Investing in Boston’s Cultural Reopening – | Candle Made Easy

As we moved forward over the past year, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture has focused on investing in Boston’s cultural reopening. We wanted to herald joy and renewal while also creating space for grief and recovery. Here are some of the ways we’ve created opportunities for revival and growth through art:


The third year of the City of Boston Transformative public arts program enabled us to commission public art projects in a variety of disciplines that promoted joy, healing and unity. The program included, among other things, the financing of murals, cultural events and new media projects.

Alex Cook’s Tree with Network of Stars at the Engagement Center in Newmarket Square.

In the first phase of this program, we supported 27 short-term projects and activations with grants totaling $323,950. In the second phase of the program, we committed more than $1 million to fund new murals at 10 locations in nine neighborhoods. Liza Quiñonez, a creative entrepreneur and founder of Street Theory, consulted with our public arts team for this phase of the program. Artists have worked with departments and initiatives such as the Boston Housing Authority, Office of Recovery Services and Youth Lead the Change to bring joy and inspiration to communities. Some highlights are those recently installed Rita’s spotlight by Rixy in Allston and the mural series Engagement Center by Mz. I car and Alex Koch at New Market Square. We look forward to seeing more of these murals this summer!


In FY22, we announced the six artists selected for the fifth cohort of Boston Artists in Residence (Boston AIR). Through the Boston AIR program, artists work with city governments to develop creative solutions to improve city services. These departments include Parks and Recreation, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the Environment Department, and the Boston Transportation Department.

Images: Graphic highlighting the new cohort of Artists-in-Residence with six portraits of artists and alternating blue and red backgrounds.  Text: Boston AIR, A Civil Society Partnership Between Socially Engaged Artists and City Governments, 2022 Artists-in-Residence, Ashton Lites, Lily Xie, Ellice Patterson, Jaronzie Harris, Melissa Teng, Heloiza Barbosa
Boston AIR Year Five cohort.

Each AIR will receive a $37,000 artist grant and up to $10,000 in project materials. The city also awarded $30,000 in grants last year to five AIRs from previous cohorts who continued projects beyond their residency.

The artists and city partners are currently working together to jointly design proposals for the residency program.


The City of Boston and the Boston Cultural Council (BCC) supported 192 arts and cultural organizations this year with a record-breaking $3.4 million in grants for general operational support and COVID-19 relief. Of that funding, $2.78 million came from Reopen Creative Boston, a one-time funding initiative awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Reopen Creative Boston supports the recovery of arts and culture organizations from the economic impact of COVID-19. A range of organizations have benefited from this support – from small dance groups to organizations focused on engaging communities through films to some of Boston’s most popular cultural institutions. For the first time, the BCC changed the funding structure to ensure organizations with the lowest budgets received the highest grant amounts. This funding strategy aimed to provide better support for small and medium-sized organizations.

Urbanity dance at the Boston Cultural Council grantee reception
Urbanity dance at the Boston Cultural Council/Reopen Creative Boston 2022 reception.


In the fifth year of the Boston Opportunity Fund, we awarded 120 grants totaling $801,343 to artists, educators, cultural and creative professionals living in the city of Boston. This fund supports unique opportunities for artists and creative professionals to advance their careers and helps create access and community engagement opportunities across the city.

Opportunity Fund grantees included Erin Caldwell, who received a grant in the Community Arts Experiences category in support of Dorchfest, the inaugural Porchfest event in Adams-Ashmont featuring 40 local bands on June 4, 2022, and Gabriel Fernandez, who received a grant in the Artist category Career Development category to purchase an art studio space and invite other artists to organize larger projects in partnership with businesses in the East Boston neighborhood.


At the end of fiscal year 22, We awarded 12 individuals and organizations totaling $500,000 in contracted services aimed at providing technical support, professional development and human resources development services to artists and creative workers. This program aims to break down some of the barriers artists face when sharing their work. This is especially important given the financial hardships artists are facing due to COVID-19. The city focused on commissioning individuals and organizations working with artists from different disciplines and with different accessibility needs.

A contracted consultant, the Boston Center for the Arts, will conduct its five-day ACTivate residency for individuals and small groups of artists to create site-specific works in historic Cyclorama. Company One Theater was also commissioned to lead a professional development program for educators serving 100 to 150 people.


Along with our grant programs and funding initiatives, 22 new long-term public art projects were launched during the fiscal year. In January 2022, artist Joe Wardwell installed ROXBURY, a project spanning three interior walls of the Boston Public Library’s Roxbury branch. In collaboration with poet Nakia Hill and the writers on the Youth Literary Advisory Board of 826 Boston, Wardwell’s design combines landscape, text, and abstracted shapes to create a kaleidoscopic effect of vibrant color.

“UNUS MUNDUS” by Monika Bravo at the East Boston Police Station, photo by Monika Bravo and Felix Bartesch.

UNUS MUNDUS, designed by artist Monika Bravo, was installed at Area A-7 Police Station in East Boston in March 2022. Bravo’s design of mosaics and hanging glass mobiles mimics the original topography of East Boston, a site that was once made up of five separate islands and has now been covered with landfill to create a neighborhood. Images of destroyed parks, shipyards, the airport, and more significant pieces of East Boston’s history are embedded in the artwork.

Significant progress has been made on several community-initiated public works of art, including breaking ground for The hug on the Boston Common, a $550,000 investment for the fabrication and installation of The Legacy of Frederick Douglass, and a $250,000 investment in Book Mark’d in the Mattapan branch of the Boston Public Library.

Concept art of the Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.
Concept art of the Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.

We have more public art projects, opportunities for artists and creatives, and support for arts organizations ongoing, and we encourage you to join us as we continue to improve Boston’s arts sector for years to come!

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