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MassDevelopment Announces $340,000 for Arts-Based Projects in Gateway Cities in First Round of Creative Catalyst Grant Awards

January 21, 2020


Kelsey Schiller, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2011 & 617-694-9695 (cell)

MassDevelopment has announced $340,000 in grants to 11 organizations to complete art and other creative-industry projects in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities. The initial round of these Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Creative Catalyst Grant awards, administered by MassDevelopment, will support locally initiated, public-facing projects that advance arts- and culture-based economic development and neighborhood revitalization. The awards are made possible with funding from the Barr Foundation, which in 2019 awarded MassDevelopment a $500,000 grant to create new arts-based programming through the agency’s Transformative Development Initiative. MassDevelopment also contributed funding in order to support additional projects.

“MassDevelopment is pleased to offer this funding through the first round of TDI Creative Catalyst Grant awards, which will empower Gateway City stakeholders to revitalize underused spaces, build community, and advance their neighborhoods as regional centers of arts and culture,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “We thank our partners at the Barr Foundation for their continued support and commitment to fostering the arts and creative economy across Massachusetts.”

“The diversity and breadth of Creative Catalyst Grants projects is very exciting,” said San San Wong, Barr Foundation Director of Arts & Creativity. “These innovative, ground-up, strategic efforts will create more equitable access to arts across the Commonwealth. Dovetailing well with TDI’s economic revitalization efforts, they promise greater vibrancy, cultural diversity, and social infrastructure in communities.”

MassDevelopment’s TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program is a competitive grant program through which individuals and organizations in current and graduated TDI districts can apply for grants ranging from $20,000 to $40,000 to support projects that enhance local arts and culture infrastructure. The program was developed following feedback from stakeholders in Gateway Cities and staff from MassDevelopment and the Barr Foundation about the need for new, flexible implementation funding to support projects that: (1) test a concept new to the TDI district, and (2) catalyze activities that will strengthen the capacity of the arts and culture ecosystem within the community.

In this initial round, current TDI districts – in the cities of Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester (Main South) – as well as graduated TDI districts – in the cities of Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere, and Worcester (Theatre District) – were eligible to apply. Today’s awards include funding to support public art, community theatres, public markets and gardens, artist spaces, and more.

MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative works with cross-sector partnerships to engage community members, implement local economic development initiatives, and spur further public and private investment. During the program’s first three and a half years, MassDevelopment has invested $13.5 million in the 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 $39.8 million and assisted an additional $80.6 million of public and private investments in the districts. In addition to the Creative Catalyst Grant program, the Barr Foundation’s $500,000 grant to MassDevelopment’s TDI program is also funding additional capacity in New Bedford to support a planning phase focused on creative-industry development and arts and culture infrastructure.

The following organizations received TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program awards:

Brockton Arts Inc., Brockton - $25,000
MAMUSE – Art to the City

MAMUSE – Art to the City will bring the Milton Art Museum, its collections, and its arts programming to a highly visible and underutilized space in downtown Brockton: 50 Centre Street, which shares an entrance foyer with the local-art venue Gallery at ENSO Flats. The Milton Art Museum recently closed its former location and its collections are currently in storage. This project team, led by Brockton Arts, will use grant funds to provide the Milton Art Museum with a new home and financial stability as it re-establishes itself and develops its own self-sustaining income streams. This award includes a $10,000 donation from the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

TheatreZone, Inc. (DBA Apollinaire Theatre Company), Chelsea - $30,000
Chelsea Community Theatre at the Chelsea Theatre Works

Chelsea Community Theatre at the Chelsea Theatre Works is a proposed community theatre that will host shows in Spanish and English with bilingual interpretations. The project will bring together community members with interests in acting, sewing, and sound design, and provide an avenue for local Latinx residents to become involved in the arts. TheatreZone, Inc. will use grant funds to create a theatre-making workshop series taught by members of Chelsea Community Theatre and an artist residency program.

