SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) and the Barr Foundation, a private foundation based in Boston, announced the launch of Creative Commonwealth, a partnership between Barr, CFWM, and four other Massachusetts community foundations. This new initiative is rooted in the belief that investments in arts and creativity build thriving communities, and it aims to promote the vital leadership role community foundations can play to advance the arts.
Creative Commonwealth will pave the way for community foundations to deepen and grow support for artists and cultural organizations. Along with CFWM, the community foundations partnering with Barr on this effort are the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Essex County Community Foundation, and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts has been awarded $500,000 over 24 months to pilot ideas that emerged from a planning process the foundation undertook in 2017, with funding from Barr to identify opportunities, needs, and priorities. CFWM efforts will focus on testing innovative ideas to connect arts to other sectors, providing training to build the capacity of small organizations and assessing the need for a regional arts hub to advance collaborative opportunities.
“The arts and cultural sector in our three counties is fundamental to our economy and identity,” said Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “We are excited to be a part of the Creative Commonwealth initiative, through which we can more effectively connect that sector to others and encourage innovation. The initiative will allow us to continue to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community.”
Added Jim Canales, president and trustee of the Barr Foundation, “in 2016, Barr expanded the scope of its Arts & Creativity program to a statewide focus. This shift necessitates our identifying many partners across the Commonwealth with deep knowledge and relationships in various communities. Through Creative Commonwealth, we aim to deepen our partnership with community foundations in Massachusetts, who each bring that knowledge, along with the trust of their donors and communities, to expand support for arts and creativity.”
Although Massachusetts has thousands of artists and cultural organizations, philanthropic support is unevenly distributed. Creative Commonwealth aims to address this challenge by increasing local arts and culture funding networks across the state, making the entire sector more sustainable, equitable, and accessible.
“Massachusetts is full of creative talent, and cultural assets that have the power to bring communities together. Yet, access to funding can be uneven based on geography,” said San San Wong, director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “Community foundations are important civic leadership institutions, with the potential to bridge that gap, connecting donors who want to make meaningful investments in the places they care about, and strengthening the capacity of artists and organizations whose work enlivens communities.”
In addition to supporting activities within each community, Barr will also invest additional resources to help Creative Commonwealth partners learn from each other’s work, deepen knowledge about best practices, and share relevant lessons with the broader field. Partners will also be posting updates (and encouraging others in their communities to do so as well) on social media using #CreativeCommonwealth.