New Barr Award will Amplify Narrative Arts in Boston
GrubStreet's Founder and Executive Director, Eve Bridburg, announces GrubStreet's new "ArtsAmplified" grant from the Barr Foundation. We're thrilled to be honored by the Barr among some of Boston's most esteemed arts institutions, and we're looking ahead to the opportunities for Boston writers this generous initiative will make possible.
I’m thrilled to announce that GrubStreet is one of fifteen organizations across the Commonwealth invited into the Barr Foundation’s new, ambitious thirty million dollar “ArtsAmplified” initiative.
The ArtsAmplified grant of $675,000 over three years will support GrubStreet’s ongoing work of making educational offerings accessible to all, serving communities who have been traditionally marginalized, and elevating underrepresented voices. Critically, the initiative will give us access to financial and marketing consultants as well as risk capital at this transformational moment when we’re ready to leap to the next level with the creation of a Narrative Arts Center in Boston (if not the Seaport, then elsewhere).
In the words of Jim Canales, the Barr Foundation’s President, the foundation “believes artists, arts, and creativity are essential to vibrant communities. We know that arts can be especially important at a time when shifting demographics, technologies, and politics are affecting the places and ways people live. We also recognize that bold, capable organizations amplify arts’ impact.”
We’re honored to be part of this incredible group of arts organizations that the Barr is working to amplify. When I think about our humble beginnings—our makeshift classes in Hebrew schools, church attics, and along the edges of art galleries—it’s hard to believe that we’re in the same cohort with arts organizations we’ve long admired, including ArtsEmerson, the Huntington Theater, the ICA, and the Peabody Essex Museum, among others.
It’s important to note that this is the second major, multi-year commitment the Barr Foundation has made to GrubStreet. And it is frankly impossible to overstate the impact of their support and partnership. When we first approached the Barr in 2015, we were at another pivotal moment. After an eighteen-month strategic planning process, we had launched the first new mission in our history. Our new mission placed access at the core of our work as we promised “to develop voices of every type and talent and to remove barriers to entry.” Given that the pipeline to publishing has long been overwhelmingly White and upper middle-class, we knew that this was the right direction for us. But it was risky because it required changing our financial model and relying more heavily on philanthropic support at a moment when we didn’t have the staffing to properly support that change. In stepped the Barr Foundation with multi-year funding that allowed us to hire our first full-time Development Director and a Development Manager to support continued growth. With this investment and our vision in hand, we were able to launch a three million dollar Write the Future Campaign, which our community has responded to with incredible generosity and enthusiasm.
The impact for Boston and for writers?
In the last few years:
- We’ve launched a major partnership with the Boston Public Library, bringing creative writing classes to adults and teens in branch libraries in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roxbury.
- We’ve launched a writers of color group with monthly convenings, 500+ strong and growing.
- We’ve dramatically increased our scholarship funding—from awarding roughly forty thousand dollars in scholarships in 2015 to being on target to award 125 thousand dollars this year.
- We’ve taken public stands against racism—through a city-wide Write-In, in support of refugees and recent immigrants, as well as through our writers of color track and programming on issues of race and power at our Muse conference, and via two blog series on our website focused on writers of color and immigrant experiences.
- We’ve hosted public conversations confronting racism in Boston, with a focus on the experiences of Black Bostonians.
- We’ve dramatically expanded our youth programming, reaching an audience that is 50 percent youth of color and 35 percent economically disadvantaged.
- We’ve hired a gifted and diverse staff, promoted long-time staffers doing excellent work, and are actively recruiting more writers of color to teach our workshops and present at the annual Muse and the Marketplace writer’s conference.
- We continue to convene editors, agents, and authors to discuss representation in publishing and to connect with one another, building networks among writers from all backgrounds, especially those from marginalized communities.
Believe it or not, there is more, but you get the picture. With the Barr Foundation’s investment, matched by our incredible community of generous donors and the talent and devotion of our board, staff, and instructors, we’ve been making good on our new mission and the commitments it demands. And we’ve done it while remaining a “grubby” family—our student satisfaction ratings have never been higher and our students continue to bond with the new friends they make in our classrooms as they have done since GrubStreet’s earliest days.
Thank you to the Barr Foundation and to our wonderful donors for trusting us again on the cusp of what we hope is our next big move: building a radically inclusive Narrative Arts Center, down by the sea, a place where all people can gather to write stories and to hear the stories of their fellow human beings—a place to be fully human together.
Eve Bridburg is the Founder and Executive Director of GrubStreet. Under her leadership, the organization has grown into a national literary powerhouse by expanding offerings to better educate and equip writers in the digital age, launching new, innovative programming for advanced students, and significantly expanding scholarship opportunities to ensure access. Eve curated GrubStreet’s NEA-funded Publish it Forward lecture series and our innovative Launch Lab, led GrubStreet’s Diversity Task force, laying the foundation for GrubStreet’s next chapter, and was the driving force behind establishing the country’s first Literary Cultural District in downtown Boston. Eve’s work has been recognized by Boston Magazine, who named her one of Boston’s 50 most powerful women in 2010, and by BostInno Magazine who gave her their 2014 Arts and Entertainment Award for driving innovation in Boston. Having graduated from its inaugural class, Eve remains active with the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, a consortium of 200 of the world’s top cultural leaders, which addresses the critical issues that face the arts and cultural sector worldwide. Eve has presented on publishing, the future of publishing, and on what it takes to build a literary arts center at numerous conferences, including AWP, O’Reilly’s Tools of Change, GrubStreet’s own The Muse and the Marketplace, Whidbey Island Writers Conference, The Sanibel Island Writers Conference, and Writers at Work. Her essays and op-eds on publishing, the role of creative writing centers and the importance of the narrative arts have appeared in The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Cognoscenti, Writer's Digest and TinHouse. Eve worked as a literary agent at The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency for five happy years where she developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers. Before starting GrubStreet, she attended Boston University’s Writing program on a teaching fellowship, farmed in Oregon, and ran an international bookstore in Prague.See other articles by Eve Bridburg