OUR TOWN: Application Review

Review Criteria

Applications are reviewed on the basis of the following criteria:

The artistic excellence of the project, which includes the following:

  • Quality of the artists, culture bearers, design professionals, organizations, works of art, activities, artistic process, and/or services that the project will involve; and their relevance to the community in which the project takes place.
  • Potential of the project to center artists, culture bearers, and designers in the proposed project activities, and ultimately to center them in long-term systems change work.

The artistic merit of the project, which includes the following:

  • Potential of the project activities to advance local economic, physical, or social outcomes desired by the community.
  • Evidence of deep and authentic community engagement in planning for and participating in the project.
  • Potential for the project activities to support artful lives or to ultimately lay the groundwork for systems changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities over the long term. (Systems changes can include, for example: establishment of new and sustained cross-sector partnerships; shifts in institutional structure, practices or policies; replication or scaling of innovative project models; or establishment of training programs). 
  • Strength and depth of the proposed partnership between the required local leadership and nonprofit partners, as well as engagement across other sectors.
  • Potential to serve and/or reach individuals or communities whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, race or ethnicity, economics, or disability, as applicable.
  • Appropriateness of the proposed performance measurements and their ability to demonstrate that project activities are advancing local physical, economic, or social outcomes, including, as appropriate, plans for documentation and evaluation of the overall project results and plans to engage project participants in these efforts.
  • Ability to carry out the project based on factors such as the appropriateness of the budget, the quality and clarity of the project goals and design, the resources involved, and the qualifications of the project’s personnel.

NOTE: We fund arts, culture, and design projects, and make grants only for specific, definable activities. Your application may be rejected if it does not sufficiently describe the project activities.

If more than one application is submitted from a single applicant, local government, or within the same geographic area, the capacity of the applicant organization, local government, or geographic area to carry out and sustain multiple Our Town projects will be considered in the review of applications.

What Happens to Your Application

All applications are reviewed according to the review criteria by an advisory panel comprised 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 Chair of the NEA. The Chair reviews the Council’s recommendations and makes the final decision on all grant awards. Pending the availability of funding, it is anticipated that applicants will be notified of award or rejection in April 2024.

Risk Assessment: All recommended applications undergo a review to evaluate risk posed by the applicant prior to making a federal award. This may include past performance on grants, meeting reporting deadlines, compliance with terms and conditions, audit findings, etc.