Category Archives: Awards

Congrats 2019 Commonwealth Award Finalists

Commonwealth Awards logoLast week we announced the finalists for the 2019 Commonwealth Awards, which honor exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The Commonwealth Award winners will be announced at a ceremony for the finalists and their supporters Monday, April 8 at WBUR’s new CitySpace.

Delivering the keynote address at this year’s ceremony will be renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel will be in Massachusetts to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Congratulations to the finalists serving youth:

    • Boston String Academy, for its exceptional creative youth development work inspired by El Sistema – an effective intensive music education philosophy that utilizes classical music as a vehicle for personal transformation and social change.
    • Eileen McCaffery, Community Music School of Springfield, for her dedication to changing lives through music. Community Music School brings together people of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and economic circumstances to make music in an environment that respects diversity and encourages creativity.
    • Elevated Thought, for providing Greater Lawrence’s youth with opportunities that encourage artistic expression as the means for creative solutions to social issues through creative youth development.
    • Provincetown Art Association & Museum, for its unique legacy of groundbreaking exhibitions and programming, passion for removing barriers to participation, and commitment to engaging young people through the visual arts.
    • The Care Center, for bringing the power of education, arts and culture to youth and their families in Holyoke. This creative youth development program is helping to break the cycle of poverty and create an economically vibrant city through a rich, humanities-based curriculum for teen mothers.

See the full list of finalists.

Investing in Organizations to Pursue an Artistic Risk

Creative Youth Development is a dynamic field of practice, utilizing the resources of teaching artists and organizations to better serve its target audience. To do this effectively, programming and delivery is in constant evolution to further engagement and impact.

Inevitably, this dynamism makes it difficult for programs to fit certain funding models, leaving gaps that take far too long to be addressed.  On the other side, funders have very specific targets and models that need to be met for organizations to be eligible, which in turn might stunt the advancement of programs and their capacity to reach new audiences and all together experiment with their medium. To address this, Barr Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation shifted the paradigm by establishing an artistic risk fund with the purpose of providing risk capital for projects that would take organizations out of their comfort zones.  The fund supports projects that have the potential to change how organizations work.

To document the journey and impact of their seven funded projects, the two foundations commissioned a series of videos.  With  personal stories from teaching artists and program participants as well as leadership, these documentaries are evidence of how both sides of the equation, program and funder, can work and stimulate each other to find new avenues of impact and growth.

Announcing 2019 Amplify Grants

Groundwork Lawrence's Green Team at Den Rock Park Hike.Mass Cultural Council is proud to award 15 new Amplify grants for 2019 totaling $15,000. Directed to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding, Amplify furthers the Commonwealth’s investment in youth leadership and empowerment.

The Amplify grant process incorporates youth voice throughout, including the participation of young professionals and program alums in the panel review. This unique approach ensures that the Amplify program continues to strive not just for the highest quality and innovation in programming, but to naturally and actively incorporate youth leadership in its rightful role in cultural provision across the state of Massachusetts.

Congratulations to this year’s Amplify recipients:

Ballet Rox (Boston)
Women’s Empowerment through Dance: To choreograph and perform a dance piece about  women’s’ rights and empowerment. The project will use music made by female artists, who advocate for women’s rights, and performed at the Wake Up the Earth and Dance for World Community festivals.

Books of  Hope  (Somerville)
To host a series of writing and community organizing workshops for a group of teens at the Mystic Learning Center led by Youth Artist Andrine Pierresaint. This program will culminate with Andrine sharing her own insights as a youth artist and organizer, and guiding the teens as they plan, host, and perform their own original work in Book of Hope’s annual Somerville Youth Arts Festival in June 2019.

Boston City Singers (Boston)
Combatting Loneliness with a Gift of Song: To create a forum to discuss the “epidemic of loneliness”. Boston City Singer’s Tour Choir will host and videotape interactive sing-a-long social events and discussions with nursing home residents and staff in Dorchester, and utilize it to encourage the creation of positive communities to assist with suicide and addiction prevention (common results of loneliness).

