The Cambridge Community Foundation and the City of Cambridge have awarded a total of $257,500 in grants to 25 Cambridge-based arts and cultural organizations through the Cultural Capital Fund. Created in late October with a founding $500,000 gift from the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund and a $100,000 investment from the Wagner Foundation, the fund was established to address urgent needs in the sector due to COVID-19 and to protect the city’s cultural richness over the long term.
When the pandemic hit, arts and culture organizations were forced to close theaters and venues overnight, leading to lay-offs and furloughs, pivots to virtual programming, and a devastating ripple effect on the economy as patrons stopped dining and shopping nearby.
“The collapse of the creative economy has hit us hard and affected a lot of people and it’s not about losing our performance space, it’s about not being able to pay our bills,” said Josh Garneau, managing director of ImprovBoston. The organization received $10,000 grant to retain staff and pivot its curriculum to the online format. ImprovBoston closed its Central Square theatre last month. Before COVID-19, 150 people were supported by ImprovBoston in some way and 2,000 people came into Central Square each week for classes, and drank, dined, and shopped while there. The organization has been awarded an additional $25,000 grant from the Foundation and is hibernating this winter with the hope of emerging this spring with additional funding.
Another long-standing cultural anchor to receive a $10,000 grant is the José Mateo Ballet Theatre, which lost $1.5 million in revenue this year and reduced its full-time staff and contractors from 47 to seven. “That Cambridge is opening its purse now is such an affirmation that the sector is seen as vital, in that series of things that we need to be full and whole human beings,” said Scott Fraser, executive director. “Artists are resilient, and the sector will come back, but stronger and different, and I think equity will be a defining feature.”
A third grantee, The Hip Hop Transformation, will use their $10,000 grant to pay staff to continue their creative after-school program online. “Even before the pandemic, our students would use this platform to work through tough stuff like remembering when their family got evicted or grappling with the death of a friend. Right now, our kids are going through so much, and they need this project more than ever,” said Darrin Korte, executive director of the Cambridge Community Center, which runs the hip hop program.
While most of the grants are for up to $10,000 to aid with operations and programming, one organization, The Dance Complex, was awarded a $25,000 grant to support capital improvements needed to make their historic Central Square building more operational in the COVID-19 environment.
“Cambridge’s artists and our arts and culture organizations are a significant part of the connective fabric of our city and act as a powerful and uplifting equalizer in our community,” said Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “Regardless of differences in language, religion, culture, gender expression or age — the arts bring us together, and we need to support and care for them.”
“We are proud to partner with the Cambridge Community Foundation in supporting our vibrant arts and culture sector,” said City Manager Louis DePasquale. “Collectively, we are committed to ensuring the survival of the arts in Cambridge because this sector is critical to the cultural vibrancy of our community. The Cultural Capital Fund is a critical tool to help provide financial relief to arts organizations.”
The new Cultural Capital Fund, is Cambridge’s first, central channel for donors and other stakeholders to pool their resources into a common purpose: provide immediate support to arts organizations at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the viability of the arts ecosystem for years to come. The Foundation will award additional grants in the New Year. The Foundation is also seeking to connect arts and culture organizations to nonmonetary resources as well.
“Maintaining the arts ecosystem – large and small organizations, creative ventures, and the livelihood of artists and cultural workers is critical to retaining our city’s innovation capacity. We look forward to working with our partners and generous donors to support the sector at this critical time and encourage the growth of artists and arts organizations led by people of color,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation. “We’re incredibly thankful to Mayor Siddiqui for flagging the importance of this sector and Vice-Mayor Alanna Mallon for putting our intervention in place, to City Manager Louis DePasquale who welcomed us as a partner, and Jason Weeks, a tireless advocate for the consistent and strategic investments needed to ensure the sector remains strong. We are truly stronger together.”
The first round of grantees from the Cultural Capital Fund are:
• Agassiz Baldwin Community
• Boston Music Chamber Society
• Brattle Film Foundation
• Brookline/Cambridge Community Center for the Arts, Inc (BCCA/CCCA)
• Cambridge Carnival International
• Cambridge Community Television
• Cambridge Historical Society
• Cambridge Jazz Foundation
• Cambridge Symphony Orchestra
• Cambridge Center for Adult Education
• Central Square Theater
• Club Passim
• Community Art Center
• Global Arts Live
• Jean Appolon Expressions
• José Mateo Ballet Theatre
• Kendall Square Orchestra
• Multicultural Arts Center
• Studio at 550
• TC Squared Theatre Company
• The Dance Complex
• The Hip Hop Transformation
• The Loop Lab