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Boston kicks off a new grant program for artists of color

A new initiative from the City of Boston and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design will distribute $1.2 million to artists of color over the next few years.

The Radical Imagination for Racial Justice program, or RIRJ, will fund projects by creatives “seeking to advance racial justice” through their work, according to a statement put out by the city last week.

“We really want to cultivate a conversation about racial justice that is not just confined to this grant,” said Chandra Méndez-Ortiz, who represented MassArt in organizing RIRJ. “We want to see these ideas, nourish these ideas, and bring people together,” added Méndez-Ortiz, who also directs the school’s youth programs.


Funded by New York-based Surdna Foundation, the project is open to Boston artists and cultural organizers above the age of 14 who identify as African, Latino, Asian, Arab, or Native American. For the first year, the program will make a total of 15 grants: 10 grants of $1,000; two grants of $25,000; and three grants of $40,000. Winners of $1,000 grants will be announced in July; larger grant announcements will be revealed in September. Creatives have until June 8 to apply for first-year grants via

Despite the pandemic, organizers agreed that the need for such a program is still strong.

“There was a crisis before for communities of color and there continues to be to be crisis for communities of color,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, the chief of arts and culture for the city of Boston. “So on one hand, this is a crazy time. But on the other hand, there’s just as much need for this work now.”

Diti Kohli can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.

Diti Kohli can be reached at her @ditikohli_.