£7.4m of Historic England's £92m Heritage Action Zones scheme has been allocated to projects in towns across England.
The programme asks for cultural consortia to lead on creative projects to regenerate local high streets, but is primarily a capital works scheme, a Historic England spokesperson said.
Asked whether this was a realistic budget, Historic England said it is not trying to "set up a whole cultural department".
The funding, which will not be shared equally among consortia, is for extending artistic activity that has already been developed, the spokesperson said.
"This is money we can channel into a scheme that is really hyper local."