The Community Development Investments Journey Begins

August 30, 2015

By: Lyz Crane

Today we announced an $18 million investment in six place-based organizations around the country to incorporate arts & culture into their community development work. In this post, our Deputy Director and Community Development Investments Program Manager Lyz Crane reflects on the moment.

Today’s announcement of the Community Development Investments program participants feels like a commencement to me: a culmination of the past couple of years of program design and selection process and the beginning of a new phase of work.  These six community planning and development organizations are about to embark on a journey over the next three years to learn new models, forge new relationships, and test new ideas that explore the added value that arts and culture can provide to broad community development agendas.

It is a monumental moment for these organizations and their communities, made even more so by having President Obama acknowledge the program.  These are significant investments for these six places, and having this information highlighted by the White House validates the important role that the arts have to play in the future of our communities.

The process to make this selection was filled with interesting lessons and conversations; we had a real opportunity to survey what is happening in community planning and development organizations today – what kinds of things are important, why would organizations be interested in experimenting with this work, how do organizations work within a local ecosystem of partners and priorities.  We had to make a lot of difficult decisions about which set of six organizations might allow us to maximize our potential learning and the potential impact for both the organizations and their communities.  It was particularly challenging to select among the 21 finalists, as we had the opportunity to spend a full day with each organization and community and were blown away by the great work they are doing and enthusiastic partners they work with.

While each individual organization in the selected six represents a valuable opportunity on its own, I am most excited by looking at the “portfolio” all together.  We have a wide range of organization types, community contexts, and sizes.  We have organizations that have been around for decades and organizations that are relatively young.  And among these six, I know we have both a deep pool of exciting ideas for what might be done with the help of these funds and advice, and also a huge amount of openness and enthusiasm to collaborate with local arts and cultural partners to come up with completely new ideas.

To this last point, the first two things that these organizations will be focusing on are hosting a community forum in October to introduce the CDI program to the local community and launching a cultural asset mapping process later in the fall.  While each organization will be determining its own strategic course over time for how to best deploy these funds, one of the core goals of the program is for the organizations to develop relationships with the local arts community to consider how those people, organizations, and assets might play an important role in their goals related to topics like housing, health, economic development, and more. 

We’re thrilled to be commencing with this work and we encourage you to learn more about the participants.  A list of these organizations and the details on their community forums is below, along with links to their new pages on the ArtPlace website.  You can also read the full announcement here.

  • Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK), a tribal housing authority that focuses on affordable housing development and broad neighborhood revitalization strategies
    • Community Forum- (updated) Oct. 6, 2015 at 6 p.m. AKT at the World Famous Chilkoot Charlie’s (2435 Spenard Rd., Anchorage, AK)
  • Fairmount Park Conservancy (Philadelphia, PA), a public parks stewardship organization that champions the role parks play in strengthening civic life and economic development
    • Community Forum- Oct. 22, 2015 at 4 p.m. ET at the Please Touch Museum (4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA)
  • Jackson Medical Mall Foundation (Jackson, MS), an anchor health services facility that promotes local economic and community development opportunities with a health-based lens
    • Community Forum- Oct. 13, 2015 at 10 a.m. CT at the Jackson Medical Mall (350 West Woodrow Wilson Ave., Jackson, MS)
  • Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles, CA), a neighborhood-based community development organization that focuses on affordable housing development, social services, and community organizing and planning
    • Community Forum- Oct. 19, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. PT at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (244 South San Pedro St., Los Angeles, CA)
  • Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (southwestern Minnesota), a rural community development corporation that engages in comprehensive housing and community development
    • Community Forum- Oct. 9, 2015 at 1 p.m. CT at the Worthington Memorial Auditorium of Performing Arts (714 13th St., Worthington, MN)
  • Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (Zuni Pueblo, NM), a youth development organization that promotes healthy lifestyles among Zuni youth and families
    • Community Forum- Oct. 15, 2015 at 5 p.m. MT at the Harker Circle Fairgrounds (Zuni Pueblo, NM)