Help is on the way for Massachusetts artists and cultural organizations hurt by the pandemic.
The Mass Cultural Council on Wednesday announced it’s doling out $51 million in state funding to 5,218 members of the arts and culture community statewide. The grant money is part of the $4 billion in pandemic relief funds the state has received from the federal government.
State officials say the new funding for the humanities reinforces the state’s commitment to assisting artists and cultural groups that suffered from the closure of meeting and event spaces during the pandemic.
“This may be one of the most exciting days of my professional career,” Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Michael Bobbitt told hundreds of grantees at a celebration at the State House. “We are celebrating you who make up our vibrant and diverse sector.”
The grant announcement is the largest the Mass Cultural Council, an independent state agency, has ever made. Grants range from $5,000 to $75,000 depending on the size of an organization or budget of an artist. Officials said the council strove to divvy up the money as equitably and fairly as possible.
For example, all of the applicants who met eligibility requirements received grants. Fifty-five percent of individual grantees also live in communities the state has deemed under-resourced, and 98% had never previously received a grant from the Mass Cultural Council.
Officials and grantees said the money will go a long way to helping the rebound from the pandemic. Before 2020, officials said arts, cultural and nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts supported more than 73,000 full-time jobs, generating more than $2.2 billion in total spending and bringing in nearly $100 million in state tax revenue. Those numbers cratered when people started isolating at home.
“Art and culture are not a luxury. They are a lifeline that connects us and inspires people of all backgrounds,” state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who’s vice chair of the Mass Cultural Council, said during the celebration. “While we have not fully recovered from the pandemic and our cultural sector still struggles, we have started to make our way back.”
The grantees range from individual painters and singers to art schools. Administrators with the Hamilton-Garrett Center for Music and Arts in Roxbury said they would use the grant money to purchase new instruments. Thamanaï Jeremie, a vocalist who stopped performing during the pandemic, said she’ll use her grant to cover travel to performance venues that have reopened.
“Now my horizons have opened up. My reach has expanded,” Jeremie said.
Other grantees rejoiced knowing that the state was caring about them. Taína Vargas-Sosa, an artist, noted that people in Europe can afford to be artists full time, but in the United States they can’t. She said that’s because Europe has long been more financially supportive of the arts and cultural sector than the U.S.
Now “I feel like we’re starting to catch up a bit,” she said. “So I’m really grateful.”