The Cambridge Arts Council is a city agency that funds, promotes, and presents high-quality, community-based arts programming for the benefit of artists, residents and visitors to Cambridge, MA. Established in 1974, Cambridge Arts is one of the oldest and most dynamic arts agencies in the country. As a public nonprofit, Cambridge Arts operates with funding from local government, private foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors and delivers on its mission by fulfilling three primary roles:
Connector: Through partnerships with artists, presenters, donors and audiences, the agency operates as a vital cultural presence in the region. From connecting local youth with professional teaching artists to securing performance space for both emerging and established ensembles and introducing residents to local artists through Cambridge Open Studios, Cambridge Arts links people and resources from across the artistic spectrum to spark innovative collaboration.
Presenter: In addition to exhibitions and educational programming presented in the Cambridge Arts Space, Cambridge Arts stages high-profile events such as the Cambridge River Festival, a signature city celebration and regional event. The festival features a wide array of music, dance, theater and visual art and attracts a robust audience of close to 200,000 visitors annually.
Funder: Through the Cambridge Arts Grant Program, Cambridge Arts awards dozens of financial grants each year in support of high-quality, community-based art projects representing all artistic disciplines.
Percent-for-Art: Implemented via City Ordinance, Percent-for-Art requires that one percent of the construction costs on municipal capital investment be designated for use in developing site-responsive public artwork. With a core focus on increasing the quantity, quality and overall awareness of art in the city’s public space, Cambridge Arts has overseen the creation and development of more than 200 artworks. These artworks can be found in a variety of locations including youth and senior centers, schools, libraries, parks, plazas and sidewalks. Artworks sited through this program engage directly with their surroundings to create, enrich, or reveal a sense of place. Each artwork is created in active response to the character and history of its location and reflects the dynamic and creative exchange between professional artists and the broader community.
Art Conservation: Provides consistent professional care to the artworks in the City-owned public art collection, including sculpture, murals, works of art structurally integrated into buildings, and electronic and time-based media. Conservators monitor the collection, train contracted staff and interns, and collaborate with other City agencies to care for the public art. The program is noted for its Pre-Fabrication Conservation Reviews, carried out during the planning stage for new commissions, which give artists advice and guidance, considers materials, fabrication, and installation methods, and establishes preventive care and maintenance plans.
Education & Outreach: Develops project-based initiatives that encourage an active and dynamic relationship between residents and visitors with the city-owned public art collection. From the creation of educational curricula for youth to specialized field trips, bicycle tours, publications, community-based activities and an interactive web-based Public Art tour, these initiatives are designed to serve a diverse multi-generational audience and showcase one of the city’s greatest cultural resources.
Exhibitions: The Cambridge Arts Space is a municipal exhibition space dedicated to showcasing significant visual artwork reflective of contemporary artistic practice. Exhibitions are designed to support and present the work of local, national and international artists and explore the relationship between visual art, public art and civic dialogue.
River Festival: An annual outdoor festival of the arts drawing 200,000 audience members to celebrate and enjoy music, dance, theater, poetry, visual art and food. Highlights include live music, New England-based folk and traditional art demonstrations, temporary public art, hands on art-making activities for families and children, creative roving performances and more than 200 vendors selling food and imported crafts from locations around the world.
Grant Program: Awards funding to high-quality artistic projects that provide a direct benefit to residents in the City. Cambridge Arts annually makes grants in three categories: Creating & Presenting, for artists to present innovative work in Cambridge; Education & Access, to teach residents about the arts and to ensure access to the arts for all residents; and Field Trip grants providing subsidized tickets for youth to attend professional arts productions.
Summer in the City: An annual series of multicultural artistic and interactive events designed specifically for youth between the ages of 4 and 11 years of age. Events feature a lively mix of dance, song, theatre and puppetry and occur in parks and open spaces throughout the City’s thirteen neighborhoods. The performances provide regular access to creative, artistic and culturally rich learning experiences for Cambridge youth during out of school time in July and August.
Street Performer Program: Supported by City Ordinance and designed to attract a wide variety of artists, musicians and performers to engage the public in squares, parks and other public locations throughout the City. Cambridge Arts issues permits and regularly monitors the program to ensure positive relationships between performers, business and residents.
Open Studios: A collaboration of Cambridge artists, organizations, and businesses, this event literally puts Cambridge artists on the map with a guide directing visitors to the participating artists' studios and common venues throughout the city. The Open Studios weekend also highlights the City's public art collection of over 180 artworks in parks, municipal buildings, and open spaces.
Poet Populist Program: Names a Cambridge poet as ‘literary ambassador’ for the City through a public nomination and election process. In 2009, Cambridge Arts launched this program to celebrate, support, and nurture the City’s rich and diverse poet community while stimulating creativity and awareness within the broader Cambridge community.