OUR TOWN: Frequently Asked Questions for Knowledge Building Projects

These are expired guidelines. New guidelines will be posted in May, 2019.

Basics | Review Process | Other National Endowment for the Arts Grants | Budget and Matching Funds | Eligible Partners | Other


Q: What is "creative placemaking?"
A: Creative placemaking is when the arts, culture, and design integrate into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Creative placemaking ultimately lays the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities. Brief descriptions of past funded Knowledge Building projects are available here.

Q: Could you tell us about the future of the Our Town initiative? 
A: It is our hope that Our Town will continue as an annual program, but as with all federal programs it is subject to funding availability.

Q: What is the success rate for applicants?
A: Based on numbers from previous years, Our Town applications have a success rate of roughly 25%.

Q: If we received an Our Town grant last year, can we apply again this year?
A: Yes, you may apply to the Our Town category for FY 2019 for a distinctly different projector a distinctly different phase of the project, from that which was funded.

Q: How long can my grant period be?
A: Your grant period may be up to two years in length, and may start on July 1, 2019, or any time thereafter. If your project is part of a multi-year initiative, you may describe the broader vision but your application, including the budget, should reflect only the activities or phases of work that will occur within the grant period. 

Q: How do I know whether to apply to the Knowledge Building or Place-Based program areas of Our Town?
A: Please review guidelines and eligibility requirements carefully to ensure you apply to the correct area. The Knowledge Building program area is intended for projects that introduce creative placemaking knowledge and strategies to professionals that work in local communities across a variety of sectors (such as arts and culture, agriculture and food, economic development, education and youth, environment and energy, health, housing, public safety, transportation, and workforce development). Eligibility requirements include partnership between a community development partner and an arts/culture/design partner, and an existing and clearly defined system for managing and sharing knowledge across a widely dispersed audience of professionals. The Place-Based program area is intended for the planning and/or implementation of place-based projects. Eligibility requirements include partnership between a 501c3 nonprofit and a local government, and a commitment to the project from the local government.

Q: Can an organization apply as a lead applicant for both the Knowledge Building and Place-Based areas?
A: Yes. However, note that an organization is limited to submitting as a lead applicant up to two applications total to Our Town across both areas.


Q: How will the projects be evaluated?
A: Congress specified in our authorizing legislation that "artistic excellence and artistic merit" are the criteria by which all applications must be evaluated. For more detailed information about how artistic excellence and artistic merit apply to Our Town projects, see the Knowledge Building "Review Criteria" in the guidelines.

Q. How can I demonstrate artistic excellence for my proposed project?
A. Artistic excellence is evaluated based on the material and work samples submitted with the application. This includes a description of the process and criteria for the selection of artists, design professionals, arts organizations, works of art, or services to ensure artistic excellence; and work samples of selected or proposed artists, design professionals, arts organizations, works of art, or services that demonstrate artistic excellence. For more discussion on how to demonstrate artistic excellence, view our "Tips & Tricks for Success" webinar.

Q: Who reviews and selects grantees?
A: All applications will be reviewed according to the review criteria of artistic excellence and artistic merit by an advisory panel composed of qualified peer experts, including at least one knowledgeable layperson, representing a range of multidisciplinary art, design, and economic and community development fields. Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Chairman reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards. A list of past Our Town panelists is available on the website (see the Design discipline).

Q: Can staff help me with my application? 
A: Members of Design staff are available to answer specific questions about the application materials and forms. However, we do not review full proposals or provide edits to text or budgets in advance of the application deadline. Please e-mail with any questions.

Q: Can I request panel comments or feedback after my project has been reviewed?
A: Yes. After notification of whether you've received a grant or not, you may contact to schedule a telephone conversation to receive a summary of panel comments. In such instances, you must contact us no later than 30 days after the official notification.


Q: Is a project eligible to receive funding from both the Our Town and Art Works categories?
A: Yes. You may apply to other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities, including Art Worksin addition to Our Town. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project or a distinctly different phase of the same project, with a different period of performance and costs.

