A young black woman playing the guitar.
I work at the Appalshop — originally short for “Appalachian Film Workshop.” We were founded in 1969, with funding from the federal War on Poverty and the American Film Institute, as a program to teach young people in the mountains to make films. A few years later, when the government money stopped, some of those young people took it over and re-founded it for themselves. Ever since, it’s been a grassroots multimedia cultural center: a film producer, theater company, radio station, record label, news outlet, youth media training program, deep regional archive and sometimes book and magazine publisher. It’s put the means of cultural production in the hands of local people.
Tanya Blacklight performing with fire at night
Dierdre Morrison is an Americorps member whose focus is community and economic development through creative industries, at Elsewhere Studios, —an artist-in-residence program in Paonia, Colorado. “Part of what I do here is gather and organize information so that our outreach and grant-seeking activities go farther. I grow partnerships with other area not-for-profits to offer community classes, and highlight the creative endeavors of area craftspeople, food producers, and conservation efforts. I’m also managing a summer (2018) project called INSPIRED: Art at Work —which is designed to advance area dialogue and help shift some of the polarization in our community as we consider our future together.
A wooden shack painted with a person's face. Bright blue sky above.
Earlier this year we were lucky enough to sit in on a webinar run by The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) in collaboration with Art of the Rural. They drew together experts in the field to talk about Creative Placemaking For the Next Generation in rural areas. Together they have created the Next Generation Theory of Change, a national collaboration that engages artists, organizations and communities across the public and private sectors to advance innovative strategies and collaborations in rural creative placemaking.
Two men working in the coalfield development factory
The mission statement of Coalfield Development is “We believe in developing the potential of Appalachian places and people as they experience challenging moments of economic transition by unlocking people’s creative power to transform perceived problems into opportunities in the communities we call home. We empower people to have faith in themselves to learn and grow. People who have never dreamed of earning a degree walk across the graduation stage with pride and work beside our employees improving our own communities in real, tangible ways, such as rehabilitating dilapidated buildings, repurposing abandoned mine lands, and starting new businesses.”
A group of performers on a stage.
Over the past several decades, evidence has mounted to demonstrate that the arts have positive and measurable impacts on individual and community health. The field of arts in health has emerged from a rapidly growing number of arts programs in healthcare settings. Concurrently, creative placemaking initiatives across the United States have demonstrated that the arts are a powerful means for strengthening the social and physical environments in communities.
An art installation featuring a tractor and bundles of wood
Every place is home to a mix of assets and challenges. Much of rural America is blessed with close-knit communities, long-held traditions, and historic architecture, but shrinking employment opportunities, small tax bases, and unbalanced development can threaten residents’ quality of life. No two communities’ recipes for success are the same, but all have the potential to leverage arts and culture to help maximize their assets and meet their challenges. Unfortunately, the expertise and assistance to do so are often concentrated in urban locales, leaving rural areas at a disadvantage.
A group of people around signs that say "Respect Our Block"
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.
A man fixing a fiber cord above his head.
How could an electric power company help its community feel more connected and more grounded—beyond the obvious ways? The Tennessee-based Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) is one of the country’s largest publicly owned power providers. In recent years, they’ve become known as an early supplier of gigabit-speed internet, and a partner in the city’s first community solar project. What drives big moves like these? “We’re really lucky in that we’re a public entity with a public service mission: to increase quality of life for the people we serve,” says Elizabeth Hammitt, EPB’s Director of Environmental Stewardship & Community.
Two young black girls standing in front of a painting
American Arts Incubator (AAI) is an international creative exchange program developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by ZERO1. Beatrice Glow, one of their exchange artists, spent a month in Otavalo, Ecuador leading an American Arts Incubator exchange with a diverse group of community members, including Afro-Ecuadorian and Indigenous populations. The host partner organization was Casa de Artes Yarina that was based in Museo Otavalango. Together they used new media art to tell stories that shift dominant narratives — utilizing art and technology to address social inclusion.
A young black girl working on paper flowers
Over the past 7 years, we invested over $100M in supporting artists as allies in equitable community development. We were able to invest $87M in 279 creative placemaking projects in 208 communities of all sizes across the United States. We also invested $18M in six community development organizations, and developed a robust research program, looking at what happens when arts and cultural strategies are deployed towards community planning and development goals.
Community Dev Investments