Holidays arrive with $356,500 in funding for arts, other giving, including a secret Santa for seniors
Though some Cambridge arts organizations enter the holidays with $15 billion in Save Our Stages disaster recovery upended by the White House as part of a larger political war, there are still presents being delivered in a year defined by doors locked against the spread of coronavirus.
Twenty-five arts and cultural organizations shared $257,500 in grants announced Wednesday by the Cambridge Community Foundation and the City of Cambridge through the Cultural Capital Fund set up in October.
Eleven city organizations share equally in a separate $99,000 in Cultural Investment Grants through the municipal Cambridge Arts organization. The awards were announced Thursday.
Eight of the recipients overlap: the Agassiz Baldwin Community; Brattle Film Foundation; Central Square Theater; Global Arts Live; Loop Lab; Multicultural Arts Center; Studio@550; and Dance Complex.
Cambridge Arts rounded out its list with $9,000 grants to the Cambridge Arts Association; Cambridge Children’s Chorus; and Innovators for Purpose.
The organization said it tripled funding for grants with support from city government, and these new Cultural Investment Grants will be complemented by equally new Art for Racial Justice Grants and Port Neighborhood Grants. “The City of Cambridge had been planning a major increase to its funding … as artists and creative organizations are facing crises from shutdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” executive director Jason Weeks said said in a press release.
On the Cambridge Community Foundation side, there were 25 total grants of varying size made from late October’s creation of a Cultural Capital Fund with $500,000 from the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund and $100,000 from the Wagner Foundation. “Maintaining the arts ecosystem – large and small organizations, creative ventures and the livelihood of artists and cultural workers – is critical to retaining our city’s innovation capacity,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the foundation. Along with thanking Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, vice mayor Alanna Mallon and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, Pradhan gave a callout to Weeks, calling him “a tireless advocate for the consistent and strategic investments needed to ensure the [arts] sector remains strong.”
“We are truly stronger together,” Pradhan said.
The foundation’s unique grants included to beheard.world; the Boston Music Chamber Society; Brookline/Cambridge Community Center for the Arts; Cambridge Carnival International; Cambridge Community Television; Cambridge Historical Society; Cambridge Jazz Foundation; Cambridge Symphony Orchestra; Cambridge Center for Adult Education; Club Passim; Community Art Center; the ImprovBoston comedy club; Jean Appolon Expressions; José Mateo Ballet Theatre; Kendall Square Orchestra; TC Squared Theatre Co.; and The Hip Hop Transformation.
Need for thousands
A foundation press release highlighted four of the organizations, including ImprovBoston, which got a $10,000 grant to retain staff and pivot its classes to an online format, then an additional $25,000 as it hibernates with the hope of emerging in the spring. “The collapse of the creative economy has hit us hard, and affected a lot of people. And it’s not about losing our performance space. It’s about not being able to pay our bills,” said Josh Garneau, the club’s managing director.
The Dance Complex was awarded $25,000 toward capital improvements needed to make a historic Central Square building Covid-safe. At the José Mateo Ballet Theatre, which reported losses of $1.5 million in revenue this year and a reduction of full-time staff and contractors to seven from 47, executive director Scott Fraser said “that Cambridge is opening its purse now is such an affirmation that the sector is seen as vital.”
The Hip Hop Transformation said its $10,000 grant would pay staff to continue an after-school program online. “Even before the pandemic, our students would use this platform to work through tough stuff like remembering when their family got evicted or grappling with the death of a friend. Right now, our kids are going through so much, and they need this project more than ever,” said Darrin Korte, executive director of the Cambridge Community Center, which runs the hip hop program.
Other charitable efforts
In other end-of-the-year charitable announcements, Lesley University added $5,000 to the Cambridge Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund to help provide grants to the city’s most vulnerable residents and small businesses; and the Cambridge Police Department sent surprise gift bags to more than 600 senior residents through its Secret Santa for Seniors Program. Officers, staff and members of the department’s Auxiliary Unit delivered bags of food, clothes, blankets, books and other items to residents and to Housing Authority buildings using donations from residents, businesses and sponsors including the Authority, Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association, Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, Foundation Medicine, Gentle Giant Moving, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mount Auburn Hospital, the Office of Mayor Siddiqui, the Peretti Family, Phil’s Towing, Pro EMS, Reservoir Church, Star Market, Trader Joe’s, U-Haul Central Square and Whole Foods.
“Most of the people we deliver gifts to don’t have family members, and they’re typically alone for the holidays,” said Cambridge Police Sergeant Susan Kale, one of the co-organizers of the gift drive. “This year was one of our biggest years yet. We weren’t sure what to expect with the pandemic and the financial hardships many are presently experiencing, but Cambridge once again came through.”