Q: If a project has been recommended for a Challenge America grant, may the same project be submitted for additional funding to Our Town or Art Works?
A: You may apply to Our Town or Art Works for a project already receiving a Challenge America grant, as long as you apply for a distinctly different phase of the project, with a different period of performance and costs.


Q: Do all matching funds need to be committed in advance of the submission deadline?
A: No, but we ask you to designate on the budget form funding that is committed versus funding that is being proposed or sought. Designate committed funding with a (*) after the source.

Q: Can funds raised prior to the project be used as part of the match?
A: Yes. However, matching funds must be spent on eligible activities included as part of the proposed project, during the proposed period of performance.

Q: Can matching funds be in-kind?
A: Yes. No formula exists for how much of the required match can be in-kind. However, reviewers tend to look very carefully at any project with a budget that shows a match that is largely in-kind; generally some cash match is preferred. In all cases, matching funds are evaluated in the context of the project. Remember, if you use in-kind contributions as part of your match, you need to maintain proper documentation. For help in doing this, see our sample format for recording in-kind (third party) contributions.

Q: Can federal funds such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) or Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding count toward the match?
A: No. Even though these funds may come through your state, the original source is federal. No matching funds can be from federal sources and these should not appear in your Our Town project budget as either income or expenses. 

Q: Can community infrastructure costs be considered part of the match for something like a streetscape project?
A: Costs that pertain strictly to preparing a site specifically for the art or design work, such as slabs or pedestals, landscaping that's necessary for the art work or landscaping that is the art work (e.g., a mosaic tiled walkway with landscaping that is required for the work) are allowable. Installation of street lighting or wayfinding signage are not allowed. Costs to prepare the street, including purchase of property, building appropriate access, infrastructure, etc., are not allowable and can’t be used for match. 

Q: Are artists' or consultants’ fees eligible expenses?
A: Yes. Fees for individuals involved in the project are eligible, such as fees for artists, performers, designers, architects, facilitators, or other consultants. All fees must be incurred during the period of support.

Q: Is rent for space for an event an eligible expense?
A. Yes, but not for a party or reception.

Q: Can overhead be funded?
A. You may claim administrative costs or overhead as direct costs under "3. Other expenses" on the Project Budget form. (This assumes that there is a basis for justifying the costs as direct costs.) You also may use a federally negotiated indirect cost rate to account for overhead.

Q: Can salaries for administration or additional fundraising be funded?
A: Salaries, contract fees, and stipends for administration and project management are allowed, as well as fund raising specifically for the approved project. 

Q: Does sharing the funding between the two required partners count as subgranting or regranting?
A: No. Subgranting is defined as regranting funds to an individual or organization for activities that are conducted independently of your organization and for the benefit of the subgrantee's own program objectives.

Q: Does anything need to be done to formalize the financial relationship between the two required partners?
A; When a grantee partners with another organization that will directly support project costs tied to the federal award, the grantee must ensure a contractual agreement is in place that outlines the relationship and responsibilities of each partner. In addition, the partner’s accounts and documentation will be subject to review if audited by the NEA or the grantee’s own auditors.


Q: Can an individual or private business serve as a partner?
A: Yes. Partnerships for Knowledge Building must involve at least two primary partners as defined by these guidelines: An art-based membership organization must have a place-based knowledge consultant/organization/partner identified at the time of application, or a place-based membership organization must have an arts-based knowledge consultant/organization/partner. One of these partners must be a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and must serve as the lead applicant.


Q. Can federally recognized tribes apply?
A. Yes. In keeping with federal policies of Tribal Self Governance and Self-Determination, we may provide support for a project with a primary audience restricted to enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe. Applicants (federally recognized tribal governments, nonprofits situated on federally recognized tribal lands, or other nonprofits whose mission primarily serves federally recognized tribal enrollees) should consult with our staff to verify their eligibility before preparing an application.

Q. Can non-federally recognized tribes apply?
A. Yes, as long as the applicant is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organization. Projects for non-federally recognized tribes and indigenous groups may be supported, but project participation can’t be restricted to only tribal members.

Q. Can Native Hawaiian groups apply?
A. Yes, as long as the applicant is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3), U.S. organization. Projects for Native Hawaiians may be supported, but project participation can’t be restricted to only Native Hawaiians.