OUR TOWN: Program Description
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is proud to support the nation’s arts sector with grant opportunities so that together we can help everyone live more artful lives. “Artful lives” is an inclusive concept that holds everything from the creation, presentation, and consumption of professional arts to active arts engagement by all people in our daily experiences through making, teaching, learning, and advancing a broad range of art forms that express our nation’s rich and diverse cultural tapestry. The arts contribute to our individual well-being, the well-being of our communities, and to our local economies. As we emerge from the pandemic and plan for the future, the arts are also crucial to helping us make sense of our circumstances from different perspectives.
Arts, culture, and design are essential to building strong communities where all people can thrive. Through Our Town, the NEA is proud to support creative placemaking projects that integrate arts, culture, and design into local efforts that strengthen communities over the long-term. The program demonstrates the ways in which artists, culture bearers, and designers can help to:
- Bring new attention to or elevate key community assets and issues, voices of residents, local history, or civic infrastructure;
- Inject new or additional energy, resources, activity, people, or enthusiasm into a place, community issue, or local economy;
- Envision new possibilities for a community or place—a new future, a way of approaching a new opportunity, overcoming a challenge, or problem-solving;
- Connect communities, people, places, and economic opportunity through physical spaces or new partnerships and relationships; or
- Honor traditions shaped by the lived experience of a community’s residents, such as music, dance, design, crafts, fashion, cuisine, and oral expression.
Our Town projects engage a wide range of local stakeholders in efforts to advance local economic, physical, or social outcomes in communities. Competitive projects are responsive to unique local conditions, authentically engage communities, advance artful lives, and lay the groundwork for long-term systems change. (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).
The program requires applicants to demonstrate committed leadership from the local level and evidence of a diverse group of local stakeholders engaged in the proposed project. Applicants must demonstrate a required partnership in order to be eligible to apply for funding.
We welcome applications from a variety of eligible organizations, including first-time applicants; from organizations serving communities of all sizes, including rural, urban, and tribal communities; and from organizations with small, medium, or large operating budgets. The Our Town program funds projects that aim to strengthen communities, and activities may engage any artistic discipline(s).
Grants range from $25,000 to $150,000, with a minimum nonfederal cost share/match equal to the grant amount.
Our Town projects must demonstrate a specific role for arts, culture, and design as part of strategies for strengthening local communities, ultimately centering equity and laying the groundwork for long-term systems change tailored to community needs and opportunities.
Our Town projects are intended to be catalytic. Projects may support new activities, or new phases of a previously funded or ongoing project, as well as establish new or deepen existing cross-sector partnerships. Projects may work to advance a specific local economic, physical, or social change. Or, a project may aim to address systems change directly.
Projects may include activities such as:
- Artist residencies; arts festivals; community co-creation of art; performances; and public art. These activities may honor traditions and customs shaped by the lived experiences of a community’s residents.
- Cultural planning; cultural district planning; creative asset mapping; and public art planning.
- Artist/designer-facilitated community planning; design of artist spaces; design of cultural facilities; and public space design.
- Creative business development and professional artist development.
For more information, review the list of recently funded Our Town grants.
Competitive projects will:
- Demonstrate a specific role for the arts, culture, and design to strengthen the local community.
- Pilot new arts, culture, and design activities that are led by a diverse range of local partners.
- Establish new or deepen existing cross-sector partnerships.
- Advance inclusive community engagement and community-desired outcomes for a place.
- Lay the groundwork for long-term systems change that sustains the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities over the long term.
- Demonstrate alignment with the NEA’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
For Fiscal Year 2024, we are particularly interested in arts, culture, or design projects that address health or well-being, transportation or infrastructure, or climate-related challenges within a community. View past Our Town projects that address these fields.
Our Town requires committed, collaborative partnerships to ensure expertise can be brought to bear on the project, community engagement with stakeholders is strong, and policy barriers are minimized to sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into approaches to strengthen community over the long-term.
All applications are submitted by one organization and must demonstrate a partnership that will provide leadership for the project. See the “Eligibility” section of these guidelines for more details.
We recognize that systems change work takes time. To ensure Our Town funded projects are as successful as possible in all communities, we offer additional assistance beyond grant funds. The Our Town Creative Placemaking Technical Assistance (CPTA) program supports grantees in a variety of ways including learning communities, one-on-one coaching, peer-based learning, webinars, training sessions, toolkit resources, and many other offerings. As part of this program, Our Town grantees may be required to participate in the technical assistance program at no cost to the grantee while executing their projects at the local level.