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Guild Meeting
New England Foundation for the Arts – Part 1
October 12, 2018

We had a great September meeting with the New England Foundation for the Arts. We started off with an overview of what NEFA does, and then got a demonstration of Creative Ground, New England’s directory of creative enterprises and artists. Creative Ground is unique to New England – no other region has this kind of directory.

Most of the 450 yearly grants are for performing arts. However, there are grants for public art and art in a public realm.

For four years NEFA has funded an international cultural exchange and they work with the US Department of State – currently there are performance artists touring from Egypt and the Ukraine – events from these artists can be seen at

The New England Foundation for the Arts’ largest gran program is the National Dance Project, in its 21st year. The National Dance Project is the biggest and most important source of touring and dance creation. One project currently funded is Ephrat Asherie Dance, Odeon (shows Oct 26-27).

The National Dance Project was a model for the National Theater Project, which supports devised ensemble theater projects as well as creation and touring. The first round of grants was given in 2010, and so far there have been over $6 million in grants into the field. 57 new theater works have been sponsored, including the upcoming (January 2019) Manual Cinema at ArtsEmerson.

On a more regional level, NEFA has sponsored touring performing arts around the region. NEFA was founded in 1976, to bring people outside of the region to tour in New England. There is another program that brings New England artists outside the region. NEFA has helped build the field of performing arts and support the arts economy. NEFA is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), state arts agencies, private foundations and individuals.

NEFA’s programs do a lot of reflecting on what they can do better and how they can reach different artists. There will soon be some exciting announcements and changes about touring for visual arts and crafts, which was very interesting for us to hear!

There are 2 programs that NEFA offers for public art – the Fund for the Arts, and Creative City. The Fund for the Arts is NEFA’s only endowed program, which has been in place since the mid 1990’s. There will be a round of grants in the summer, after some strategic planning and looking at places in Boston such as the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Speaking of the Greenway – Janet Echelman’s 2015 aerial fabric sculpture, “As If It Were Already Here” was sponsored by NEFA. Also sponsored was the 2014 temporary Fort Point Artist’s Collective project called “A Close Knit Community” on the A street fence in the Seaport.

Creative City is in a 3-year pilot, giving grants to individual artists to create art in the public realm with public participation. Creative City is funded by the Barr Foundation, and has funded projects including Stephen Hamilton‘s West African dyeing technique workshops at the Boston Architectural Center.

NEFA recently released a report on The Jobs in New England’s Creative Economy and Why They Matter.

Every 2 years, NEFA puts on the Creative Communities Exchange Conference – the next one is slated for June 2019 in Montpelier, VT. The conference moves around to different places in the region, and the 2019 conference will be the 6th one.


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