Pictured: Barr Foundation Director of Arts & Creativity, San San Wong with Community Foundation President & CEO Leonard Lee.
Through the Creative Commonwealth Initiative, we work with the Barr Foundation and four other community foundations across the state. Recently, this cohort met in Boston to discuss their successes and challenges after six years and map out the next four years of Barr support. The overarching objective of the initiative is to use the arts to address social, health, and economic disparity with the aspiration of reflecting many cultures to deeply integrate the arts into people’s lives. A nationwide study released this spring by Slover-Linett shows that people in Massachusetts value arts and creativity more than the rest of the country, and while the survey uncovered feelings of racism in the arts, the research reports that overall people view the arts and culture movement as a way to tackle it.
By all accounts, the Creative Commonwealth Initiative has been transformative and is bringing about social progress. For this project, every community foundation approaches the work differently, from direct support to artists, creating an overseeing arts body, to promoting intermediaries who incubate the arts ecosystem. The SouthCoast Community Foundation’s work, which we call Creative SouthCoast, has centered around grantmaking to support public art and landscape installations, operating assistance during the pandemic, capacity building for arts organizations, and convenings through funders tours, arts affinity tours, and other community conversations to promote collaborations that position the arts as social and economic drivers. We are fortunate to partner with strong intermediaries such as New Bedford Creative, Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition, AHA!, and others.
The work of the Creative SouthCoast Initiative over the next four years is to fine-tune a funding model that is sustainable for the future and ensures that this initiative continues to build a robust arts ecosystem. Look around, and you will see exciting collaborations such as Fabric Festival, 20mi², DATMA’s Shelter 2022-2023, and many others. We are excited to continue to build on this initiative and, with community input, center arts in the daily life of our community.