Artists Engage Boston’s Public Spaces

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The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) is pleased to announce the 2020 Creative City Boston grant recipients.

Creative City Boston supports Boston area artists to develop socially engaged public art that sparks public imagination, inspires community members to share in civic experience, and creatively engages important conversations taking place in Boston’s communities.

Ashton Lites (not pictured), Creative City Boston 2020 Awardee| photo by Sarah Seymour)

Ashton Lites (not pictured), Creative City Boston 2020 Awardee| photo by Sarah Seymour)

In addition to project-specific grants to artists, the program provides Community Partner grants to collaborating organizations, access to a peer-learning cohort, and professional development and technical assistance opportunities.

“We are investing in artists’ creative agency as civic leaders to shift public culture in Boston,” said program director Kim Szeto. “At NEFA we also acknowledge that shifting public culture is rarely a solo act.  Creative City Boston fosters a community of practice by making grants directly to artists and to their partners in communities.”

“As our society and neighborhoods grow increasingly diverse, there’s an urgency for arts to play a role in bridging cultural differences,” said San San Wong, director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “Creative City artists and their partners transform public spaces into platforms for communal investigation around social issues and celebrations of cultural expression.”

Learnings and artist highlights from the pilot phase are available on NEFA’s website.

Nine artist-led projects were awarded $20,000 each. Community partners were awarded from $1,000-$5,000 each. Grant recipients are:

  • Peter DiMuro (Boston, MA) for “Stones to Rainbows/Gay to Queer Lives” with community partners Arlington Street Church and the History Project
  • Ifé Franklin (Boston, MA) for “The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae: an experimental performance piece” with community partner Black Market
  • Keith Russell Hartwig (Watertown, MA) for “FUTUREFOODS 2100” with community partner Eastie Farm
  • Ashton Lites/Stiggity Stackz (Boston, MA) for “Stackin’ Stylez | Freestyle Dance Culture Boston” with community partner Massachusetts Hip Hop Archive at UMass Boston
  • Lilly Manycolors (Boston, MA) for “Miskodoodiswan” with community partner Global Initiative for Indigenous Advancement (GIIA)
  • Melissa Nussbaum Freeman (Boston, MA) for “Store-d Stories” with community partner Three Squares Main Street
  • Brittany Thomas and Rene Dongo (Boston, MA) for “Constelación de Historias” with community partners Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity and East Boston House Coalition
  • Nora Valdez (Boston, MA) for “Healing Spaces” with community partners Boston Medical Center and Urbano Project
  • Crystal Bi Wegner and Lily Xie (Boston, MA) for “Chinatown Story Cart” with community partner Asian Community Development Corporation
Melissa Nussbaum, Creative City Boston 2020 Awardee | photo by Maureen White

Melissa Nussbaum, Creative City Boston 2020 Awardee | photo by Maureen White

NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards said, “These projects explore climate change, xenophobia to community resilience, healing and storytelling, and more; it is exciting to see how this program actively demonstrates the transformative power art can play in civic life.”

Visit NEFA’s grantee directory to learn more about each project. NEFA’s Public Art program is made possible by funding from the Barr Foundation and the Fund for the Arts, an endowed fund at NEFA. The preliminary application deadline for the next grant round will be June 1, 2020.

feature photo provided courtesy of Lilly Manycolors  

About NEFA
The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in artists and communities and fosters equitable access to the arts, enriching the cultural landscape in New England and the nation. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to each other and their audiences; and analyzing their economic contributions. NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. Learn more at