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$1.2 million grant to support Boston artists of color

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
$1.2 million grant to support Boston artists of color
“Le quedo Bufeaito” by Don Rimx. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

On May 11, the City of Boston and Massachusetts College of Art and Design announced that they will be utilizing a $1.2 million grant from the Surdna Foundation to support artists of color through a three-year grant program called Radical Imagination for Racial Justice (RIRJ).

“At the core of MassArt’s mission is serving the commonwealth as a leader for cultural inquiry and new ways of seeing, thinking and doing,” said Dr. Kymberly Pinder, MassArt Provost. “This new program and partnership with the City of Boston centers the role of artists as catalysts in imagining — and creating — a racially just Boston.”

“Anacaona” by Ruben Ubiera. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

“Anacaona” by Ruben Ubiera. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

MassArt and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture will distribute the funds in tandem to artists who are looking to advance racial justice through creative community-oriented projects. Artists identifying as ALAANA+ (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American and others) who live in Boston and are at least 14 years old can apply.

A virtual information session on how to apply will be held May 19 at 6 p.m

A virtual information session on how to apply will be held May 19 at 6 p.m., but for those who miss that session, the RIRJ website contains detailed information on the requirements, application questions and timeline.

Self-nominations are open from May 18 through June 8, and after review by a community-based panel of ALAANA+ individuals, grants will be awarded beginning in July. Grants range from $1,000 to $40,000 and will be awarded from smallest to largest from July to September.

The submissions website mandates that artists should allocate at least 20% of their proposed budget to their personal well-being (for example, to cover expenses like rent). This is an unusual and important concession to the reality that creative work doesn’t occur in an un-nurtured vacuum. For artists of color, who are especially unsupported in this way, this allocation is crucial.

On the web
Learn more, sign up for email updates and apply for grants at:

Leading the charge on the RIRJ program are Ceci Méndez-Ortiz, executive director of the Center for Art and Community Partnerships (CACP) at MassArt, Chandra Méndez-Ortiz, executive director of youth pathways and programs and director of Artward Bound at MassArt, and Kara Elliott-Ortega, chief of arts and culture for the city of Boston.

The grant and RIRJ program represent an important opportunity for up to 260 artists of color in the Boston arts community to create radical, community-oriented art on a large scale. As with any social justice advancement work, collaboration and incorporation of local communities will be essential to these projects. The parameters of the RIRJ program have been designed to encourage artists of all ages and backgrounds to create work that’s united in a common vision of a more racially just world.

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