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The Collective Futures Fund, a grantmaking initiative bent on directly supporting artists and incubating experimental, artist-run activities throughout the greater Boston area, is currently accepting submissions for the first round of grant applications for project funding, due by June 15, 2021. Artists, curators, and collectives based in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Middlesex counties are eligible to submit applications. SMFA alumni are encouraged to apply. However, those at all career stages who may have not had access to formal resources or education in the visual arts are also especially welcome to submit proposals.

The Fund is made possible by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Regional Regranting Program, which partners with leading cultural institutions and organizations in 32 cities across the United States. Through a regranting model, the funds are adapted and distributed to meet the different urgent needs of each arts environment on the ground.

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Abigail Satinsky
Photo of Abigail Satinsky. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

In Boston, Tufts University Art Galleries (TUAG) at SMFA at Tufts is the Warhol Foundation’s local partner and the name Collective Futures Fund

was chosen to convey a vision for increasingly equitable and collaborative Boston arts and culture communities. Abigail Satinsky, the Fund’s Program Director and Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at TUAG said, “We want to create new networks and dialogues and provide opportunities to reimagine the city. Artists should be empowered as leaders to decide for themselves what kinds of infrastructures and platforms they want for their own work.”

The Collective Futures Fund administered an initial round of emergency pandemic-related awards in December, 2020. More than 300 artists applied for support, and 40 grantees were selected by random lottery to receive individual $1,500 grants providing critical assistance with basic expenses such as child care, healthcare costs, housing, and food.

As part of the current funding cycle, a total of $80,000 of funding is being offered in three award categories. An anonymous donor was inspired by the impact of the initial emergency grants and wanted to further support the local arts community. As a result, they made a generous gift that created opportunities for emerging artists to apply for Sustaining Practice grants for up to $2,000 towards the research and development of future bodies of work. Two other categories of funding each offer up to $6,000 to grantees: New Work/Project Grants support collaborative projects that “engage with the contexts and communities of Greater Boston.” While Ongoing Platform Grants foster the completion of substantial long-term projects with collaborative and public components.

All applications will be reviewed by an outside jury composed of locally known artists and curators as well as one nationally recognized arts figure based in another region of the country. Additional funding opportunities will be offered on an annual basis.

“There are so many great neighborhoods in Boston, but it’s a very hard city for artists to remain and thrive in long-term, due to gentrification, income disparity, and lack of affordable studio space,” explained Satinsky. Although, $6,000 won’t pay studio rent for a year, it can enable artists to push forward with an ongoing collaborative project or conceive and present perceptive new work to the public. The Collective Futures Fund aims to make it possible for artists to stay rooted in the area and also branch out in their surrounding communities in timely new ways—anything from an exhibition, to a garden, mural, storytelling project, or digital publication platform. Or perhaps, a mode of engagement so innovative, that it has not yet even been tested.

Although several other local grants exist in the visual arts, they are geared towards academia, themed public art projects, or other narrowly defined criteria. Speaking about the Warhol Foundation’s decision to expand its re-granting initiative to Boston, Rachel Bers, Program Director at the Warhol Foundation said, “The Boston area is rich in experimental artistic activity but has few sources of support for independently organized projects. We are hopeful that the Collective Futures Fund will help to fill this gap. When expanding the Regional Regranting Program this summer we specifically looked for partners that have strong connections to artists and communities of color as well as the ability to reach out beyond their known networks.”

To that end, the Fund’s main aim is for each project to contain an element of collaboration. “It’s not about any single artist’s work,” explained Satinsky. “It’s about collaborative entities, unconventional partnerships, and people coming together.” The Fund’s three grantmaking categories aim to break down the notion of the University and its residents as an academic silo that sits apart from the city, and to instead promote knowledge sharing, problem solving, and building partnerships across borders.

“Maybe you can be experimental in finding a partner for your project that is not the most obvious or by working with a group of people who could really expand what the artwork is trying to do,” Satinsky suggested. All applications should involve key elements of risk-taking and experimentation.

A Collective Futures Fund panel held virtually on March 30, emphasized Boston’s legacies of community organizing, activism, and cultural collaborations, with words from Demita Frazier, a founder of the Combahee River Collective, the groundbreaking Black Feminist movement with Boston beginnings. It also looked at how the current generation of artists and activists are responding to deeply challenging times, with input from James Vamboi and Cierra Michele Peters of the Boston Ujima Project, a new community fund incorporating arts and culture programming into its investment strategy. Other panelists included author and educator Nakia Hill and multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer Erin Genia.

The moderator for the evening, Penn Loh, Director of Tufts’ Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice said that artists are critical for shaking society out of conventional modes of thinking. “When we talk about arts and culture, we talk about people who are creators of possible futures, folks who can help us imagine in different ways, and lean into the journeys that we think are worth making.” The Collective Futures Fund is waiting to receive applications that envision, examine, question, and amplify those important journeys.

To learn more about the Fund and to apply for a grant visit: https://www.collectivefuturesfund.org. For further questions, please email Program Coordinator Ariel Baez.