Friday, October 12, 2012

National Endowment for the Arts opens up application process for Our Town grants

On Oct. 11, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wyoming Arts Council's federal partner, posted guidelines and application materials for Our Town, the agency's primary creative placemaking grants program. Pending availability of funding, grants will range from $25,000 to $200,000. 

Our Town will invest in creative and innovative projects in which communities, together with their arts and design organizations and artists, seek to:
        Improve their quality of life;
        Encourage greater creative activity;
        Foster stronger community identity and a sense of place; and
        Revitalize economic development.

Other key information:
·         Complete Our Town application guidelines are available at
·         Application deadline is Jan. 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm. This deadline is earlier than last year.
·  For Our Town FAQs, go to
·  Webinars to learn more about this funding opportunity will be held on Nov. 6 and 13, 2012, at 3:00 pm EST at
·         Program Inquiries: Email to schedule a call with an NEA design program specialist

Projects may include arts engagement, cultural planning, and design activities. Definitions of these activities can be found in the FY 2012 Our Town grant announcement. Project examples are below.

Now in its third year, Our Town has provided $11.57 million to fund 131 projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Those projects are diverse in geographic distribution, number and types of partnerships, artistic discipline, and type of project. As regards population size, in FY 2012 alone, 41 of the 80 grants supported projects in communities with populations under 50,000.

To view a map of these projects along with descriptions and images, visit the Our Town section of the NEA website.

Wyoming Our Town grants:

From the NEA web site:

The Nicolaysen Art Museum, more commonly known as the NIC, received a $50,000 Our Town grant in 2011. The NIC is a leading center for contemporary arts in the Rocky Mountain region. Although the museum focuses on exhibitions, visitors can also personally engage with art creation through classes and programs at the museum's Discovery Center.

The museum plans to further improve community engagement with a pilot project that will integrate public art into a low-income housing community in Casper, Wyoming. An experienced artist will be selected to work with developers and residents to design and plan for public art, as well as green space that will serve as a gathering place for residents of the housing complex and the local community. The project will take place at the Sunshine Apartments, located at a formerly blighted site on a highly visible intersection in downtown Casper. The Nicolaysen Art Museum will oversee the artist selection process, and the Wyoming Development Authority, Grimshaw Investments & Development, and the City of Casper will construct, document, and evaluate the project with the goal of replicating the public art process in future affordable housing projects throughout Wyoming. Casper is a town of 55,000 residents.

See a short video taken at night of the completed public art piece, "Confluence," by going to 

The Evanston Urban Renewal Agency received a $50,000 Our Town grant in 2012.

Here's a summary:

The Strand Theater in Evanston, Wyoming, was built in 1917 and became the premier place for entertainment, from vaudevillian acts and silent movies to modern day films and community events. In 2007, the historic building was nearly destroyed by a fire, with only three walls and the fa├žade remaining intact. In 2008, the building owners donated it to the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency.

The agency and Sagebrush Theatre Production will use an Our Town grant for architectural and engineering plans for the interior renovation of the Strand. The historic theater will be transformed into the Evanston Cultural Center serving as a performance space for Sagebrush and other arts groups, and as a cultural hub for the community. Myers-Anderson Architecture, a local firm with extensive historic renovation experience, will design the architectural and engineering plans. It is anticipated that improvements to this cultural landmark will inspire and attract new local businesses to downtown Evanston and provide a cultural center for the city's 12,400 residents.

The Center for the Arts in Jackson received a $50,000 Our Town grant in 2012.

Info from the NEA:

The town of Jackson, population 9,900, is conveniently located near Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and other natural tourist attractions. The Center for the Arts serves as the hub for arts and education in downtown Jackson with a 41,000-square-foot Arts & Education Pavilion, a multi-tenant facility with studios, classrooms, and offices; and the Performing Arts Pavilion, which includes a 525-seat theater, a music center, and theater rehearsal space.

The Center for the Arts and the Town of Jackson, in collaboration with 20 additional local organizations, are using an Our Town grant to design the green space adjacent to the center. Renovation of this space will increase connectivity among cultural, recreational, and retail businesses and attract residents to participate in new arts programming at the center. Project activities include community design charrettes and a final schematic design for a multi-use performance park to be used for arts and cultural activities. It is anticipated that as many as 20,000 people will utilize the redesigned public space annually for cultural activities, markets, and fairs.

Here are some other examples from around the country:

Art Engagement Project Examples

Union County Arts Center in Rahway, NJ Grant: $75,000
Union County Arts Center, the City of Rahway's Redevelopment Agency, Arts Guild New Jersey, LuceGroup, Rahway Arts District, and artistic and community partners will collaborate on RAHWAY ARTsPART, a series of creative performances and community engagement activities.

RedLine in Denver, CO Grant: $25,000
The arts collective RedLine, City of Denver, and seven additional organizations will collaborate on A Village Environment, a project within the city's Sustainability Park that involves the creation of public sculptures that will produce renewable energy. The public sculptures will be commissioned via a competitive selection process, with the requirement of artistic excellence and the ability to generate power.

Cultural Planning Project Examples

City of Omaha in Omaha, NE Grant: $100,000
The City of Omaha is partnering with Love’s Jazz and Art Center and local organizations on the Street of Dreams project, part of the revitalization plans for North Omaha’s 24th and Lake Street District. The grant will support a feasibility and community design study to re-imagine Festival Square and will allow the partners to engage visual artist and urban planner Theaster Gates to transform a nearby vacant building into a central space for artists and residents.

Santo Domingo Tribe in Santo Domingo Pueblo, NM Grant: $100,000
The Santo Domingo Planning Department and Housing Authority, Enterprise Community Partners, together with five local partners, will work together on a cultural district plan for Santo Domingo Pueblo. The plan will document the cultural heritage of the Santo Domingo Tribe, establishing livable and culturally appropriate guidelines for historic adobe structures and new development.

Design Activities Project Examples

Native Village of Mary’s Igloo in Teller, AK Grant: $50,000
The Native Village of Mary’s Igloo, a federally recognized tribe, is partnering with the not-for-profit Kawerak, Inc. and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center on community engagement and design activities for the Mary’s Igloo Community Development Center. The center will be designed through three design charrette meetings with the community and with local artists. The proposed facility will include a museum, cultural heritage room, library, commercial teaching kitchen, artisan workshop, small business operation spaces, lodging for tourists, gift shop, and storage.

Austin Film Society in Austin, TX Grant: $75,000
In 2000, the City of Austin collaborated with Austin Film Society to form Austin Studios on 20 acres at the newly decommissioned municipal airport. With the Our Town grant, the partners plan to incorporate a decommissioned National Guard Building into the Austin Studios campus. The remodeled building will include affordable space for film production and education, a new exhibition and visitors center, two screening rooms, and a plaza and lobby for public events.

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