Actors take a bow in dress rehearsal.

Introducing Barr's ArtsAmplified Initiative

A $30 million, six-year effort focused on powerful art and bold leadership by Massachusetts arts organizations to create more vibrant communities.

Today, Barr is pleased to announce a major new investment out of our Arts & Creativity program. Its goal is to increase the capacity of 15 accomplished arts organizations to lead within communities, and to generate fresh insights that inspire other nonprofits and funders.

As Jim Canales notes in his post today, at the Barr Foundation, we believe artists, arts, and creativity are essential to vibrant communities. We know that arts can be especially important at a time when shifting demographics, technologies, and politics are affecting the places and ways people live. We also recognize that bold, capable organizations amplify arts’ impact.

ArtsAmplified provides funding to help each organization advance at least one ambitious project with significance for its vision. We also expect to learn along with these partners—and to generate new knowledge that has value to a broader group of funders and nonprofits.

Four interrelated concepts are central to the initiative

Initiative partners will explore the confluence of four concepts that Barr considers vital to the future of arts organizations—artistic excellence, relevance, risk taking, and civic leadership. 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.

Of course, each of our partners brings their own experiences, definitions, and ambitions to this investigation. We look forward to vivid dialogue about the interplay of the four concepts, and to sharper understanding of the opportunities and challenges they present for arts organizations today.

A cohort of organizations embracing change

We are pleased to join with this group of partners, who are among the many organizations producing artistically excellent work across Massachusetts:

Each of these partners is also at an important inflection point in its own lifecycle—pivoting to better align its approaches and resources with its intent to generate greater impact. All are future-focused. They commit to nurturing artists and the curatorial process, are unafraid to question cultural orthodoxy, and consider contemporary issues to be important content for their programming. They share a sense of urgency to amplify arts’ role in communities today.

“Historically, we have focused our attention nationally and internationally. In this next evolution, we’re looking at the conditions in Berkshire County and asking ourselves: What sort of neighbor and citizen do we want to be?” – Pamela Tatge, Director, Jacob’s Pillow

“We have unprecedented opportunities to make art more central in people’s lives. All we need to do to make this happen is give up some old ideas and practices, and invent new ones.” – Dan L. Monroe, The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, Peabody Essex Museum

“Given Boston's history, we want to be part of telling a new story for the city, particularly as it relates to race. We are expanding our programming, looking to hear and listen and engage voices that haven’t always been at the table.” – David C. Howse, Executive Director and David Dower, Artistic Director, ArtsEmerson

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

A process of co-discovery

Barr ArtsAmplified partners will work in a collective context, joining in ongoing conversation anchored in the notions of excellence, relevance, risk taking, and civic leadership. The first year of the initiative is a time for each organization to take stock of its realities and future intent, and to assess its strengths and needs. The partners and Barr will co-design strategies and expected outputs for subsequent years of the initiative. TDC will serve as a facilitator and learning partner in this process.

Barr intends to be an active learner alongside all participants, and to support these organizations with risk capital as they experiment and evolve.

The arts are fundamental and necessary for the health of the human spirit. They enable us to discover who we are and who we may become as individuals, as communities, and as human beings. ArtsAmplified is a multi-year effort to help 15 of the Commonwealth’s leading arts institutions amplify their contributions to the future of our State and all its citizens.

We look forward to sharing news, progress, and lessons throughout the journey. We invite you to subscribe to our arts email list for future updates and join the conversation on social media with #ArtsAmplified.

Learn more by visiting the ArtsAmplified initiative webpage

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