THE BARR FOUNDATION on Tuesday donated $500,000 to MassDevelopment to augment the state agency’s arts-based programming in Gateway Cities.
The money will be funneled into two pots. One pot of $285,000 will fund grants of $20,000 to $40,000 for projects that serve to promote local arts and infrastructure in districts within 16 Gateway Cities targeted by MassDevelopment.
The other pot, filled with the remaining $215,000, will be used to develop a citywide strategy for promoting the local arts and culture infrastructure as an instrument of economic development in New Bedford. The expectation is that the New Bedford strategy, which will include the development of policies on public art, festivals, and events, could eventually be shared with other Gateway Cities.
Three years ago New Bedford began setting aside $100,000 a year in a city arts, culture, and tourism fund. The city subsequently hired Margo Saulnier as its arts and culture strategist, developed a strategic arts and culture plan, and began implementing that plan with the help of Saulnier and a 27-member group of community leaders that call themselves the Creative Consortium.
Saulnier said New Bedford is well along in developing and implementing its arts and culture plan, but needs help in maintaining momentum. “We have begun that process,” she said. “There’s this whole issue of sustainability – how we sustain what we’ve already started.”
The Barr money will be used to make Saulnier a full-time employee. The funding will also be used to hire Dena Haden, an artist who is the program manager for the Co+Creative Center, a mixed-use development in New Bedford featuring apartments, offices, and co-working spaces for artists. The grant money will also be used to hire a consultant, according to the press release announcing the grant.
The Barr grant money will support projects in districts targeted for development by MassDevelopment. The so-called transformative development districts are located in Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Springfield, Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Fall River, Peabody, Pittsfield, Revere, and two sections of Worcester.
MassDevelopment employs fellows in the districts who seek to promote economic development, with arts one avenue for doing so. MassDevelopment also provides funding for collaborative workspaces and matching grants for crowd-sourced initiatives to revitalize empty or underused public spaces. In 2016, Barr provided $1.96 million to help MassDevelopment promote arts-related collaborative workspaces.
Barr has also given a grant to CommonWealth to spur more coverage of arts policy.