Elevated Thought (Lawrence)
Immunity: To create a film documenting the stories of various Lawrence community members and their families who were directly affected by the September 2018 gas explosions. The film will capture in a non-exploitive manner the resilience of the community in the aftermath of extreme adversity.

Enchanted Circle Theater (Holyoke)
Heroes Youth Truth Performance Ensemble: To create and present a youth performance focused on raising awareness of out-of- home-care experiences and stories. This work will be presented at regional Massachusetts Department of Children & Families meetings, classes for potential foster parents, and legislators, as well as the general public.

Express Yourself (Beverly)
The Bee Project: To promote constructive conversation and to destigmatize mental health in youth by creating an exhibition of linoleum Bees. Besides the exhibition, a video of this project will be featured in Express Yourself’s 25th Annual performance.

GreenRoots, Inc. (Chelsea)
Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO): To design and paint Chelsea storm drains to raise awareness about storm-water runoff through the means of public art.

Groundwork Lawrence (Lawrence)
Green Team recycling art and awareness project: To collectively create a piece of artwork using a piece of recycled pipe from the recent gas explosions in Lawrence. This piece will represent the strength of the Lawrence community in the face of adversity. The art piece will be revealed to the community at the Lawrence S.A.L.S.A (Supporting Active Lifestyles for All) Festival.

Hyde Square Task Force (Boston)
Ritmo en Acción Showcase: To collectively choreograph a showcase of 11 different Afro Latin dances, and perform them for the community in a public event.

New Bedford Whaling Museum (New Bedford)
Once upon a teenager: a storytelling project: To record each of NBWM’s Youth Apprentice’s life stories and showcase them in an exhibition for the community,  as well as the 10th anniversary celebration of NBWM’s Apprenticeship Program.

New England Aquarium (Boston)
Prompting Youth Action: It’s our time: To create an educational video in collaboration with Zumix. This  video will be shown at four public events to educate and inspire young people in the pursuit of  community and state action to promote an ecologically aware legislature.

Sociedad Latina (Boston)
Raices open mic series:  To design and lead a monthly open mic series titled “Raices” featuring guest artists and youth performers. These sessions will be open to the community to discover new artists of different backgrounds whilst providing a safe place for all.

The Clubhouse Network (Boston)
Digital illustration with Paintool SAI: To offer a series of youth-led digital illustration workshops for the community and Clubhouse members. The product of these workshops will be presented in exhibitions around the community to promote youth engagement and productivity.

Worcester Public Schools (Worcester)
Unites Master Class Project: To design and deliver a series of high school student-led master classes for elementary school students in seven different Worcester public elementary schools.

Worcester Youth Center (Worcester)
YouthSpeak!: Talent Show: To design and host a series of monthly talent shows, January 2019 to June 2019; with Performers recruited from current Worcester Youth Center participants, as well as youth from the City of Worcester and beyond. This program will allow talent show participants an opportunity to showcase creative talents whilst creating more events for the local community.

New Spending Plan Accelerates Efforts to Deepen and Widen Support for Creative Youth

Through continued investment in national model programs alongside grants for new and emerging organizations, Mass Cultural Council is supporting a generation of young people whose creativity and leadership will transform Massachusetts and its communities. Since 2015 we have nearly tripled our annual investment in these programs to just over $1.5 million to support creative youth development through a range of grants and initiatives.

This year we have expanded our grant recipient pool to 74 programs through YouthReach and SerHacer, and will continue to support Amplify, the META Fellowship, and Johnson String Project.

Creative youth development—both a movement and a community of practice—has earned this support: Massachusetts boasts more than 40 winners of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, the nation’s highest honor in this field. Last year these programs served more than 6,000 at-risk youth, and our goal is to reach 10,000 by 2020.

“Our young people are creative, full of potential, and eager to lead,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director. “We are committed to the idea that youth has something to say; they bring their voice and their vision to the conversations about how to make our Commonwealth a better place for everyone. Our support for creative youth development helps to ensure they will be heard.”

