The Long Game: Federal Funding

The Creative Change Coalition is a national coalition of place-based organizations that center people, creativity, and equity working together to create a stronger ecosystem for communities and artists. Learn more and join the Coalition.

Federal agencies are making historic investments to advance economic development, promote environmental justice and benefit communities that have been impacted by historic inequities and disinvestment. Achieving these ambitious goals requires robust partnerships between local governments and community organizations, ensuring their voices are heard and needs addressed. For all of us this will likely mean stretching outside of our typical networks and contacts. It is precisely those relationships and collaborative ways of working—whether supported through federally-funded projects or not—that will produce lasting results and ensure that those who are most impacted by these projects are represented in their design and implementation.

We know that working with artists—who are convenors, catalysts, and innovators within their communities—is a vital part of achieving transformative community health, environment, and infrastructure projects. We also know that even in policies that don’t specifically name artists or cultural work as part of their strategy, partnerships with artists and cultural organizations can help communities achieve goals related to community participation and process, design, narrative change, and information sharing. 

On May 8, 2024, the Creative Change Coalition hosted a virtual workshop to introduce the vast federal technical assistance system created to help communities navigate the federal grant system and implement effective projects. Featuring leaders from Springboard for the Arts, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National League of Cities, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Environmental Protection NetworkNational Endowment for the Arts, and Art-Train (a program of Springboard for the Arts), the workshop covered effective methods to tap into the creative potential of artists to successfully partner on federally-funded projects.

The presenters’ primary takeaway for staff of community organizations and municipal departments that don’t usually work with federal funding is that the provider’s first goal is to remove barriers to information and assistance, meaning your first step can be to contact any technical assistance provider and they will assist and connect you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a provider even if you feel uncertain about where to start—it’s their role to help you. 

View the webinar recording for more information and examples. Find your regional technical assistance provider via: 

Watch the full replay below, and continue on for additional resources and reading shared during the session. Or, scroll to find a specific section of the session. 

Stay up to date on future Creative Change Coalition events and resources by completing our Coalition Interest Form.

SECTION ONE: Welcome from the Creative Change Coalition and Springboard for the Arts

Laura Zabel, Springboard for the Arts

Creative Change Coalition Shared Resources:

    • Learn more about the Creative Change Coalition at
    • Complete the interest form to gain access to various Coalition activities and resources
    • Check out our national map of organizations that have self-identified as aligned with the Coalition’s core values 
    • Register for upcoming free, virtual Coalition events

The Creative Change Coalition is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts

SECTION TWO: Transportation & the Arts

Dr. Monica Guerra, U.S. Department of Transportation and Faith Hall, Federal Highway Administration

Dr. Monica Guerra & Faith Hall share an overview of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s commitment to equity and the power of community as outlined in the DOT’s Equity Action Plan… [as well as] examples of how this takes place at a local scale with communities that are actually receiving federal dollars.

“For the last few years there has been a concerted effort [within USDOT] to shift away from the way in which transportation planning has historically happened, which tended to focus more on the building of projects, whether they were big or small, and less on that process of cultivating meaningful public engagement.” -Dr. Monica Guerra

“There are some really good touch points with the arts community…sometimes the arts aren’t specifically named, but terms that we are using all the time refer to: place-making, context sensitive solutions and design, local history and culture, wanting to support the unique-ness of places, place-based decision-making…There are a couple of really resonant touch points both within transportation planning, like arts as a process for engaging people…and project-design.” -Faith Hall

Watch the video (presentation starts at 7:25 min):

Presentation slides:

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Shared Resources / Additional Reading: 

SECTION THREE: Engaging Artists

Jun-Li Wang, Art-Train / Springboard for the Arts and Michael Rohd, Art-Train / Co-Lab for Civic Imagination at University of Montana & Center for Performance and Civic Practice

Jun-Li Wang and Michael Rohd share opportunities and modalities for engaging artists and artist entry-points in municipal and civic projects. For a deeper dive into this topic, register for an upcoming Art-Train workshop.  

