Creative Commonwealth

CFWM Partners with the Barr Foundation for the Creative Commonwealth Initiative

A new initiative called the Creative Commonwealth is paving the way for community foundations across Massachusetts to engage existing and new donors in strategic support for a new and more diverse cohort of artists and cultural organizations.

This initiative brings together the private Boston-based Barr Foundation with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and four other community foundations throughout Massachusetts: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, Essex County Community Foundation and Greater Worcester Community Foundation. Together we recognize the power and importance of arts and creativity for our communities, and the vital role we can play to bring more strategic and sustainable investments in the sector. The initiative has three key goals:

  • To strengthen arts and creativity in communities, to deepen financial support, and strengthen local arts policy.
  • To form a learning community that shares successes and challenges, to enhance the capacity of each participating foundation.
  • To offer a model of constructive partnership between private and community philanthropic

With the help of a 30-person Advisory Group, CFWM underwent a 4-month planning process in summer 2017 with the purpose of getting input from arts and culture organizations in the region, to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and the opportunities to build capacity in the sector. An online survey to 211 arts and culture organizations (87 responses) in the Pioneer Valley also informed our exploration. The major themes that we heard were:

  • A lack of networks and systems to support regional collaboration in the cultural community;
  • Communities and organizations tend to be segregated by race, class and geography which result in issues of inequity;
  • The public does not have a simple way to learn about what is happening in the Pioneer Valley regarding cultural events and opportunities;
  • Cultural organizations in the region are predominantly new, and small in budget and staffing capacity;
  • A desire for arts and culture to be recognized as a significant and valuable sector in the region;
  • A lack of available space and inadequate public transportation affect the availability and accessibility of the arts.

In response, and with the support of the Barr Foundation, CFWM is planning to implement strategies developed during the planning period. Through this work, the CFWM intends to galvanize a more vibrant and better connected arts/creativity community through leadership that accelerates collaboration, enhances capacity, encourages new funding (including grants), and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. The specific strategies are to:

  • Implement trainings that build capacity within the arts and creativity sector. The cohort series will include training, coaching and networking designed to build skills and knowledge that strengthen the capacity of the arts and creativity nonprofit sector. Topics will be identified from data collected from surveys and convenings during the planning phase.
  • Initiate planning for a Regional Arts Hub that will strengthen the arts and creativity community in the Pioneer Valley by helping arts organizations and artists share information and resources internally (to help with the coordination of schedules, programming ideas, marketing, etc.) and to build awareness externally (co-marketing, such as a shared calendar of events).
  • Implement an Arts and Culture Innovation Grant Program that stimulates authentic collaboration and partnership development within the arts and creativity sector, fosters cross-sector solutions that reach beyond the arts and creativity community, supports equity and inclusion of underserved populations or geographies, and promotes funding and engagement by a broad range of new individual donors.
  • Increase CFWM’s knowledge and skill to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in community arts and creativity organizations and to identify ways to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion work into the three strategies and related activities of the Barr initiative.

As CFWM continues on this exciting journey over the next two years, we will seek guidance from contracted Community Advisors who will serve a core role providing valuable input on our strategies and helping CFWM connect to arts and culture organizations that have been underserved by CFWM – specifically organizations that are led by and/or serve communities of color, as well as rural organizations.

For more information, visit the Barr Foundation (

And recent press releases:

CFWM Convenes Arts and Culture Advisory Group, September 7, 2017

The Launch of Creative Commonwealth, January 30, 2018