Ashe Ashe: Announcing the Boston Cultural Assembly 2021

DATE:  September 9, 2021     CATEGORIES:  Community

The Boston Ujima Project is harnessing a spirit of solidarity to build a new economy that reflects our values, meets our needs, and allows our communities to thrive. Artisan’s Asylum is proud to be working with the Boston Ujima Project and their numerous community and state-wide partners in pursuit of these goals.

The Cultural Assembly will be an opportunity for artists, creatives, and cultural organizers to come together to set collective priorities and develop practices for shared political power and economic development in Boston. Cultural producers, makers, creatives, artists, and more, will be invited to share the needs and desires of the local creative economy. As a community, we will be forming a shared plan by pooling our ideas and resources to create a cultural economic practice we all dream about.Key outputs of the 2021 Cultural Assembly are: (1) Providing direct grants to BIPOC artists and distributing funds through a participatory process; (2) Creating a series of events aimed at providing programming and workshops for BIPOC artists; (3) Developing a feasibility study based on feedback from BIPOC artists for projects that Ujima can invest in.


The Boston Ujima Project was formally launched in September 2017, aptly titled Dreaming Wild (“DW”). The DW Assembly was the next step towards building a community-controlled economy in Boston’s working-class communities of color. As part of the DW Assembly, Boston Ujima Project launched a mini-grant participatory budgeting round at the inaugural assembly. During this event, artists applied via a simple two-page proposal, then pitched their ideas to members. Five artists won mini-grants of $500. This year, Boston Ujima Project is dreaming even more wildly, and with the support of their partners hope to disperse between $50-80K of funding.

Why a Cultural Assembly?

Art is labor. Art is work. These truths undergird the sustained organizing efforts of BIPOC artists over the last century. Like any field, artistic production is part of our economy and should be enumerated by an equitable wage. And yet, artists and cultural workers still struggle to access such guarantees. W.A.G.E surveyed artists working in the nonprofit sector and found that many artists encounter fluctuating payment rates, delayed compensation, and the continued use of ‘exposure’ for unpaid labor. Arts and cultural products contributed $919 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2019 – artists and cultural workers are not getting their fair share.Artists need affordable housing, access to education, debt relief, and more opportunities available to them with less restrictive granting/residency prospects. In response, artists built alternative schoolshealth centers, legal aid clinics, and networks of support under the guise of social practice. Communities – and cultural workers especially – have more power than they realize if they work together to organize for what they need and deserve.

Ashe Ashe 2021

The 2021 Cultural Assembly titled Ashe Ashe opens with the launch of a grant opportunity for BIPOC artists in Boston and a hotline for artists and cultural workers to share their desires for the creative economy of their dreams.

This will be a collective grant practice with local cultural funders, influencers and developersFinancial and political education workshops for BIPOC artists are a core piece of the Assembly,  as well as a virtual exhibition for prospective grantees to showcase their work, and a special cocktail party.

A dedicated hotline for artists and cultural workers will be available through the Assembly for participants to share their desires for the cultural economy of their dreams.  

Ujima staff, partners and co hosts will review hotline contributions to create action plans and feasibility studies for projects the Ujima Fund can invest in.

Granting Partners  

Boston Ujima Project, Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, MASS MoCA, CreateWell Fund, Artisan’s Asylum, New England Foundation for the Arts, Black Economic Council of MA, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Mass Cultural Council, Roxbury Cultural District, Heron Foundation


Boston Art Revie, Collective Futures Fund, Arts.CoopBoston LGBTAQIA+ Arts Alliance, The History Project, Trans Resistance MA, Black Cotton Club, Fairmount Innovation Lab, Unbound Bodies, DS4SI