What does this support look like? Here are just a couple of examples:

  • In the Pioneer Valley a small program called The Art Garden is growing their work with young people from five counties in a former train station in Shelburne Falls.
  • Berkshire Pulse is providing youth development opportunities through dance to a high needs community in Housatonic.
  • Young people in Franklin created their own anti-bullying campaign last year.
  • In Boston, the Theater Offensive is continuing its award-winning work with LGBTQ youth in Boston.
  • And students from low-income families are developing a range of workforce skills through an apprenticeship program at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Read about the development of our Creative Youth work.

Check out our complete FY19 spending plan.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Named 2017 NAHYP Awardee

L_R Yamilex Ramus Peguero, Maria Cardoso, Christina Turner (Dir. Apprentices & Interns) with the NAHYP Award in Washington, D.C.Mass Cultural Council extends hearty congratulations to New Bedford Whaling Museum for receiving the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Award for their High School Apprenticeship Program. The High School Apprenticeship Program immerses students in skill-based humanities and interpretive sciences projects, mentorship, and valuable life skills instruction such as financial literacy, college preparation, public speaking, and audience engagement.

For almost two decades, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has presented the NAHYP Awards, the nation’s highest honor for out of school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. Presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts , National Endowment for the Humanities  and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the award recognizes outstanding Creative Youth Development (CYD) programs from all over the country from a range of urban and rural settings. (See all 2017 Awardees.)

The NAHYP Award showcases and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Programs are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.

To date, 51 students have graduated from the Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program, 100% have graduated from high school and 94% pursued some form of post-secondary education. About 40% of alumni have returned to the museum as part-time employees, interns, volunteers, and guest speakers.

Out of a pool of over 350 NAHYP nominations nationwide, three Massachusetts programs were also recognized as finalists this year:

The achievements of these programs speak to the exemplary work in the field of CYD happening across the Commonwealth and a strong testament to all of those committed to working with youth to achieve social change through the arts, humanities, and sciences.

$100,000 NEA Grant Supports Continued Advancement of CYD

National Endowment for the Arts logoThe National Guild for Community Arts Education, on behalf of a coalition of national partners – including Mass Cultural Council, has been awarded an NEA Collective Impact grant for $100,000. The grant will support the implementation of the National Blueprint for Creative Youth Development (CYD) through cross-sector working groups, communications, and professional development. The funds are part of the NEA’s second round of funding in FY 2017, which will award 1,195 grants totaling $82.06 million to support organizations in all 50 states and five U.S. jurisdictions.

The Blueprint, to be released in December 2017, is a living document that will map out opportunities for cross-sector advancement of CYD and prioritize actionable strategies for policy, partnership, and practice to collectively serve the needs of young people. Strategies include adopting effective business models; developing revenue sources; documenting and communicating the benefit of CYD programs for youth; using shared terminology, data, and assessment tools; and connecting programs with in-school arts education and non-arts community development initiatives.

Read more.

Announcing a New Investment in Creative Youth Development and Music Education

Community Music School of Springfield performs at the announcement of the Dudamel Foundation's investment in creative youth development in Massachusetts.The Mass Cultural Council is pleased to announce a $10,000 gift from the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation to deepen its support of creative youth development and music education.

Elected officials and cultural leaders from the Springfield region joined Mass Cultural Council and Springfield Public Schools students, teachers, and administrators at the Community Music School of Springfield today to announce the grant. The Schools’ partnership program, Sonido Música uses intensive, ensemble music to strengthen academic and social-emotional learning, and empowers a new generation of young people to work for social justice. Inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema model, the program is funded through Mass Cultural Council’s SerHacer Program.

“Music and the arts are central to a complete education,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who also serves as Chair of the School Committee. “The Community Music School brings together students and families of all backgrounds to learn and grow through music making. We’re delighted to be a showcase for the work that the Mass Cultural Council and the Dudamel Foundation support.”

Established by Venezuelan-born conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation is dedicated to supporting the arts and music education as catalysts in promoting a more compassionate and just society. “Music is unique in its power to unite and inspire,” said Dudamel. “By playing and listening together, music teaches discipline, cooperation, and an appreciation for beauty that enriches lives and binds communities. I am very pleased to collaborate with the Mass Cultural Council in expanding opportunities for children from diverse communities to be empowered through music.”

The Foundation’s grant to Mass Cultural Council will supplement the state agency’s support of 18 El Sistema-inspired youth music ensembles across Massachusetts, and helped to underwrite a student performance supported by the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston this past Saturday. SerHacer provides three-year, $15,000 annual grants to each of these programs, provides an instrument library through the Johnson String Project so all youth have quality instruments, and funds a three-year research study that seeks to document the impact of the El Sistema model on the lives of young people.

Mass Cultural Council Program Manager Rodrigo Guerrero said the Dudamel grant is another sign that Massachusetts is leading the way in creative youth development, an intentional practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences, while developing core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. Creative youth development approaches young people as active agents in their own growth, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The overall goal is for culture to play a major role in supporting the growth of creative, productive, and independent citizens and thriving communities.

Read the Full Release.

4 Mass Programs Named Finalists for 2017 NAHYP Awards

Young people work on a photo shoot for Shakespeare Inside and Out, a program of Actors' Shakespeare Project, Somerville, MA.The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and its cultural partners – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services – are proud to recognize 50 outstanding programs in the field of Creative Youth Development across the country for their work in providing excellent arts and humanities learning opportunities to young people. From big cities to small towns, the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalists reflect the diversity of disciplines and settings of these exceptional creative youth development programs that are taking place from coast to coast.

Congratulations to the Massachusetts programs named as finalists for 2017:

Codman Academy Summer Shakespeare Institute
Huntington Theatre Company, Inc., Boston

New Bedford Whaling Museum High School Apprenticeship Program
Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford

RAISE (Responding to Art Involves Self Expression)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown

Shakespeare Inside and Out
Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Somerville

Springfield’s SciTech Band Receives 2017 Commonwealth Award

Last month, the MCC proudly presented Springfield’s SciTech High School Band with the 2017 Commonwealth Award in Creative Youth Development, for providing Springfield’s youth with opportunities to experience music and to give back to their community by sharing their joy in its creation.

Their energetic performance kicked-off the State House ceremony:

MCC’s biennial Commonwealth Awards celebrate exceptional achievements in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The creative youth development category recognizes an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully helped young people develop their creative potential, foster critical learning and life skills, & become active contributors to their communities.

FLOTUS Remarks on Creative Youth Development

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses guests on stage with youth from the Sphinx Organization, who performed at the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington DC, on 15 November 2016. Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto.Happy Birthday First Lady Michelle Obama!

ICYMI, here’s an excerpt from the First Lady’s remarks during the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards about creative youth development:

… Well, hello, everyone.  Welcome to the White House for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards.  (Applause.)  Are you guys excited?  Let me start by thanking from the bottom of my heart, oh, gosh, so many people.  …

And to the entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities — this is my team.  These are my people here.  I was just talking to them earlier — I mean, we have done some amazing things together.  It’s been a tremendous ride.  And, oh, I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been to just do great things for kids all over this country.  And I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you, not just for the work that you’ve done on this event, but for everything that you’ve done for the past eight years.

From the day we started, all of us, we’ve made it a priority to open up this house to as many young people from as many backgrounds as possible, because we wanted them to understand that this is their house too.  (Applause.)  And that’s not always the case.  There are kids all over this country, all over the world who think that places like this are not for them.  So they’re intimidated by it, and it defines the limits of who they can be.

