OUR TOWN: Knowledge Building Projects - Grant Program Description

Our Town is the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program. Through project-based funding in this area of Our Town, we support projects that build and disseminate knowledge about how to leverage arts, culture, and design as mechanisms for strengthening communities. Ultimately, these projects are intended to introduce creative placemaking knowledge and strategies to national or regional professional networks with work that impacts 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). Projects should lay the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities.

Projects can be carried out by arts service or design service organizations, and/or other national or regional membership, policy, or university-based organizations that provide assistance to those doing local community development work. These projects require a partnership that will facilitate the exchange of creative placemaking and community development knowledge and practices between sectors.

In the first four years of funding this area of Our Town, we have invested in many partnership projects that facilitate the adoption of creative placemaking practices and strategies by artists, arts organizations, urban planners, rural economic planners, public park managers, local civic leaders, community development practitioners, and downtown managers. We encourage you to review the past grants here. In this fifth year of the program, we are interested in expanding the types of audiences targeted in projects. This may include, but is not limited to, additional types of cultural organizations and artists, public safety officials, Native American community development leaders, public health practitioners, transportation leaders, etc. We are especially interested in projects where the dissemination of creative placemaking strategies and tools ultimately empowers local residents.

Projects

These projects should introduce creative placemaking knowledge and strategies to national or regional professional networks across a variety of sectors with work that impacts local communities, and must reflect the following:

  • Involvement of the organization's membership, audience, or constituency, as appropriate.
  • Systemic approach to building knowledge about creative placemaking for the organization and broader field of community development.
  • Clearly defined participants and/or audience to receive assistance.
  • Partnerships that involve appropriate arts experts and/or experts from other sectors to provide the services included in the project.
  • Clearly defined systems that provide for the management of new ideas, documentation, the potential for learning, and sharing of curriculum and knowledge created.
  • Artistic excellence of the arts organizations or artists involved with the project.

Project Types

Projects may include a range of activities for member organizations and individuals to learn about creative placemaking strategies and approaches, including:

  • Mentorships.
  • Training opportunities and convenings, whether in-person or remote.
  • Technical assistance and capacity building for members.
  • Pilot programming.
  • Research, policy analysis, and decision support tools that help to build a creative placemaking knowledge base.
  • Other projects appropriate to the organization's internal system of learning.

Projects may focus on delivering assistance on a wide variety of creative placemaking topics such as those project types covered in 'Exploring Our Town', or under the Place-Based Projects area of Our Town. 

Required Partnerships

Applications must identify a partnership with either an organization or consultant, and one of the two partners must have creative placemaking expertise. For example, an art-based organization must have a community development knowledge consultant/organization/partner identified at the time of application, or a community development membership organization must have an arts-based knowledge consultant/organization/partner.

Additional partners are encouraged and may include an appropriate variety of entities such as colleges and universities, or individuals.

Arts service and design service organizations and other national or regional organizations that provide assistance to those doing local community development work are expected to involve their memberships and constituencies, as appropriate.

Strengthening Communities

Through Our Town projects, the National Endowment for the Arts intends to achieve the following objective: Strengthening Communities: Provide opportunities for the arts to be integrated into the fabric of community life. Knowledge Building Projects should equip local practitioners (such as artists, community development professionals, economic development professionals, etc.) with arts and cultural strategies that ultimately help to strengthen communities.

For resources on measuring and tracking impacts of strengthening communities, see here: https://www.arts.gov/exploring-our-town/project-process/measuring-project-results