YEAH! (Youth Experiencing Art and Hope), Fall River - $40,000
Connectivity as a Catalyst for Community Change

Connectivity as a Catalyst for Community Change is a proposed project in Fall River that will transform public spaces in the South Main corridor with art and design interventions aimed at highlighting and engaging local businesses. YEAH! (Youth Experiencing Art and Hope) will use this grant to cover costs for staffing, project materials, and youth artist salaries.

NewVue Communities, Fitchburg - $25,000
Fitchburg Arts Collective Studio Space

The Fitchburg Arts Collective Studio Space aims to increase foot traffic on Main Street, with grant funds being used to transform vacant storefronts in downtown Fitchburg into affordable artist studio spaces. These spaces will be used for events such as public art installations and openings, performances, and workshops.

The Switchboard, Haverhill - $25,000
Switchboard Artist Residency Program

The proposed Switchboard Artist Residency Program will provide local artists with an opportunity to showcase their work in a dynamic and affordable workspace. Grant funding will support the artist residencies and core programming, which will include studio open hours, artist talks, workshops, Haverhill-specific public art projects, and public art exhibitions.

Paper City Clothing Company, Holyoke - $35,000
Urbana Art Studio

The Paper City Clothing Company, a social enterprise launched with the support of TDI, is seeking to create a permanent youth artist space in Holyoke where local youth can learn a trade and make, sell, and show their work. The Paper City Clothing Company will use funds to host youth screen-printing and design workshops, staff a storefront retail space, provide artist stipends, and host free community events at the Urbana Art Studio and in public spaces in the now-graduated TDI district.

Downtown Lynn Cultural District, Lynn - $30,000
UrbanMain Lynn

UrbanMain Lynn, a program of Main Street America, offers economic development services to help under-resourced, older, and historic commercial districts restore economic vitality. The Downtown Lynn Cultural District will use grant funds to expand capacity, create leadership roles within UrbanMain Lynn, and cover operational costs for programming.

City of Revere, Revere - $40,000
Summer Nights at Sandler Square: An Open Air Night Market Pilot

Summer Nights at Sandler Square: An Open Air Night Market Pilot aims to transform an underutilized public plaza into a bustling space for emerging creative and culinary entrepreneurs, merchants, and community members. The city will use grant funds for staffing, project overhead, and tactical installations.

Art for the Soul Gallery, Springfield - $25,000
Creative Quarantine Springfield Pilot

The Creative Quarantine Springfield Pilot is a proposed artist think-tank project that will allow local artists to immerse themselves in a creative environment and produce work over a three-week period, followed by a public exhibition. Over the course of the quarantine, artists will host talks and workshops at which members of the public can experience artist collaboration and view experimental art techniques and mediums. Art for the Soul Gallery will use grant funds to cover the costs of the creative quarantine experience.

Springfield Cultural Partnership Incorporated, Springfield - $25,000
Springfield Creative Leaders Mentorship Program

The proposed Springfield Creative Leaders Mentorship Program will strengthen Springfield’s arts and culture network and empower local creatives, event planners, and residents. The Springfield Cultural Partnership Incorporated will use grant funding to establish a mentoring program that will teach audience targeting, permitting and insurance, fundraising, recruiting volunteers, marketing, managing operations, evaluating success, and curating a professional portfolio. This project will also focus mentor and mentee recruiting efforts on lower-income populations, people of color, families, students, and native Spanish speakers.

Regional Environmental Council, Worcester - $40,000
Main South Grown: Celebrating Food & Gardens in Main South

Main South Grown: Celebrating Food & Gardens in Main South is a proposed garden, food, and art project that will bring together Worcester growers, restaurants, urban farms, and artists. This grant will help project lead Regional Environmental Council install wayfinding signage and planters on Main Street, build art installations in community gardens, and host a food festival on Main Street that will feature a farmers market with prepared food from the Worcester (Main South) TDI district. 

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth. During FY2019, MassDevelopment financed or managed 316 projects generating investment of more than $2 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 9,743 jobs and build or preserve 1,992 housing units.