Curating Creative Cities

New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) might be best known for supporting dance and theatre throughout New England. However, NEFA is also a great celebrator of public art – both creation and audience engagement. Creative City, their newest program launched in fall of 2015, enables local artists to create projects of all disciplines in the city of Boston that integrate public participation into artistic process and/or presentation. The next Creative City deadline is September 12, 2016 and is open to all artists working with a community partner.

from a writing workshop for Denise Delgado’s Bodega Signs & Wonders Creative City project. Photo credit: Paloma Valenzuela (this is a still from a video)

from a writing workshop for Denise Delgado’s Bodega Signs & Wonders Creative City project. Photo credit: Paloma Valenzuela (this is a still from a video)

What is NEFA's mission?

NEFA’s mission is to build connections among artists, arts organizations, and funders, powering the arts to energize communities in New England, the nation, and the world.

Where do literature-based arts, and poetry in particular, fit with NEFA's overall goals?

Although NEFA does not have a program that specifically supports literature-based arts, there are definitely opportunities for literature-based artists to engage with NEFA programs.

For example, CreativeGround is NEFA’s regional directory of artists, arts organizations and creative businesses in New England with over 1000 literature-based profiles, and over 300 that list poetry as an artistic discipline.  NEFA administers CreativeGround to provide a platform for New England-based artists of all artistic disciplines to have a platform to promote themselves.

Creative City, NEFA’s newest program, aims to support Boston area artists of all artistic disciplines in engaging their work with the public realm to activate places that may not be typically viewed as places for artistic activity.

Currently, Creative City is supporting Denise Delgado’s project, Bodega Signs + Wonders that gathers stories and song lyrics in Spanish and English from her community that will be incorporated into semi-permanent business signage along the main commercial street, making a wayfinding poem on the built landscape.  

Cedric Douglas “UpWalls” Creative City project; photo courtesy Northeastern University.

Cedric Douglas “UpWalls” Creative City project; photo courtesy Northeastern University.

We hope to see other literature-based artists engaging with the public realm through Creative City in the future! For more information about Creative City, check out our website:  http://www.nefa.org/creative-city-grant

Fun Fact: The Favorite Poem Project celebrated, documented and promoted poetry's role in Americans' lives. NEFA served as lead administrator of the Project through October, 1999.

What was the motivation to start the Creative City grant?

This is an exciting time for the arts in Boston!  Creative City has grown out of a partnership with Barr Foundation and an interest in investing in artists to reimagine places for art throughout Boston. We believe that artists have a unique ability to engage public imagination and inspire community members to share in civic experience.  Creative City supports artists to make and share work of all disciplines in spaces that are not conventionally associated with art, or to recast conventional arts spaces to be seen in new ways with different access and opportunity.

What do you think is important about having an artist partner with a community partner?

Particularly for projects that are taking place in public realm, it is so helpful for artists to have allies and champions from within the community.  Community partners may play a variety of roles from marketing, and support with audience development to serving as a liaison with skeptical neighbors and providing insight on navigating the social politics of a public space.

What can Massachusetts poets do to bolster the idea that poetry can be a valued form of public art?

Castle of our Skins “Night Song” Creative City project; photo credit: Pamela Green

Castle of our Skins “Night Song” Creative City project; photo credit: Pamela Green

Think creatively about how and where your words can take on a new life in a public space.  Build partnerships with others who can help bring your words into the public realm – i.e. visual artists, community allies and leaders – and share success stories such as the sidewalk poetry project in St. Paul, MN or Boston’s rainy day sidewalk poetry and Denise Delgado’s Bodega Signs + Wonders (Creative City grantee project).

 

NEFA’S CREATIVE CITY PROGRAM:

Key eligibility facts:

  • Have a lead applicant who is either:

  • an individual artist; 

  • an artist on behalf of a clearly articulated artistic collaboration;

  • an unincorporated collective/company with strong artist leadership. Culturally specific, immigrant, traditional cultural practitioner groups that features a strong lead artist are encouraged to apply.

  • ave a lead applicant who is a practicing artist. Artists of any artistic discipline(s) are welcome to apply. Examples include but are not limited to dance, music, visual art, literary art, or multimedia art.

  • Have a lead applicant/artist who lives within Route 495 in Massachusetts. Preference is given to lead applicants residing in the city of Boston.

  • Project must be sited in the City of Boston and take place in the public realm with minimal barriers, if any to public access.

Workshop/info session series: http://www.nefa.org/blog/creative-city-info-sessions-and-office-hours

Next deadline: September 12, 2016

Contact: Kim Szeto, Program Manager, kszeto@nefa.org 617.951.0010 x518