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Boosting Creative Sector in Mass. Cities

MassDevelopment Awards $500,000 in Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Creative Catalyst Grants for Arts & Culture Projects in Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Lowell, Pittsfield & Worcester
July 06, 2023

Matthew Mogavero, 857-248-0868

BOSTON – MassDevelopment has awarded $500,000 in grants to nine organizations for public-facing projects in Gateway Cities that support arts- and culture-based economic development and neighborhood revitalization, such as public art, arts programming and events, space activation, collaborative workspaces, mentoring and educational opportunities in the arts, and more. The funding was awarded through the fourth round of MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Creative Catalyst Grant program, a competitive opportunity for eligible Gateway Cities.

MassDevelopment’s TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program is made possible by the Barr Foundation, which since 2019 has awarded $4.4 million to MassDevelopment to create and administer arts-based programming that directly supports the expansion of cultural and creative industries in Gateway Cities. Gateway Cities have historically been home to many vibrant cultural and creative assets, and MassDevelopment’s TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program seeks to amplify the vibrancy of these communities by providing grant funding for locally initiated arts and culture-based projects. Through its first three rounds, the TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program awarded $1,460,000 in 27 grants to support unique and significant contributions from the artistic and cultural sectors to advance the revitalization of commercial districts in Gateway Cities. 

“A vibrant arts and culture scene is so important to our local and regional economies across the state,” said Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors. “Massachusetts’ 26 Gateway Cities are teeming with creative talent, and we’re proud that funding from MassDevelopment’s TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program will help create public art, programming, and spaces that can be enjoyed by all.”

“These locally led projects will advance our Gateway Cities by drawing patrons into commercial districts, activating vacant spaces, and supporting entrepreneurship in the arts,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera. "The Barr Foundation's generous support of MassDevelopment's TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program allows us to empower community partners working to strengthen the local creative sector and revitalize neighborhoods.”

“Barr is proud to partner with MassDevelopment in supporting the Creative Catalyst Grant program,” said Barr Foundation Director of Arts & Creativity San San Wong. “These grants will support exciting projects that leverage the creativity of residents and other community members and highlight the role that arts and culture often play in growing civic engagement and economic opportunity.”

MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative works with cross-sector partnerships in targeted commercial districts in Gateway Cities in order to engage community members, implement local economic development initiatives, and spur further public and private investment. Since 2015, MassDevelopment has invested $20 million in TDI districts through tools such as technical assistance, real estate investments, grant programs, and fellows who work in the districts. That investment has directly influenced over $100.2 million in public and private investments in the districts, and assisted an additional $219.9 million. 

Defined by the Massachusetts General Laws, Gateway Cities are small to midsized cities in Massachusetts (population of between 35,000 and 250,000) that anchor regional economies around the state, with below state average household incomes and educational attainment rates. The Legislature defines 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts, including Attleboro, Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield, and Worcester.

Awarded projects:

Polyphonic Studios, LLC, Barnstable and Brockton – $63,000
Sound of the Community

Polyphonic Studios, LLC and partners will use grants funds for Sound of the Community, a project drawing together community organizations and businesses in the Barnstable and Brockton TDI districts that will provide mentoring, professional training, and experiences in audio engineering and sound mixing for live shows and events, with a focus on serving primarily Black and Brown males, ages 14 and up. The project plans to create a mobile recording studio and sound system to be used for events, concerts, and festivals in the communities being served, organized by project collaborators and other local entities. The project will also include the use of the mobile sound system as a portable media workshop for schools, community organizations, community education projects, and ‘Studioke’ activities for community fairs and events. The organizations will offer commercial-grade recording and audio production services for location-based and on-site recording and production of music, audiobook, podcasts, and sound design for media projects.

TheatreZone, Inc. (DBA Apollinaire Theatre Company), Chelsea – $100,000
Teatro Chelsea and Downtown Event

Apollinaire Theatre Company will use grant funds to extend the depth and reach of Teatro Chelsea’s programming to uplift and celebrate Latin voices and narratives in theatre, provide opportunities to Latin artists of all experience levels, and expand Teatro’s community and business partnerships in Chelsea. The organization, in partnership with the City of Chelsea, will produce three weeks of free bilingual summer theatre in Chelsea Square with robust community and downtown business engagement, furthering Chelsea’s arts identity in a way that is exciting, accessible, inclusive, and culturally meaningful.

Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce, Chicopee – $20,000
Center Fresh Market

Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce will use grant funds to support operating costs of the Center Fresh Market for nearly two full seasons and purchase additional tents and resources to include more artist and artisan vendors, all while keeping the market vendor-fee free. Center Fresh Market is a weekly outdoors farmers market in Chicopee Center that runs June through October. It is one of the direct results of Chicopee's former TDI partnership and continues to build community and economic revitalization in the former TDI district. In 2023, the market's third operating year, Center Fresh plans to move to a new location in the district while the former library, the market’s previous host location, is renovated. Eventually, Center Fresh will have a more stable home in the renovated library which has sat vacant for nearly two decades in Chicopee Center.

Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art, Fall River – $40,000
Cultural Pollinator

Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art (FR MoCA) will use this grant to facilitate an ecosystem of contemporary arts programming, with a permanent exhibition space located at 44 Troy St. in Fall River acting as the central cultural hub. A series of showcases of contemporary art as well as symposium and other structures for discourse will occur at this space, serving as an important supplemental education tool for various public schools and the overall public. FR MoCA will act in collaboration with Fall River Public Schools, New Bedford High School, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and others. A component of the project includes site-specific ecologically minded projects in North Park and on the Quequechan River Rail Trail.

Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition (FRACC), Fall River – $100,000
The Ignition Project

The FRACC will use this grant for no-cost education, mini-grants, and vacant retail space activation to spark a synergy among business owners, the local community college, and creative community members. The Ignition Project advances art and culture within the City of Fall River by addressing three major cultural strategies: incentivize creatives to live and create in the City with affordable live and/or workspace; support community development and arts entrepreneurship; and establish a leadership group of artists. Project contributors include Business Solutions & Partnerships at Bristol Community College and Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery at Bristol Community College.

Project LEARN, Inc., Lowell – $40,000
ArtUp Lowell 2023 Mural Initiative

Project LEARN, Inc. will use this grant to support the ArtUp Lowell 2023 Mural Initiative. ArtUp Lowell will partner with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell High School, Refuge Lowell, BRM Production Management, and Curation250 to launch a focused, local approach to mural projects in the Upper Merrimack/Acre neighborhood. ArtUp Lowell’s 2023 youth mural component will allow Lowell students to collaborate and learn from local and regional artists on public art projects that beautify public spaces in which they live and begin building their own portfolios as creative professionals.

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., Pittsfield – $65,000
Technology: “The Lab” at Boys and Girls Club; Pittsfield Community Design Center (Urban Room); and Let it Shine Mural and Music Festival

Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. and partners will use this grant to support (1) the creation of a technology lab at Boys and Girls Club that seeds an entrepreneurial hub for teens in the district and forms a new pipeline between Berkshire Innovation Center and North Street; (2) the build-out of a brick-and-mortar space for Pittsfield Community Design Center, an “Urban Room” which serves as a body for planning and executing tactical urbanism strategy and community-focused planning, featuring equipment like paint, planters, recycled furniture, pallets, and tires with seating and lounge areas for meetings, brainstorms, and exhibitions; and (3) implementation of the "Let it Shine" mural installation and celebratory festival that puts two building-scale murals in the pedestrian core of Pittsfield and gets the community involved in installing three smaller participatory murals. 

WCUW Inc. Radio Station, Worcester – $32,000
Broadcasting Our Stories Brings Them to Life

WCUW Inc. radio station will use this grant for its “Broadcasting Our Stories Brings Them to Life” project. This project will be organized in two parts, first by identifying, gathering, curating, and recording the stories of area residents for broadcast and archives; and then by hosting two community pop-up events to share and amplify these stories along with music, food, booths for local agencies and businesses, and many of the ethnic flavors that are local to Worcester’s Main South neighborhood.  

El Salón, Worcester – $40,000
Plaza Sábados

El Salón will use this grant to launch and establish “Plaza Sábados,” a series of monthly pop-up community gatherings located in a long-vacant space in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood. The events will be free and open to the public and are meant to add liveliness to the neighborhood through arts, culture, community, and play. Monthly events will feature an artist and maker market, an art showcase and participatory creative experience, and space for skateboarding, roller skating, and other recreation and leisure activities. Collaborators include Civico Development and Push Worcester.

MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency and land bank, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2022, MassDevelopment financed or managed 356 projects generating investment of more than $1.69 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 11,080 jobs and build or preserve 1,778 housing units.