Well, we want to change that.  We’ve worked to change that.  We want them to know that they should always feel home within these walls and so many important institutions all over the world.  At the same time, we also wanted to bring exciting arts programming to students across the country, and to get more kids engaged in the arts at their schools and also in their communities.  …

And finally, I want to thank all of the teachers and administrators, all the volunteers who make these programs possible.  Some of you are here today with us in this room, and many of you are watching and cheering from back home.  And as someone who used to be an executive director of a nonprofit organization, I know that you all are the unsung heroes of these programs, doing the unrecognized and sometimes unpaid work of making these programs work — filling out countless forms, applying for funding, attending endless meetings, going over spreadsheets and budgets in the middle of the night.

This kind of work is hard.  Too often it’s thankless.  But you all do it because you see firsthand the transformative impact that the arts can have on our young people.  And we’re grateful to you all for doing this kind of work.

Through your programs, students have become poets and dancers. They’ve become filmmakers and photographers.  And more importantly, they become leaders in their schools and in their communities.  They’ve written scripts and short stories.  They’ve organized performances and exhibitions.  And together, they’ve learned the power of discipline, of hard work, right?  And teamwork, right?

These are the exact skills that are critical to success not just in the arts, but in everything — every academic subject that you are going to touch and in any career that you guys are going to pursue.  So you don’t know how much you’re getting, but we do because we’re old.  We know.  (Laughter.)  That’s why kids who have gotten involved in the arts have better grades.  They are more likely to graduate from high school.  They are more likely to then go on to college.

And to anyone who still somehow doubts the power of the arts to transform students’ lives, to anyone who still isn’t completely convinced, I just urge you to find one of these students and talk to them.  They’re here today, but they’re not just here, but they’re all over the country.  They’re in communities everywhere.

But we’ve got a couple.  We’ve got Noemi Negron, who is here.  As recently as this spring, Noemi was a promising young woman growing up in Boston who wanted to serve others but didn’t know where to start.  But then she got involved with the IBA Youth Development Program, and she helped make a video project about women’s rights.  And today, she is a passionate advocate for social justice in her community.  That’s where you can go with programs like these.

We have a young man, Rafael Bitanga, who is here all the way from Kodiak, Alaska.  How was that trip?  (Laughter.)  A few years ago, Rafael and his family came to the United States from the Philippines.  And like so many young people who’ve immigrated to this country, Rafael worked hard in school and quickly established himself as a leader and a role model.  And through the Baranov Museum and Film Intensive, he became both a filmmaker and a photographer, and he even started his own photography business to help support his family.

So Noemi and Rafael, and — I could you about every single student or young person who is here today, but those are some of the stories that you’ll hear from them.  And I want them all to know how proud I am of them.  I’m proud of you guys, always proud of you guys.  You make this job worth doing, just having the honor of getting to meet so many amazing young people.

These kids represent the very best of America, and they remind us all of who we really are.  (Applause.)  That’s for you.  You can’t even believe it, right?  (Laughter.)  It’s all for you.

But we’re a country that believes in our young people — all of them.  We believe that every single child has boundless promise, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money their parents have.  We’ve got to remember that.  We believe that each of these young people is a vital part of the great American story.  I can’t say that enough.  (Applause.)

And it is important to our continued greatness to see these kids as ours — not as “them,” not as “other,” but as ours.  Because we want them to know that if they’re willing to work for it — and so many are — that they can be anything they want.  That’s what this country is about.  And we can never forget that.  Anywhere in the country, these kids are ours.  And that’s really the power of programs like these.  That’s the message that they send to our young people every single day.

So I want to end by once again thanking all of you — all the adults here too — (laughter) — for making these programs possible.  And I want to thank all of the young people for working so hard.  And don’t ever lose hope.  Don’t ever feel fear.  You belong here, you got that?  (Applause.)  Those people are clapping for you.  So don’t forget that — for all of you.  Remember that.  Remember that part of this day.  And keep working hard, because it’s going to be so important now to be educated and focused.  Because no one can ever take your education from you.  You got that?  Spread the word, you got it?  I’m looking at all of you all.  (Laughter.)

Read the full remarks.