“Local artists are critical to engage in this work, particularly around rebalancing or looking at historic inequities and economic and environmental justice.” -Jun-Li Wang

“When you talk about art with someone whose daily life, whose work is not in the arts, they generally think of the things artists make: the performance…the gallery exhibit…the book. They don’t think about the process skills, the tools that artists have accumulated and developed over a lifetime of making…It turns out [these skills aren’t] only useful in a studio or rehearsal room. It’s useful when a parks department is trying to devise new ways to engage historically underrepresented residents in planning efforts. It’s useful when a public health department is bringing community stakeholders and county health officials together to address vaccine hesitancy and support difficult public dialogue. Local artists of many different disciplines, where you are, have process skills and experience that make them powerful contributors to the work of building healthy and equitable communities.  ” -Michael Rohd 

Watch the video (presentation starts at 18:11 min):

Presentation Slides from Art-Train:

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Shared Resources / Additional Reading: 

SECTION FOUR: Federal Support for Thriving Communities

Ayesha Mehrotra, National League of Cities

Ayesha Mehrotra shares an overview of the structure and opportunities available through the Thriving Communities Network (the interagency program to access Thriving Communities funding) as well as the National League of Cities’ role in supporting access to these opportunities. 

“While we work most directly with local government, none of this work can happen without building local partnerships. The project teams that we work with across all of our programs include local staff and leadership as well as community-based organizations. These are programs and opportunities available to community-based organizations, too…Even for programs … that are designed for municipalities, we always encourage partnership with community-based organizations, academic institutions, and other community partners.” -Ayesha Mehrotra

Watch the video (presentation starts at 30:28 min):

Presentation Slides:

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Shared Resources / Additional Reading: 

SECTION FIVE: Accessing Historic Federal Investments through Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) 

Rachelle Sanderson (she/her), Institute for Sustainable Communities

Rachelle Sanderson shares a deeper dive into the resources and opportunities available through Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) and the Institute for Sustainable Communities’ role within the Thriving Communities Network.

“We are in a moment where witnessing the humanity in ourselves and others is sometimes the difference between creating harm or developing community, and I think that connecting through arts are a really, really cool way to be able to find that humanity in other people.” -Rachelle Sanderson

Watch the video (presentation starts at 46:25 min):

Presentation Slides:

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Shared Resources / Additional Reading:

SECTION SIX: Overview of the Environmental Protection Network

Sierra Taliaferro, Environmental Protection Network

Sierra Taliaferro gives an overview of the Environmental Protection Network, particularly their pro bono capacity-building technical assistance program, which includes office hours, partner matching, and 1:1 support with subject matter experts within their network. 

Watch the video (presentation starts at 56:30 min):

Shared Resources / Additional Reading: 

SECTION SEVEN: National Endowment for the Arts

Katherine Bray-Simons, National Endowment for the Arts

Katherine Bray-Simons shares examples of the National Endowment for the Arts role as a national leader and convener around issues that are important to arts and culture communities, specifically the NEA’s role in elevating cross-sector opportunities for arts integration, honed under the leadership of NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson. 

“How do we as a nation better tap the unique ways that arts and culture help us address these big challenges? How do we make transportation investments reflect the needs of our community? How do we achieve the big goals of Justice 40 in that pursuit of environmental justice. As [Chair Jackson] likes to say, ‘How can we help expand an understanding of arts and culture as a key domestic policy asset in this country?” -Katherine Bray-Simons

Watch the video (presentation starts at 59:47 min):

Shared Resources / Additional Reading: 

SECTION EIGHT: Closing and Q&A

Watch the video (closing and Q&A starts at 1:09:25 min):

“[This] funding is locked in through a certain time period. At the end of the day, we [the Institute for Sustainable Communities] are going to keep serving the communities that we serve, which are mostly Black and Brown led organizations doing climate justice work…While it is really awesome to have this unprecedented amount of funding coming from federal government, we’re also not going to rely on them to be able to take care of community in the ways that community needs to be taken care of…It’s, unfortunately, not a super realistic expectation given what the past few years and maybe next few years could look like…It’s really thinking about what you can do on the ground to take care of your community, who you’ve got relationships and partnerships with, and how you just keep leaning into those.” -Rachelle Sanderson   

Questions from attendees that were addressed during the session:

  • If I am a small, neighborhood organization that works within a neighborhood identified on the EJ TCTAC map, but my organization has never received federal funding before. If I reached out to the National League of Cities, what can I expect out of that conversation?
  • Writing a grant is difficult, especially for immigrants and BIPOC communities. Is there support for grant writing?
  • Do you have to be a 501(c)3 org to access this funding?
  • What plans are in place for keeping these programs and funding going if Trump takes over and strips programming like last time? 
  • Are there plans to establish networks at the state level so that the burden doesn’t rest on federal agencies or initiatives that come and go? 
  • Are there initiatives to pair or bring together arts groups with local community groups?