Investing in arts organizations as leaders.

We're partnering with 15 Massachusetts arts organizations to amplify their leadership in communities.

At the Barr Foundation, we believe that arts, artists, and creativity are essential to vibrant communities. This is especially true in today’s environment as shifting demographics, technology advancements, and widening disparities are affecting the places and ways people live.

Against this backdrop, how can arts and creativity lift up multiple voices, elevate meaningful issues, and prompt self-reflection and new understanding? How can arts and creativity help communities come together to imagine and work toward new, better, and different futures? And how can arts organizations be bold and nimble leaders engaging artists and communities in this dialogue?

Powerful art. Bold leadership. Vibrant communities.

The ArtsAmplified initiative seeks to advance this vital work. The $30 million, six-year effort is an investment in 15 accomplished arts organizations across Massachusetts dedicated to creating art and arts experiences that strengthen our communities. Our goal is to enhance the capacity of these organizations to continue leading in their communities and fields, and to collectively generate fresh insights that inspire other nonprofits and funders.

ArtsAmplified features a shared commitment to investigating and exploring the confluence of artistic excellence, relevance, risk taking, and civic leadership. ArtsAmplified grantees will engage in collective, ongoing conversation anchored in these notions—bringing their unique experiences and visions to the investigation. Over the next six years, each partner will manifest these concepts in practice through at least one ambitious project with significance to its future.

Initiative Partners

A Process of Co-Discovery

ArtsAmplified features a shared commitment to investigating and exploring the confluence of four concepts we consider vital to the future of arts organizations: artistic excellence, relevance, risk taking, and civic leadership. Initiative partners will engage in collective, ongoing conversation anchored in these notions, bringing their unique experiences and visions to the investigation. We enter the initiative with these working definitions:

  • Artistic excellence enables the full expression of voices and viewpoints. It is rigorous in application, demonstrating artistic integrity and mastery of craft. It is expansive in form and inclusive in application, spanning many tastes and disciplines. Artistic excellence is realized when artists and art organizations create experiences that are compelling, meaningful, and relevant for today’s audiences.
Graphic showing the four key concepts of ArtsAmplified
  • Relevance is a measure of the value and relatability of art to a variety of audiences and communities. Relevant art is cognizant of social, political, and cultural contexts—it speaks to people by addressing their realities, hopes, and fears.

  • Risk taking happens when arts organizations leap forward. It encompasses any substantive organizational change, and includes artistic experimentation and supporting the artist’s journey or curation to produce work that combines excellence and relevance.

  • Civic leadership stems from arts organizations embracing their distinct ability to bring people together and strengthen connections. It features artistic processes and art that engages multiple viewpoints, encourages new ways of understanding, and helps communities envision and work together toward a better future.

Over the next six years, each partner will manifest these concepts in practice through at least one ambitious project with significance to its future.

The initiative process anticipates significant learning. In year one, TDC will serve as a facilitator and learning partner as each organization takes stock of its realties and future intent, assesses its strengths and needs, and tailors its subsequent strategies and expected outcomes. Barr intends to be an active participant alongside all in this co-designed journey. We will provide risk capital as partner organizations experiment and as our collective understanding of the four concepts evolve.

We invite you to subscribe to our arts email list for future updates, and to follow the conversation on social media with #ArtsAmplified.

San San Wong reflects on the importance of art that addresses contemporary issues.

"Unless we're questioning what's happening now, then we're not actually moving forward as a society."

Initiative Selection Criteria

We used the following criteria to identify partners in ArtsAmplified:

1. Artistic excellence and relevance

  • Dynamic leadership engaged in a relentless, passionate, and rigorous inquiry around artistic excellence and relevance. This would be evidenced in programs, practices, and field leadership.
  • A proven track record of engagement, clear strategies that seek to engage multiple constituencies, and an expressed desire to be recognized as a “civic leader.”

2. Risk-taking

  • Understands what risk means in context and is willing to embrace the commitment, time, and resources involved in supporting an artist’s journey or curation.
  • Experience in experimentation and prototyping new artistic and organizational ideas that could lead to increased relevance.

3. Adaptive capacity

  • The current strategic direction sets a course for adaptation and risk-taking.
  • Leadership seeks to shift organizational culture and develop risk funds by engaging staff, board, and donors in conversations around artistic excellence, relevance, and risk-taking.
  • Financial health is strong, or a viable strategy toward improved financial health is in place. A strong understanding of capitalization (the alignment of financial resources to support an organization’s mission for the long term).
  • Leaders will engage with the Initiative’s community of practice and will commit to furthering staff development.

Arts & Creativity Grantmaking Process and Inquiries

ArtsAmplified is a closed initiative. The 15 grantees were identified and selected by Barr's Arts & Creativity team.

Grants awarded by the Barr Foundation originate in several ways. The majority are initiated by our staff. Additionally, given the value we place on long-term partnerships, many grants are renewals for current grantees. However, we also welcome those who feel their work aligns with our priorities to introduce themselves to us through an inquiry process.

To submit an inquiry to the Barr Foundation’s Arts & Creativity Program, please assemble your responses and requested materials outlined in our inquiry form, and submit via email to arts@barrfoundation.org.

ArtsAmplified on our blog