Massachusetts College of Art and Design Issues PR RFP

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, seeks proposals for public relations services.


Founded in 1873, MassArt is the only freestanding public college of art and design in the United States. The College excels in the education of professional artists, designers, and art educators and is an integral contributor to the cultural and intellectual life and creative economy of the Greater Boston region, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and beyond. Located in Boston’s hub of arts and culture along the Avenue of the Arts, MassArt enrolls nearly 2,000 students and offers a comprehensive range of 18 undergraduate majors and 9 graduate degree programs, as well as youth and continuing education programs. The College is committed to community engagement as a significant component of its mission and teaches its students to be engaged citizens as well as artists, designers, and educators through its curricular and extracurricular offerings. MassArt is a rich resource for public programs, including innovative museum exhibitions, lectures, and events; youth art programs that serve hundreds of Boston Public Schools and Greater Boston students, ages elementary through high school; community arts partnerships and civic engagement initiatives; and professional development opportunities for educators, artists, designers, and the general public. Across all of these offerings, thousands of Greater Boston residents are served each year. MassArt attracts a diverse full- and part-time student body, with a Fall 2019 enrollment of 2,095 (1,780 undergraduate students, 128 graduate students, and the balance in certificate or continuing education programs). The College offers 18 undergraduate academic programs and nine graduate programs. Three departments — Studio Foundation, History of Art, and Liberal Arts — serve all students. Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs include: Animation, Architectural Design, Art Education, Ceramics, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Fibers, Film/Video, Glass, History of Art, Illustration, Industrial Design, Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, and Studio for Interrelated Media (SIM). Graduate programs lead to the following professional degrees: Master of Architecture, MAT/MA/MEd: Art Education, Master of Design Innovation, MFA: 2D Fine Arts, MFA: 3D Fine Arts, MFA: Design (Dynamic Media Institute), MFA: Film/Video, MFA Fine Arts (Low Residency), MFA: Photography. Certificate programs offered include Fashion Design, Furniture Design, Graphic Design, and Industrial Design. Post-Baccalaureate programs in the areas of Design (Dynamic Media Institute), Photography, and Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) are also available. Among the undergraduate students who entered MassArt in fall 2019, 73% came from Massachusetts, 12% from other New England states, and 15% from other U.S. and international locations. Thirty-one percent of BFA students self-identify as ALANA (African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American). Students are supported by 282 full- and part-time faculty members who are practicing artists, designers, educators, and scholars; the student-faculty ratio is 10:1. MassArt’s faculty, its extensive studios, the wealth of resources in its arts library, and the breadth of its curriculum are widely considered to be among the best in the nation. Sustaining high graduation rates (71%), MassArt has been recognized by The Washington Post as a superior value nationwide among the top public colleges.

Scope of Work:

Project Goals

Massachusetts College of Art and Design will engage the services of a public relations consultant/firm to spearhead public relations initiatives from August 2020 through June 30, 2021. The firm will be charged with building the College’s reputation by generating a high level of local, national and international media coverage in print, online, broadcast, and radio outlets. In partnership with the MassArt Marketing and Communications team, the consultant/firm will conceptualize and execute a strategy that builds upon the College’s unique strengths: its legacy as the first freestanding public college of art and design in the country; its mission of providing an accessible education to everyone with talent and the will to succeed; the excellence of its faculty as working artists, designers, and educators; its broad-based academic offerings; and its long-term commitment to civic engagement and community arts partnerships.

The consultant/firm will initiate and sustain aggressive outreach, including implementing national and regional media relations efforts by pitching and securing stories with a sustained follow-up approach. They must be able to demonstrate established relationships with a range of reporters and editors focused in the areas of education, arts and culture, and the innovation/business arena. The College has designated the following initiatives that the consultant/firm will focus on during the duration of the engagement, with the expectation that multiple stories will be placed across differentiated outlets for each initiative.

College-wide initiatives for the PR engagement include: • Raise Institutional Profile MassArt has a legacy of offering an accessible, excellent art and design education. The College seeks to advance its reputation and visibility through a thoughtful and substantive strategy grounded in the unique strengths of the College. Among the local, national, and international audiences to be reached are prospective students, Massachusetts leaders and influencers, arts patrons and prospective donors, corporate partners, and external funders. In partnership with MassArt’s marketing and communications team, the selected PR firm will be responsible for creating and executing a strategy that exemplifies MassArt’s value proposition: place stories that celebrate MassArt’s excellent curriculum and student successes, identify rapid response opportunities for faculty expert contributors, and showcase the variety of career paths of art and design graduates through MassArt alumni stories.

