Two Worcester cultural organizations receive MassDevelopment grants totaling $72K

July 7, 2023 : Worcester Business Journal, Timothy Doyle

Worcester artists collective El Salón and community radio station, WCUW, each received MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) Creative Catalyst Grants for projects serving their communities.

El Salón received $40,000 for Plaza Sábados, a series of pop-up community gatherings to be held in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood. The events aim to revitalize a vacant space with monthly events that 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, according to a Thursday press release from Mass Development.

El Salón, founded by Creative Director Vanessa Calixto, aims to empower Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and makers, by giving them space to share and display their talents. Calixto was a member of WBJ’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2022.

The collective was one of the groups ousted from The Bridge Academy and Community Center, in the former Sargent-Card building in Worcester, when the building was sold for development.

El Salón will partner with Worcester’s Civico Development, which is part of an ambitious Main South redevelopment push on Lagrange Street and Beacon Street, and Push Worcester, a not-for-profit organization increasing access to skateboarding in the community, on the Plaza Sábados events.

WCUW, located on Main Street in Worcester’s Main South neighborhood, received $32,000 for a project called Broadcasting Our Stories Brings Them to Life. The 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, according to the press release.

Founded in 1971, WCUW is a non-commercial community-access radio station.

MassDevelopment awarded $500,000 in total to nine arts and culture organizations in Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Lowell, Pittsfield, and Worcester as part of this fourth round of funding for the Creative Catalyst Grant program. The grants are funded by The Barr Foundation in Boston, which has awarded the program $4.4 million since 2019.

“A vibrant arts and culture scene is so important to our local and regional economies across the state,” said Massachusetts Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors in the press release. “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.”

MassDevelopment’s TDI program works to advance the state’s gateway cities which are small to midsize cities with a population of 35,000 to 250,000.