary public art within the urban environment.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, for instance, maintains, improves and plans programs for the Greenway, a 1.5-mile-long urban park of 17 acres, on behalf of the public and in partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The park is the site of more than 300 free programs a year, and the Greenway Conservancy also brings local and international contemporary public art, which exhibits on a rotating basis to connect spaces and neighborhoods across the city of Boston through art. 


Responding to our 2016 report’s finding that Boston has the lowest government funding for the arts per capita among the 10 cities profiled in that research, we invest in advocacy focused on increasing municipal funding for the arts in Boston.

Our 2017 Forum Arts Are a Public Good: What Boston Can Learn From Other Cities to Secure and Sustain Dedicated Public Funding for Its Arts Sector brought in national arts leaders to address the ways in which their recent advocacy efforts levied and secured localized streams of funding for the arts in their respective cities.

Allyson Esposito

Contact Senior Director of Arts & Culture Allyson Esposito to learn more about this work.

Cultural Equity

The Boston Foundation has a historical commitment to addressing inequity issues in Boston, and a practice of understanding and documenting the landscape through research.

During the City of Boston’s first cultural planning process, stakeholders and community members called for cultural equity as one of five primary goals for the plan, namely: “A Boston that celebrates diversity in all forms by inspiring and empowering all Bostonians to express their individual creativity and cultural identities.” Advancing cultural equity also emerged as a key theme in our own Understanding Boston report How Boston and Other American Cities Support and Sustain the Arts. Our work going forward aims to contribute to the city’s understanding of this issue, by supporting critical research in order to forge a local cultural identity grounded in equity.


The Arts & Culture impact area does not currently support the following areas:

  • Arts education and youth arts, except through our support of Edvestor’s BPS Arts Expansion initiative. Learn more about Edvestors and this initiative.
  • Capital grants or requests
  • Elder arts
  • Fashion arts
  • Film projects, film making or film festivals
  • Literature/literary arts

If you are doing work in any of the above areas, you may be eligible for funding through the Boston Foundation’s Open Door Grants program.