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.
Please visit https://www.arts.gov/grants-organizations/our-town/ for full program description and application instructions.
Grant Program Description
Our Town is the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program. Through project-based funding, we 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. These projects require a partnership between a local government entity and nonprofit organization, one of which must be a cultural organization; and should engage in partnership with other sectors (such as agriculture and food, economic development, education and youth, environment and energy, health, housing, public safety, transportation, and workforce development).
We encourage applications for artistically excellent projects that:
- Bring new attention to or elevate key community assets and issues, voices of residents, local history, or cultural infrastructure.
- Inject new or additional energy, resources, activity, people, or enthusiasm into a place, community issue, or local economy.
- Envision new possibilities for a community or place – a new future, a new way of overcoming a challenge, or approaching problem-solving.
- Connect communities, people, places, and economic opportunity via physical spaces or new relationships.
The National Endowment for the Arts plans to support a variety of projects across the country in urban, rural, and tribal communities of all sizes.
Our Town projects must integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Projects may include activities such as:
- Artist residency: A program designed to strategically connect artists with the opportunity to bring their creative skill sets to non-arts institutions, including residencies in government offices, businesses, or other institutions.
- Arts festivals: Public events that gather people, often in public space or otherwise unexpected places, to showcase talent and exchange culture.
- Community co-creation of art: The process of engaging stakeholders to participate or collaborate alongside artists/designers in conceiving, designing, or fabricating a work or works of art.
- Performances: Presentations of a live art work (e.g., music, theater, dance, media).
- Public art: A work of art that is conceived for a particular place or community, with the intention of being broadly accessible, and often involving community members in the process of developing, selecting, or executing the work.
- Temporary public art: A work of art that is conceived for a particular place or community and meant for display over a finite period of time, with the intention of being broadly accessible and often involving community members in developing, selecting, or executing the work.
- Cultural planning: The process of identifying and leveraging a community’s cultural resources and decision-making (e.g., creating a cultural plan, or integrating plans and policies around arts and culture as part of a city master planning process).
- Cultural district planning: The process of convening stakeholders to identify a specific geography with unique potential for community and/or economic development based on cultural assets (e.g., through designation, branding, policy, plans, or other means).
- Creative asset mapping: The process of identifying the people, places, physical infrastructure, institutions, and customs that hold meaningful aesthetics, historical, and/or economic value that make a place unique.
- Public art planning: The process of developing community-wide strategies and/or policies that guide and support commissioning, installing, and maintaining works of public art and/or temporary public art.
- Artist/designer-facilitated community planning: Artists/designers leading or partnering in the creative processes of visioning, and for solutions to community issues.
- Design of artist space: Design processes to support the creation of dedicated spaces for artists to live and/or to produce, exhibit, or sell their work.
- Design of cultural facilities: Design processes to support the creation of a dedicated building or space for creating and/or showcasing arts and culture.
- Public space design: The process of designing elements of public infrastructure, or spaces where people congregate (e.g., parks, plazas, landscapes, neighborhoods, districts, infrastructure, and artist-produced elements of streetscapes).
Artist and Creative Industry Support:
- Creative business development: Programs or services that support entrepreneurs and businesses in the creative industries, or help cultivate strong infrastructure for establishing and developing creative businesses.
- Professional artist development: Programs or services that support artists professionally, such as through skill development or accessing markets and capital.
Please review the list of grants on the NEA’s website to see the types of projects that have been funded recently through Our Town. The online storybook ‘Exploring Our Town‘ has illustrative examples of Our Town grant projects and insights into doing creative placemaking for practitioners. You also may download our free publication How to Do Creative Placemaking, and look at additional creative placemaking resources on our website. Applications on projects resulting from Mayors Institute on City Design and Citizens Institute on Rural Design are encouraged.
Banner photo: “Ground Cover,” by Ann Morton.