• Reputation Management

As MassArt enters the 2020-2021 academic year, it begins a transitional period. On June 1 Dr. Kymberly Pinder started her tenure as Acting President, following the announcement of 12th president David P. Nelson’s resignation. The PR firm selected will offer media training and PR support for the Acting President and will also support the College’s communications efforts when a permanent president is selected. Also, the College is planning its return to limited on-campus activity this fall following the COVID-19 pandemic, and will seek the support of a PR firm in its PR strategy and media relations activity during this transition.

• Promote and Position the MassArt Art Museum 

The MassArt Art Museum (MAAM), which opened in February 2020, is Boston’s newest and free contemporary art museum. After extensive renovations, MAAM opened in the space formerly known as the Bakalar & Paine Galleries at the heart of MassArt’s campus on the Avenue of the Arts. MAAM is a kunsthalle, or non-collecting museum, showing temporary exhibitions that feature the work of emerging and established artists to bring fresh, diverse perspectives to Boston. As MassArt’s teaching museum, MAAM is a resource for MassArt students and faculty, educating students about contemporary art, partnering with faculty to support the curriculum, and preparing students for careers in the museum field. As an extension of the College’s public mission, the Museum is also a vital resource to the community, offering a pathway to education in the arts and free, unique educational programming to Boston-area public schools and community groups. Ranked as the second “most anticipated museum opening in 2020” according to Smithsonian Magazine, the opening of the MassArt Art Museum garnered extensive press coverage and generated excitement in the 4 international and local art communities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum was open to the public for just three weeks before it was forced to close. In partnership with the MassArt team, the consultant will be charged with planning and executing a strategy to continue engagement of MAAM’s audiences, promote the reopening of the Museum, and maintain the momentum of the Museum’s recent grand opening success. 

• Support Fundraising Initiatives and Events 

The MassArt Foundation raises funds for critical scholarship and academic programming support to the College. In addition to its annual fund campaigns, the Foundation is responsible for producing signature fundraising events such as the MassArt Auction, the College’s largest annual fundraising event, and the Fashion Show Party. The PR firm will support these events by partnering with the MassArt team on planning and executing strategies to produce a high level of visibility, position these events as premier Boston social events, and communicate the importance of supporting art and design.

• Increase Awareness of MassArt’s Values and Programs that Support Social Justice and Equity

An important component of MassArt’s PR strategy for the next two years will be to share diverse voices that reflect the student body, alumni, faculty, and staff; and to communicate the College’s values in regards to social justice and equity. MassArt has a longstanding commitment to offering an accessible art education on and off campus and has developed a deep relationship with its community partners to enact change beyond the walls of the College through the power of art and design. The Center for Art and Community Partnerships and the MassArt Art Museum provide free access to art for the public and the program Artward Bound offers a free after school program for Boston area high school students interested in art and design. This spring MassArt, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, announced it received a $1.2 million grant from the Surdna Foundation to launch a new regranting program titled Radical Imagination for Racial Justice. Over the next 3 years MassArt and the City will offer grants to artists of color working or living in Boston. The consultant will support MassArt’s efforts to promote the program and communicate its impact on the City.

• Crisis Communications

In the event of a major campus crisis, the consultant/firm will consult on the communications approach, including vetting the college statement/talking points and advising on overall press strategy. The consultant/firm must provide an on-call contact in case of a major campus crisis, and must be available to review the statement/talking points within a half-hour.

Media Placement and Measurement The consultant/firm will: 

• Secure coverage across a broad range of differentiated media outlets, focused on the institutional initiatives described above. 5

• Maintain an appropriate range of media tools in order to manage the project effectively, including a current database of local, national and international media outlets. The firm will provide MassArt with select media contact information upon request. 

• Track coverage and archive media hits received in digital and hard-copy form. The consultant/firm is required to provide a digital report containing all placements at the conclusion of the contract. The firm must also include a monthly report with monthly invoices that include a breakdown of hourly firm and employee activity.


The consultant/firm will be available for a standing weekly phone call (approximately 30 minutes) and up to 4 prescheduled in-person meetings during the one-year term of the contract.

Due Date:

July 28, 2020 at 3:00 PM EST


Agencies worth considering include MWWPR and Zeno group.

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