Apply for an NEA Our Town Grant

June 6, 2018

By: ArtPlace America

NEA Our Town Grant Application Guidelines are now posted! Matching grants for creative placemaking projects range from $25,000 to $200,000. The application deadline is August 9, 2018 for projects that start on or after July 1, 2019.

Our Town is the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program. These grants support projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Successful Our Town projects ultimately lay the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities.

The NEA says “Creative placemaking projects help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners deliberately integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work - placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. Creative placemaking supports local efforts to enhance quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increase creative activity, and create a distinct sense of place.”


There are two program areas to choose from:

  • Place-Based Projects. Through arts engagement, cultural planning, design, and/or artist/creative industry support, these projects contribute to improved quality of life in local communities. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $200,000, with a minimum cost share/match equal to the grant amount.  
  • Knowledge Building ProjectsThese projects build and disseminate knowledge about how to leverage arts, culture, and design as mechanisms for strengthening communities. These grants are available to arts service or design service organizations, and/or other national or regional membership, policy, or university-based organizations. These projects require a partnership that will facilitate the knowledge sharing and/or exchange. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $100,000, with a minimum cost share/match equal to the grant amount.


Through Our Town projects, the National Endowment for the Arts intends to achieve the following objective: Strengthening Communities: Provide opportunities for the arts to be integrated into the fabric of community life.

A great example of a recent Our Town project is Charleston public art. Located in the west Virginia town we’ll be visiting June 22-24 for a creative placemaking convening. There are still a few tickets available, why don’t you join us if you’re nearby? 

Over the last several years, Charleston, has been developing its public arts and culture programming. The city wanted to continue to expand these well-received programs but it needed a way to do so systematically. With this project, the city set out to establish guidelines that would shape the future of its public art program. The per capita income is $30,794 and nearly 24% of children live under the federal poverty level. The downtown area swells with workers during the workday but it tends to empty out in evenings and on weekends. So they set out to establish a well-funded and well-organized public art focus throughout the city’s public domain. As Susie Salisbury, Vice President of the Charleston Area Alliance puts it, “we plan to use public art to increase the livability of the Charleston.”

The Charleston Area Alliance served as the project manager and the coordinator of the initial application. The City of Charleston served as the project manager, fiscal agent, and, going forward, the long-term manager of the public art system. The Office of the City Manager was closely involved throughout, instigating the project at the outset and facilitating it throughout. As City Manager David Molgaard says, “Charleston has a successful history of creating public and private partnerships for improvements in our city.” This project was no exception. The Charleston Area Alliance, an economic development organization, provided development support, while the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority provided matching funds. Representatives from each of the project partners served on a steering committee over the life of the project. The most visible outcome of the project was the launch of a website, where the city’s 45 piece public art collection would be catalogued and the full public art plan made available to residents. Behind this public face, though, the project developed a robust set of guidelines that will help the city make structured decisions about its future commitments to public art, helping it to reach the broadest possible audience in affordable and sustainable ways. They also produced an internal database for the public art collection. The plan includes artist selection processes, collection management, guidelines for public art signage, and suggested future projects. As Salisbury says, “the public art plan is full of recommendations for pushing a well-organized public art commission in the city.” The city is currently developing this commission, which will oversee the collection and measure the impact of public art on the community. Already the project has resulted in a growing public awareness about the city’s art assets. According to Salisbury, “one of the biggest effects of the project was the increased number of people who have a better understanding and appreciation for our public art.”

You can take a look at all of the Our Town grants here to see the kinds of things that have been funded and to give you an idea of how different organizations and towns go about the partnerships.

They are seeking a diverse range of applicants and encourage communities of all sizes – rural and urban to apply to Place-Based Projects.

Questions? Check out their very helpful FAQ here.

Ready to apply? Good luck! Apply here.