What are Cultural Facilities?


A cultural facility is a space 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 (CMAP Toolkit, p.42)." 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.


Planning with Cultural Facilities

Cultural facilities can serve as a physical and social anchor for a city or town, and planners can support those places through their policies. For example, planners can ensure that these facilities are accessible via public transportation, that there is housing nearby where workers may live, and that the facility is situated in an appropriate economic environment to capture audiences and support spillover activity (such as people going out to eat at a nearby restaurant before a performance at a cultural facility).

Additionally, planners can support their cultural facilities by ensuring that their zoning bylaws and special permitting regulations support – rather than hinder – activities that can create cultural activity around these facilities. View those pages for more information about how planners can support cultural facilities through zoning regulations.


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

There are three types of eligible organizations who may apply for CFF grants: nonprofit cultural organizations, municipalities that own cultural facilities, and public or private institutions of higher education that own cultural facilities. Each type of applicant has its own qualifying factors, but all must have at least 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.

Most applications to the Cultural Facilities Fund are due in January of each calendar year, although the particular deadline may vary. Visit MCC's website to view the program guidelines, FAQs, and dates for upcoming information sessions.


CFF Application Process

The FY20 Cultural Facilities Fund application is currently closed. Grant announcements will be made in mid-May, 2020. The next round of funding is subject to appropriation in FY21.  Check back in early fall 2020 for more information, or join the CFF email list.

How To Apply to CFF

  1. Read the program guidelines, then review specific requirements for Capital GrantsFeasibility & Technical Assistance Grants, and Systems Replacement Plan Grants.
  2. Register for an information session. 
  3. Log in or create an organizational profile to access the Intent to Apply and online application. 
  4. Complete application and submit required and optional supplementary materials by January 10, 2020 at 5pm (ET).


Funding Alternative Cultural Facilities

Collaborative Workspaces

Some cultural facilities do not fit the narrow definition established by the Cultural Facilities Fund, so The Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment have partnered on a new program that provides seed and development funding to for-profit cultural facilities who provide collaborative workspaces that increase new business formation, job creation, and entrepreneurial activity. In January 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration announced $1.9 million in awards to 31 organizations for the fourth round of the Collaborative Workspace Program.


Makerspaces are one such collaborative workspace that provides access to a social community, education, resources, and tools which enable people "to design, prototype, and create manufactured works that would otherwise be more challenging and cost-prohibitive to create with the resources available to individuals working alone." (Maker Media, 2016) Creative makerspaces function as learning and workspaces that allow individual artists and creative industries to share expertise, resources, and tools. Creative makerspaces are valuable assets to the creative economy because they enable emerging creative businesses and individuals to grow and evolve, provide a sense of creative community through the clustering of resources and like-minded people, and facilitate invention.

Makerspaces can be operated by non-profit or for-profit corporations and organizations or managed by collectives of people who agree to share space, resources, and tools. Proponents of makerspaces include those that seek to nurture innovation that bridges the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). The spaces may be in temporary or permanent spaces and in locations that are privately owned, donated, or leased. Established makerspaces are often affiliated with established institutions, such as libraries, schools, and museums. Makerspaces also emerge organically and/or to serve a temporary purpose, and make exist in leased or donated public and private spaces, including private homes.

Examples of spaces and activities that can be categorized as creative makerspaces:

  • Non-profit arts center providing shared workspace and access to specific creative educational opportunities along with tools and materials, such as ceramic material or glassblowing material
  • Membership-based for-profit fabrication space that provide access to specific creative media or a mix of creative tools and materials, such as laser cutters, 3D printers, saws, welders, grinders, and hand tools for electronics and robotics
  • A short-term, pop-up maker event focused providing access to materials that can be used for prototyping an art or design product or a community planning or design solution
Performing Art Spaces

Performing arts centers are cultural production facilities, regardless of whether or not they are registered as a non-profit and qualify for Cultural Facilities Funding. They can become anchors for cultural districts, attracting spillover economic activity, so cultural planners may work to preserve or maintain performing art spaces in their own municipalities.

Redeveloping historic theaters and performing arts facilities to meet the needs of contemporary performing arts can pose particular challenges for arts and cultural planning efforts. Below, the following case studies examine successful redevelopment efforts in a variety of contexts. These case studies represent a variety of approaches to theatre redevelopment from shrinking capacity to expanding capacity and a variety of theatre management models.


Cultural Facilities' Impact in Massachusetts

To date, CFF has funded 963 projects totaling $119 million. These grants have been awarded to 458 cultural organizations from every region of the state. The grants include: capital grants of $114 million, feasibility & technical assistance grants of $5 million, and systems replacement plans grants totaling $492,000. Approximately $10 million will be available in the CFF fund for the FY20 grant cycle.

  • 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.

Learn More

Managed in collaboration with MassDevelopment, the Cultural Facilities Fund provides major improvement grants to nonprofit cultural organizations, in recognition of their profound economic impact on communities across Massachusetts. Since 2006, the Fund has encouraged sound growth, supported important development projects, played a crucial role in the growth of local tourism, created thousands of jobs, and driven millions of dollars in private investment.

The Collaborative Workspace Program is a joint venture of the Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment. The goal of the Collaborative Workspace Program is to accelerate the pace of new business formation, job creation, and entrepreneurial activity in communities, by supporting infrastructure that fuels community-based innovation. Eligible collaborative workspace applicants may apply for either Seed Grants for predevelopment and feasibility work, or Fit-out Grants for building improvements and equipment purchases.

This Toolkit provides an overview of cultural tourism basics; information on starting a cultural tourism program; steps for building a tourism message; ideas on how to tell your community's story for tourism purposes; guidelines for developing different types of tours; sample letters and agendas for your tourism committee; a tourism assessment survey; sample tourism messages; community surveys; funding and information resources; and more.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) produced this Arts and Culture Planning Toolkit to help municipalities incorporate arts and culture into their communities, enhance livability by improving quality of life, and become more attractive places to live, work, and play. It offers a primer on different types of arts and culture and their inherent primary needs and secondary impacts, then proceeds to detail steps that can be taken by communities. Model regulatory language for Cultural Facilities is included in the Appendix Starting on Page 42.