Arts and Culture


Supporting Boston Creatives of Color in Their Artistic Careers
A photo of a large group at a Dunamis community event
Photo of J. Cottle, executive director of Dunamis
J. Cottle, executive director of Dunamis. Photo by Olivia Moon.

“When you start seeing artists give themselves permission and vision, their minds go, ‘Oh! I can do this!’ Watching that realization happen in real time gives me so much energy and joy.” - J. Cottle, Executive Director, Dunamis

How do we ensure artists have the tools they need to flourish in their creative careers?

Dunamis, Greek for "power," is a Boston-based arts organization that provides a safe space for artists and arts managers of color through professional development and community building. Dunamis offers a comprehensive range of consultations, programs, and events tailored to artists at every stage of their career.

Supporting artists with grant writing, filing taxes, and everything in between, Dunamis provides artists with the knowledge and expertise needed to manage their careers with confidence. In the fall of 2022, NFF’s consulting team worked with founder and executive director J. Cottle, sharing resources around sustainability, financial storytelling, and long-term budgeting to support Dunamis' organizational growth.

A photo of a group of people all wearing white t-shirts, smiling at an outdoor community event
It's all smiles when the Dunamis community comes together.

How Dunamis helps Boston artists achieve their career goals

With their programming and mentorship, Dunamis nurtures local artists and arts managers of color in pursuit of building a thriving arts community of diverse performers and patrons. One of the programs they offer in support of this vision is the Emerging Artist Fellowship, a creative cohort which provides professional development training around topics like filing taxes, copyrighting content, and navigating the creative industry.

One of these Emerging Artist Fellows was Zakiyyah Sutton, who had long been part of the Dunamis community. From her time as a Dunamis Emerging Artist Fellow, Zakiyyah built the artistic confidence needed to successfully secure her first grant and produce "The Hip-Hopera," a distinctive mix of hip hop and opera that pays homage to her expertise as a classically trained musician in both genres. The result? A viral music video which marked a pivotal point in her career.

Today, Zakiyyah continues to use music and visual media as a means of civic engagement and proactively creates platforms for other artists to help them succeed. She does this through youth workshops, racial equity consulting, women’s empowerment programs, and more. Dunamis continues to consult with Zakiyyah on her artistic projects.

How financial management consulting supported this nonprofit's growth

When we first connected with Dunamis, they needed assistance with building a long-term financial infrastructure to support their growing programs. The six-year-old organization was at a pivotal point in their organizational journey; their main priorities were to increase general operating revenue while ensuring they had strong systems for tracking and reporting their finances as their budget grew larger and more complex.

In partnership with Liberty Mutual, NFF consultants met with a group of social justice-focused Boston-based arts organizations one-on-one last fall and provided them with financial tools, resources, and analysis. NFF worked with Dunamis on sustainability and financial storytelling, supporting the organization's goals of offering its critical programs for years to come. This consulting initiative equipped Dunamis with essential financial frameworks – and the confidence to ask their funders for the support they truly needed.

“We were flying blind when it came to finances,” says J. “What was so helpful about our time with NFF was having a clear understanding of how finances work – that allowed us to move with more confidence in our conversations with funders.”

J continues, “It really felt like a part of growing up we had to do, and to be able to have a space that was so considerate, thoughtful, and specific to us was critical.”

Dunamis looks ahead into their seventh year

Dunamis is concluding their sixth year, and they mark 2023 as their strongest programmatic year yet. 

This year, the organization cultivated their existing programs such as House Sessions open mic and was selected as a host site for multiple state and city artist mentorship programs. They also continued their annual Jamaica Plain Porchfest. This event transforms porches, green spaces, and community hubs throughout the historic Jamaica Plain neighborhood – a space renowned for its vibrant artistic, musical, and LGBTQIA+ community – into vibrant performance stages swarming with music, dance, theatre, and tangible joy.

Dunamis produced a sold-out Porchfest this year, and the event has grown since Dunamis took it over in 2021. Says J, "Porchfest is now about two years away from turning ten years old. We’re already thinking about how to diversify the festival further and make sure it reaches all neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain.” 

A photo of a full, vibrant crowd gathered in excitement at Dunamis' Jamaica Plain Porchfest
Dunamis hosted its most successful JP Porchfest this year.

The best is yet to come

Dunamis has accomplished a great deal since its inception, and it’s only just the beginning. What does their future hold?  

“We’re talking about resource expansion,” says J. “Right now, a lot of our work is for Boston artists. But the learning is not only specific to Boston artists, so we’re really thinking about how we can expand the offering to invite more people in.”  

NFF proudly supports the growth of Dunamis and other Boston area arts organizations as they build a thriving arts community in their city. 

Want to learn more about how NFF's consulting services could support your organization's growth? Visit the consulting page of our website.

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