Launched in 2017 in collaboration with five regional community foundations — the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (Sheffield), the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts (New Bedford), the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (Springfield), the Essex County Community Foundation (Danvers), and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation (Worcester) — the initiative is grounded in the idea that arts and creativity are essential for thriving communities and that community foundations are well-positioned to catalyze more vibrant and sustainable arts ecosystems in the regions they serve. The new commitment from Barr includes follow-on grants of $1 million to the five community foundations, all of which have committed to raising an additional $200,000 in local arts philanthropy from and for their communities.
With the funding, the five community foundations will pursue plans of their own design aimed at strengthening their internal capacity and better supporting the work of area arts groups. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, for instance, will use $600,000 of its grant to provide trainings and leadership development opportunities and build cross-sectoral coalitions through its Arts Build Community initiative. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, through its ValleyCreates initiative, will use its grant to strengthen and connect arts organizations and artists through collaborative grantmaking, capacity building opportunities, and convenings. And the Greater Worcester Community Foundation will use its grant to support the implementation of Worcester's Cultural Plan, including serving as lead convener, hosting, and coordinating the annual public Community Plan Review; taking a leadership role in advancing specific strategic activities related to the plan; and making Creative Spark grants to advance new projects and partnerships aligned with the goals of the plan.
"We are privileged to be in partnership with a set of local philanthropies who share our conviction that arts and creativity are essential to how people live, learn, and thrive together, who seek to benefit local artists and arts nonprofits, and who are willing to take the risks and welcome the learning that are inherent to growth and change," said E. San San Wong, the foundation's director of arts and creativity, and Barr Foundation president Jim Canales in a blog post. "We look forward to the next steps in this collective journey, and to providing periodic updates on progress as well as lessons gained through our partnership."