$100,000 NEA Grant Sends Significant Signal To Neighborhoods

The fact that NACEDA's first direct federal grant came from the National Endowment for the Arts reveals a lot about the challenges neighborhoods face and how our movement will address those challenges, asserts NACEDA Executive Director Frank Woodruff.

July 15, 2015

Creative placemaking can transform communities and revitalize local economies. The NEA Our Town grant to NACEDA makes an important statement about the future of community development.

This is the first direct federal grant NACEDA has ever received. It is also the first time in the history of the NEA's Our Town program that national field building grants were awarded. This $100,000 grant makes a statement that goes far beyond the organizations involved.

That NACEDA’s first direct federal grant came from the National Endowment for the Arts -- as opposed to HUD, USDA, or HHS -- delivers a significant signal revealing a tremendous amount about the challenges neighborhoods face and how our movement will address those challenges. The future success of our field will require practitioners to capitalize on culture and diversity as an asset to be harnessed, nurtured, and cherished.

A frontline strategy

The term affordable housing has at times become synonymous, even interchangeable, with the term community development. In recent years, small business assistance, asset building, financial empowerment, mixed-use, commercial, and even green development have become core to neighborhood strategy and a regular part of the practitioner vernacular. And, for the most part, this has happened for very good reasons.

But NACEDA is firmly asserting that the arts and creative placemaking NEED to be on the top-line of strategies to comprehensively lift up low-income, disinvested people and places, right alongside more traditional approaches. As recent national headlines have demonstrated, our neighborhoods are struggling with issues related to race, ethnicity, and cultural relevancy. Attacking these challenges with buildings, jobs, money, and physical infrastructure is only part of the solution.

Neighborhoods and their stakeholders need to be connected. They need to be engaged. They need to be safe. And they need a unique, distinct, and shared vision for themselves. Creative placemaking is a culturally relevant, interactive approach that brings all those components together.


HUD Secretary Julian Castro was quoted today as saying "the arts reveal the heart and soul of our nation." I would go further to say the arts has the power to bring together the social, civic, and economic threads weaving the fabric of America’s neighborhoods.

And NACEDA is excited to be part of it. The formal announcement concludes 18 months of visioning, planning, and relationship-building. NACEDA’s board, membership, staff, consultants, and allies provided counsel, introductions, and resources. Our primary partner, Americans for the Arts, put their time, trust, and mission behind it. ArtPlace America was a phone call away with advice, guidance, and encouragement. And of course, the NEA Design Team was clear about their vision that the future of this work relies on investing in partnerships that embed the arts in long-term community development.

Two fields, one goal

But the work is just beginning. The next six to nine months will be spent convening known stakeholders and experts, while discovering more along the way, transitioning to firm implementation in Summer 2016. The community development and arts fields already work together to improve low-income neighborhoods, but they approach the work differently and, too often, separately.

Our partner Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts summed it up perfectly that “together artists and community development practitioners have an opportunity to develop creative placemaking as a vital mechanism driving the transformative power of the arts to create and sustain a place that residents and businesses can not only be proud of, but enthusiastically call home.”

That is something I want to be a part of.

The NEA announced 69 Our Town awards totaling almost $5 million on July 15, 2015. For the first time, the NEA initiated a national field-building component to its Our Town program. NACEDA is one of five organizations receiving these first-time field building awards. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, visit the NEA web site at www.arts.gov.

Next Step

Visit the Exploring Our Town website to see how creative placemaking can transform communities and revitalize local economies. The website features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.

Share this post:

Comments on "$100,000 NEA Grant Sends Significant Signal To Neighborhoods"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment