Two Fall River groups got $140K in art grants. Their projects will benefit the whole city.

July 13, 2023 : The Herald News, Dan Medeiros

FALL RIVER — Interest in Fall River's art scene has grown substantially in recent years, and is about to get another major boost thanks to $140,000 in state grant money. 

MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development finance agency and land bank, recently awarded what it calls Creative Catalyst grants to the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art and the Fall River Arts & Culture Coalition. 

FR MoCA received $40,000 for its Cultural Pollinator program. FRACC was given $100,000 for its Ignition Project, a three-part program that funds educational workshops, gives grants to artists, and develops space downtown for them to create or show their work. 

FRACC Executive Director Ashley Occhino said people on her board can sense Fall River is at a turning point when it comes to investing in local artists. 

“They are seeing this ground-level excitement that happened in Providence a generation ago before it became what it is now," Occhino said. “And they’re seeing that here in Fall River.” 

Where does this money come from? 

MassDevelopment’s Creative Catalyst grants are funded by the Barr Foundation, a Boston-based nonprofit philanthropic organization and one of the state’s largest, with interests in education, climate science and the arts. 

MassDevelopment awards the grants to foster arts and culture in the state’s Gateway Cities, with the aim of engaging the community, helping entrepreneurs and growing the local economy — the idea being, showcase a vibrant local arts culture, make a city an attractive place to live, and business will follow.  

This round, Worcester and Fall River were the only Gateway Cities to get two grants each. 

Occhino said that in and of itself is notable. “With these grants,” she said, “it just shows that others outside of the community also see it and are willing to make this kind of investment.” 

What will FR MoCA use its money for?  

FR MoCA's $40,000 grant will be used for programming at its permanent exhibition space, 44 Troy St. — a building that until 2021 housed the century-old American Wallpaper & Design Center.  

According to MassDevelopment, the space will host contemporary art shows and workshops, “in collaboration with Fall River Public Schools, New Bedford High School, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and others.” 

“A component of the project,” reads a statement, “includes site-specific ecologically minded projects in North Park and on the Quequechan River Rail Trail.” 

What will FRACC use its money for? 

The FRACC’s $100,000 grant will continue and expand its Ignition Project, a three-part system to educate artists, give them the funds to make their projects, and give them the space to create or showcase it. 

Ignition ED is FRACC’s free educational workshop series, teaching artists skills to be financially secure and stable “in ways that they don’t really teach you in art school or music school,” Occhino said — past workshops covered topics like project planning and marketing, and another coming up in September will teach tax prep. 

FRACC’s Ignition Fund offers artist grants to fund their projects. She said the timeline and application for more grant funding should be released around the end of the year. 

The Ignition Space is a 700-square-foot storefront space being developed on South Main Street near the Viva Fall River Maker Shop. Occhino said it’s a blank canvas that will be ready for artists to use however they like soon this summer — but in the meantime, FRACC is taking applications to use it. 

“We’re inviting the community to submit proposals to use it,” Occhino said. “Maybe you’re a local artist and you’re finishing up your degree. Some students don’t always fall into the same timeline in college and maybe you need a space for your art show. Or you’d like to do a poetry reading. It’s open for people to submit proposals of what they’d use it for.  

“There’s no cost to use it," she said. 

Information on FRACC’s grants and programs is available on its website or by following their social media accounts.

Occhino noted proudly that the $100,000 grant is the maximum amount MassDevelopment awarded. 

“We can do three very substantial programs with it,” she said. “I’m very excited. It’s a substantial investment, which means we can make a substantial investment.”  

Dan Medeiros can be reached at Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.