Newton Businesses Look to Recover With Pandemic Recovery Grants From Mass Cultural Council

Mass Cultural Council (MCC) provided 5,218 grants worth $51,063,360 for long-term pandemic relief to cultural and art organizations across Massachusetts, including several Newton businesses like Newton Community Pride (NCP), Historic Newton, and the New Art Center, according to a release from MCC. 

“MCC has been great to us,” Blair Lesser-Sullivan, executive director at NCP, said. “They give us smaller grants for our events, but this grant is gonna be so helpful for us to do even more for the community. And to just really come out of COVID and put so much art and culture and joy into the world and into the local community.”

Unlike other grants that require organizations to explain their need for financial assistance, MCC based money allocation solely off businesses’ financial records, according to Lisa Dady, director of Historic Newton. 

This was beneficial because it is clear there were long-term negative financial impacts from the pandemic on businesses, Dady said. 

“When they took a look at those numbers, they saw in the time of those three years exactly what happened to our bottom line and how hard it was for us to navigate through the pandemic,” Dady said. “So I think MCC, you know, really recognizes that by offering this now, when we’re still trying to kind of climb out of it.”

These grants are for unrestricted operating dollars, according to Dady. 

“So the wonderful thing about this grant program is it’s for unrestricted operating dollars, which are the hardest types of funds for us to apply,” Dady said. “And so that means it can go anywhere.”

The size of the grant is unprecedented for organizations like the New Art Center, according to its executive director Emily O’Neil. 

“It’s not common to get grants in that amount,” O’Neil said. “You know, we got the largest allocation that the MCC allocated, that was $75,000. It is not common for an organization like the New Art Center to get $75,000 in unrestricted grants.”

The COVID-19 pandemic limited opportunities for businesses like NCP that often rely on fundraising events as a major source of revenue, according to Sullivan.

“We rely heavily on our business sponsors and partners, and all of them were hurting as well,” Sullivan said. “So it was really hard to get the funds that we used to get, and then we didn’t have the programming to fund. We were struggling a little bit before, because everybody was hurting and we rely on corporations and individuals to help fund our programming.”

Historic Newton’s biggest expense is paying staff salaries and wages, according to Dady. 

“We’re very much driven by the talent and intellect of our staff,” Dady said. “They’re the ones who bring the public programs to the public who teach the school groups when they come into the museums and staff the desk when people come visit the museums.”

Dady said she hopes to use most of the money from the grant to balance Historic Newton’s operations budget. 

“So it will go into our operating budget, which heretofore, we were seeing that we’re going to have a challenge balancing that budget, and we got 30,000 from this program, which is a game changer for us,” Dady said. “That is making me much more reassured that we’re going to end the year with at least a balanced budget.”

Dady said she is appreciative of the trust MCC put in the organizations when allocating grant money. 

“The big piece is that we are so appreciative,” Dady said. “They should get recognition for this, that they just tried to make it very easy. And they were willing to trust the organizations by just letting them put it toward their unrestricted operating expenses.”

February 26, 2023