NEW BEDFORD — The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and The Barr Foundation, a private foundation based in Boston, today announced the launch of Creative Commonwealth, a partnership between Barr, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and four other Massachusetts community foundations.

This new initiative is rooted in the belief that investments in arts and creativity build thriving communities, and it aims to promote the vital leadership role community foundations can play to advance the arts.

Creative Commonwealth will pave the way for community foundations to deepen and grow support for artists and cultural organizations. Along with the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the community foundations partnering with Barr on this effort are: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Essex County Community Foundation and Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts has been awarded $500,000 over 24 months to pilot ideas that emerged from a planning process the Foundation undertook in 2017, with funding from Barr to identify opportunities, needs, and priorities. The Community Foundation’s effort will work to:

· Increase access and artistic expression in New Bedford and Fall River, with a focus on underserved, youth, culturally diverse, and immigrant populations.

· Improve collaboration and build capacity in our collective creative community using a model that can be replicated throughout the region.

· Grow and diversify philanthropic investment in arts and culture.

“Arts and culture have the power to tell our stories, to enhance the quality of our lives--as we live them and as we want to live them. Our region will benefit from participating in the Creative Commonwealth as we seek to elevate new voices and expand opportunities for inclusive and innovative ideas,” said John Vasconcellos, president of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts.

“In 2016, Barr expanded the scope of its Arts & Creativity program to a statewide focus,” said Jim Canales, president and trustee of the Barr Foundation. “This shift necessitates our identifying many partners across the Commonwealth with deep knowledge and relationships in various communities. Through Creative Commonwealth, we aim to deepen our partnership with community foundations in

Massachusetts, who each bring that knowledge, along with the trust of their donors and communities, to expand support for arts and creativity.”

Although Massachusetts has thousands of artists and cultural organizations, philanthropic support is unevenly distributed. Creative Commonwealth aims to address this challenge by increasing local arts and culture funding networks across the state, making the entire sector more sustainable, equitable and accessible.

“Massachusetts is full of creative talent and cultural assets that have the power to bring communities together. Yet, access to funding can be uneven based on geography,” said San San Wong, director of arts & creativity at the Barr Foundation. “Community foundations are important civic leadership institutions, with the potential to bridge that gap, connecting donors who want to make meaningful investments in the places they care about, and strengthening the capacity of artists and organizations whose work enlivens communities.”

In addition to supporting activities within each community, Barr will also invest additional resources to help Creative Commonwealth partners learn from each other’s work, deepen knowledge about best practices, and share relevant lessons with the broader field. Partners will also be posting updates (and encouraging others in their communities to do so as well) on social media using #CreativeCommonwealth.

--Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts