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On July 12th, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the 80 Our Town grant recipients for 2012. This year’s grants total approximately $5 million and will be distributed in 44 states and the District of Columbia. When combined with its first year’s work of grants from 2011, the NEA has invested a grand total of $11.58 million in all 50 states and the District with the Our Town projects.
The history of the Our town grants stems back three years ago when NEA’s current chairman, Rocco Landesman, began a national conversation about cities and towns in our nation using the arts to revitalize their social, physical, and economic characters. The idea is now formally known as “creative placemaking.”
This year, the NEA received 317 applications for Our Town. These applications were then assigned to one of three panels: Arts Engagement, which reviewed the proposed projects where artistic production is the primary driver of creative placemaking; Cultural Planning and Design, which referred to building local support systems and places necessary to run creative placemaking successfully; and Non-metro and Tribal Communities, which reviewed applications from rural communities that are not adjacent to a metropolitan area.
According to the NEA’s mission for Our Town,
“broad-based partnerships allow organizations to leverage more resources…access new networks, and strengthen ties to their communities, eventually making for more successful projects.”
With this belief, the recipients of the 80 Our Town grants are joined this year by 566 different partners, 240 of which are arts organizations—these include 44 local arts agencies and four state arts agencies. Other partners range from federal government agencies to religious organizations to educational institutions.
Funds for the Our Town grants are broken down into two cohorts. These grants range in size from the smallest, which totals $25, 000, to the largest, $150,000. The projects supported by Our Town grants represent a diversity of population sizes, geography, and artistic discipline. Specifically, forty-one of the 80 rants have been commissioned to communities with population sizes of less than 50,000. Five grants have been made to communities with less than 1,000 residents, these places including Last Chance, CO and Uniontown, WA.
This month, the NEA will continue to host its three part webinar series highlighting experts in the field of creative placemaking who will discuss current trends, challenges, and policies in the field. Each webinar runs from 4:00 to 5:00 PM EDT. The next discussion, Creative Placemaking through Arts Engagement, will be held in the upcoming week on July 31st. Past webinars can be accessed on the NEA's website.
Click map to view the full list of Our Town grant recipients by state.