With the new year in full swing, local artists in Boston will have a chance to develop their work through the City of Boston’s Opportunity Fund, which provides grants in support of artistic endeavors.
Now in its third year of operation, the program provides grants of $1,000 or $2,000 to fund professional development for artists and community events. Applications for the grant are open until Jan. 31, but will reopen in March and May.
Grant recipients so far have consisted of artists from many neighborhoods within Boston and have used the funding for projects within various different art mediums, according to a City of Boston press release.
Kristina Carroll, communications director for Boston’s Arts and Culture Department, wrote in an email the fund comes out of the Boston Creates Cultural Plan, supporting artistic risk-taking and innovation to make Boston a more vibrant and inclusive city.
“We’re able to invest in a significant number of artists throughout the City in a way that is still meaningful to them,” Carroll wrote. “Nearly 350 artists have received an Artist Career Development grant since we started the Opportunity Fund program.”
Shalayah Washington, known professionally as Red Shaydez, is a recent grantee of the Opportunity Fund. A self-funded local musician, Washington said money from the Opportunity Fund has allowed her to continue producing music and host events.
“The fund has impacted me in a great deal,” Washington said. “That $1,000 was money that I didn’t have, so it helped a great deal to be able to pay a caterer. I was able to rent a space and I was able to pay performers as well.”
Washington said support for such unconventional occupations is important, as artists make real impacts on their communities.
“Artists from all disciplines, not just music, we are what helps keep the city together,” Washington said. “We need a system to further our career, because unfortunately we don’t make the most in our full time jobs.”
Also among the grantees is Sam Fish, who specializes in visual arts. He wrote in an email the fund has given him the opportunity to further manifest his passion for art.
“The opportunity fund has helped me continue to work on my project, EXIT,” Fish wrote, “which transforms and activates temporary space into alternative art installations all around Boston.”
Carmen Plazas, communications manager at Mass Cultural Council, a nonprofit providing similar grants to local artists, wrote in an email that rich cultural life promotes diversity and excellence across multiple artistic fields. She wrote this is what fellowships and funding for artists allow for.
“Culture is intrinsically valuable and unique in its ability to lift the human spirit,” Plazas wrote. “We believe that individual artists are the foundation for our vibrant cultural community. We support artists across a range of disciplines and cultural traditions, through a variety of grants and services.”
Allison Carroll, 42, of Back Bay said she believes the Fund expands chances for more diversity in art.
“It gives people an opportunity,” Carroll said. “It’s also nice to see representation from different neighborhoods.”
David McCarthy, 59, of Somerville said he thinks the city should instead allocate money to issues that require more immediate attention.
“I think that there are more important things for the city to spend its money on,” McCarthy said. “There are trains that aren’t even functioning, especially in this weather, so I would think that money should be better spent.”
Samantha Riley, 25, of Chestnut Hill said she is glad such funding exists for local artists, as projects in art and culture do not typically receive great attention from grant providers.
“I’d imagine that if I were a local artist trying to start out, funds and grants like this would help me out immensely,” Riley said. “It’s great that they’re doing something like this.”