Marblehead Cultural Council puts call out for grant proposals

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Marblehead Cultural Council members may be budgeted less than $10,000 annually, but their small-grant awards plant artistic seeds, cultivate community and promote excellence throughout the arts, culture, humanities and interpretive sciences in town.

Massachusetts Cultural Council provides millions of dollars (about $5.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2023) to the 329 local cultural councils across the Bay State. A town’s population determines its appropriation from the pool of state funding.

In the last funding round, the dollar amounts of grants ranged from as little as $250 for an annual nature walk in Marblehead Neck’s bird sanctuary to as big as $3,000 to help a local artist display his busts in the Lee Mansion Garden.

“We received about $7,800 – which is a 12 percent increase from last year,” said Anthony Silva, the Marblehead Cultural Council’s chairman, of the town’s Fiscal Year appropriation. “We’ll be using that money, plus whatever is left over from last year.”

Marblehead Cultural Council’s application period for 2023 opened on Sept. 1 and ends just before midnight on Oct. 17. Folks can apply here:

Members of the local cultural council, appointed by the Marblehead Select Board, review proposals and award grants. Guidelines and priorities that a local cultural council votes on serve sort of like a grading rubric when members review grant proposals in November. The rubric can be changed as a community’s needs evolve.

“Salem changes their guidelines every year,” Silva said. “They wanted all their projects to deal with history of witchcraft and Salem, and they got some great ideas.”

A collage of photos from recent projects, programs and events that Marblehead Cultural Council supported.

He added narrow priorities could discourage applicants.

“The state wants local cultural councils to go our into the community and educate the public about the granting program,”” Silva said, “not just waiting for the applications to come in.”

Moreover, members have become more proactive about outreach.

“The MCC has voted to place emphasis on new, emerging and established artists and programs in local venues as well as culturally and racially diverse programming,” said Silva during a recent MCC meeting. “Programs that have received MCC funding for multiple years may have a lower funding priority in the future so that we may consider new applications.”

Many members described Silva’s tenure as chairman, which spans about five years, as breathing more life into the local cultural council.

“Anthony’s taken us in – and I’ve been here for 40 years and I’ve seen a lot of chairs and whatever – much different direction,” said Howard Rosenkrantz, the dean of Marblehead Cultural Council. “So much has happened and gone on that was never discussed or undertaken.”

Members’ accomplishments in the past half-decade include but are not limited to:

  • Organized a regional meeting led by a Massachusetts Cultural Council representative with Swampscott and Salem cultural councils
  • Created a liaison system whereby members act as a point person between the Marblehead Cultural Councilor and grantees
  • Created a new website and community calendar capturing arts and culture programs, projects and events in Marblehead

For the first time, the Marblehead Cultural Council is also sponsoring its own program: Anne Jennison, a Native American interactive storyteller, will perform “Songs & Stories of the Woodlands” in Abbot Hall on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.

The program celebrates Indigenous people of the Northeast, and it also represents the type of projects and programs that members endeavor to fund more of.

“We are an incubator for projects and ideas whether they come from an 18-year-old or a 78-year-old who come from an 18-year-old or a 78-year-old or anybody in between younger or older, it doesn’t matter,” Silva said. “And that’s the beauty of what were doing.”

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