What are Cultural Facilities?

A cultural facility is a facility that is open to the public that provides cultural services and facilities including, but not limited to, museums, cultural centers, historical societies, and libraries operated by a public, private, or nonprofit organization. In Massachusetts, a cultural facility is specifically defined as a building, structure or site that is, or will be, owned, leased or otherwise used by one or more cultural organizations and that is accessible to the public and exempt from income taxation pursuant to section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. In Massachusetts, the term cultural facility may include, but shall not be limited to, museums, historical sites, zoos, aquariums, nature or science centers, theaters, concert halls, exhibition spaces, classrooms and auditoriums suitable for presentation of performing or visual arts. Municipally owned buildings, structures or sites must be a minimum of 50,000 square feet in size, of which at least 50 per cent is used as a cultural facility to qualify. Public or private institutions of higher education may qualify if they demonstrate that their cultural facility provides service and open access to the community and the general public outside of the regular educational mission of the public or private institute of higher education.

The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF)

In 2006, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed economic development legislation that created the Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF). The legislation defines a cultural facility as a building, structure or site that is, or will be, owned, leased or otherwise used by one or more cultural organizations and is accessible to the public and exempt from income taxation pursuant to section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. (MCC).

The CFF is an initiative to increase public and private investment in cultural facilities throughout the state. It invests in the acquisition, design, repair, renovation, expansion, and construction of nonprofit and municipal cultural facilities. The CFF is jointly administered by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a nine-member CFF Advisory Committee appointed by the Governor. MassDevelopment has authority on all matters of Fund administration, including final approval of all grant decisions. MCC is responsible for managing most aspects of the grant review process through a contractual relationship with MassDevelopment. MCC's responsibilities include distribution of program guidelines, offering technical assistance to applicants, and reviewing grant applications.

Other organizations, including the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC), play a role in financing cultural facilities projects in Massachusetts. MHIC is a leading private investor and lender specializing in financing community development and affordable housing projects. MHIC has provided a wide range of debt and equity projects to help finance CFF grantee projects that promote community development in areas with significant low- and moderate-income populations. MHIC works with for-profit and non-profit developers and community-based organizations to finance property acquisition, new construction, and rehabilitation of facilities, successfully utilizing Historic Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and New Markets Tax Credits. View the MHIC Case Study to learn more about recent cultural facilities projects.

CFF Grants and Eligibility

Eligible organizations are 501(c)3 grantee organizations funded by the MCC, which are engaged in the arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences. Eligible cultural facilities include theaters, concert halls,museums, historic sites, zoos, aquariums, exhibition spaces, classrooms for arts and cultural education programs, and auditoriums. Facilities must also be 1) accessible to the public; 2) owned, leased, or used by one or more nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, and 3) owned by public or private higher education institutions that demonstrate financial need and provide service and access to the general public beyond their education mission. Facilities may also be owned by municipalities, but must have 50 percent of square footage devoted to arts and cultural purposes and be a minimum of 50,000 square feet in size.

The Fund awards three types of grants:

  • Capital Grants for cultural facility acquisition, design, construction, repair, renovation, and rehabilitation.
  • Feasibility and Technical Assistance Grants for cultural facility planning and assessment of a cultural facility.
  • Systems Replacement Grants for 20-year capital needs assessments of cultural facility buildings and mechanical systems.

Applications to the Cultural Facilities Fund are due in October and November of each calendar year. Visit MCC's website to view the program guidelines, FAQs, and dates for upcoming information sessions.

Cultural Facilities' Impact in Massachusetts

According to data compiled by the MCC, in 2016, the CFF has awarded grants of $91.9 million to nearly 700 projects across the Commonwealth over the last eight years and has generated notable impacts in terms of jobs, economic activity, and spending.

  • CFF grants support projects that create jobs in construction and cultural tourism; expand access and education in the arts, humanities, and sciences; and improve the quality of life in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. CFF projects have hired more than 21,000 architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers between 2007 and 2014.
  • CFF-funded organizations employ more than 8,000 workers and generate $3.1 billion in annual economic activity, according to the Cultural Data Project.
  • CFF has leveraged more than $1.9 billion in spending on arts, history and science building projects. All grants are matched 1:1 with private or municipal funds.
  • CFF supports the sustainability of cultural organizations of various sizes and the vital studio, rehearsal, and performance spaces of working artists; more than half of grants awarded to date have gone to cultural organizations with budgets of less than $1 million.