National Endowment for the Arts announces partnership with Creative Exchange

Creative Placemaking
Before I jump into telling you about the stories, let me nerd-out a little bit and give you some background.  The NEA has a new(ish) program called Our Town which has been funding partnerships between local governments and creative  people to do what we call ‘creative placemaking’ projects.  We define ‘creative placemaking‘ as when cities and towns engage the arts and design to shape their social, physical, and economic characters.   We’ve been doing lots of activities along with Our Town to support creative placemaking in the U.S., including working with other federal agencies and helping to kickstart ArtPlace America – a private foundation effort to support creative placemaking.
Our Town
Since 2011, the NEA’s Our Town grant program has invested around $16 million in 191 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to do creative placemaking projects.  Our Town projects are often multi-year, large-scale initiatives and cover all different types of artistic and design activities – everything from dance companies activating their cities through movement to industrial design competitions for new street furniture. Our Town grants range from $25,000 to $250,000 and represent a range of rural, suburban, and urban communities with populations ranging from an Eskimo tribe of 238 (Teller, AK) to more than 8.2 million people (New York City). 
What’s been so awesome for us at the Endowment is the fact that Our Town projects have an incredible breadth of collaboration at the local level. Within the 59 projects granted in FY13, there are 439 different partners of which 147 are arts partners (including 33 local arts agencies and 6 state arts agencies). The other partners include aging services agencies, botanic gardens, religious institutions, and scientific organizations; local businesses, including banks and farms; business improvement districts, educational institutions; local, state, and federal government agencies; and land trusts.  That was in just one year!
Exploring Our Town
As we waded further and further into creative placemaking initiatives, everyone from around the country kept asking us how other communities were doing the work.  It became apparent that people really needed case studies – short, thorough, easy to understand and visual representations of what creative placemakers are doing across the country.   Hence, we decided to invest in an e-storybook of case studies that will be launched this fall on called Exploring Our Town.  It will have 70 case studies, lots of pictures and videos, and an analysis of what has been occurring in the projects with links to key technical assistance resources.
Sharing Stories
While we’re sure that Exploring Our Town will be  rich with good information, the reality of how people receive information today  encourages us to look beyond  our own website and to share with others. Hence, we’re thrilled that other outlets are interested in hosting the stories on their websites  before the digital architecture for Exploring Our Town is launched. Creative Exchange will publish stories for us as they are completed, and we’re so excited for you to see them and to give us feedback.  Please do feel free to email us at or tweet us at @NEAArts with any thoughts.  Happy reading and go be creative!