The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) just now announced the recipients of grants under their new "Our Town" arts and placemaking initiative. $6.575 million in grants will go to 51 communities in 34 states that have created public-private partnerships to strengthen the arts while shaping the social, physical, and economic characters of their neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions. NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman made the announcement during a press conference this afternoon. The full NEA press release and descriptions of all the grantee projects is available here.
I am very excited that the City of Philadelphia (the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, working with our Commerce Department) has partnered with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) to secure one of the largest grants awarded, $250,000, to build and launch a Creative Assets Mapping Database for the City of Philadelphia (TRF is the actual grantee). The multi-faceted project will further research related to the relationship between cultural engagement and economic development and will produce a web tool that can inform planning, marketing, policy development and public/ private arts investment strategies. Creation of this geodatabase will allow the City and other cultural leaders to monitor the growth in creative assets and assess their civic, economic and social impacts.
This initiative began with a simple question from Mayor Nutter a couple of years ago - "Can we map all the cultural and creative economy activity in the City and can we then use that tool to drive our policies and decisions?" The answer was that no such tool existed - at least not in a comprehensive enough form - so we began immediately to work with TRF and SIAP, national leaders in studying the impact of the arts at the neighborhood level (more information on their arts work is available here). TRF also operates Policy Map, the leading source of mapped social and demographic data. We were able to secure a small planning grant from the NEA last year and since then have been working to develop our plans for this project.
Our Town grants range from $25,000 to $250,000 and represent a range of rural, suburban, and urban communities with populations ranging from just over 2,000 people to more than 8.2 million people. More than half of the Our Town grants were awarded too communities with a population of less than 200,000, and seven to communities with fewer than 25,000 people. Grants were awarded for planning, design, and arts engagement projects that strengthen arts organizations while increasing the livability of communities across America. By requiring a partnership between local government and an arts or design organization, Our Town encourages creative, cross sector solutions to the challenges facing towns, cities, and the arts community.
There were 447 applicants to this program, and we are truly honored to be one of the 51 grantees. We hope our project will not only help strengthen what we are doing in Philadelphia but also serve as a national model for other communities. MANY other exciting projects funded throughout the country, and I also congratulate all the other grantees. This is another example of the transformative work the NEA is doing now under Rocco Landesman's leadership.