OUR TOWN: Review Criteria

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, arts or design professionals, arts organizations, works of art, or services that the project will involve, as appropriate for the community in which the project takes place. 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. See "Submit Materials to the Applicant Portal (PDF)" for the material and work samples that are required to ensure and demonstrate artistic excellence.

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

  • Potential to advance local economic, physical, and social outcomes by:

    • Bringing new attention to or elevating key community assets and issues, voices of residents, local history, or cultural infrastructure,
    • Injecting new or additional energy, resources, activity, people, or enthusiasm into a place, community issue, or local economy,
    • Envisioning new possibilities for a community or place - a new future, a new way of overcoming a challenge, or approaching problem-solving, or
    • Connecting communities, people, places, and economic opportunity via physical spaces or new relationships.
  • Potential to ultimately lay the groundwork for systemic changes that sustain the integration of arts, culture, and design into strategies for strengthening communities by engaging partners from other sectors (such as agriculture and food, economic development, education and youth, environment and energy, health, housing, public safety, transportation, and workforce development). Systemic changes can include, for example: establishment of new and lasting cross-sector partnerships; shifts in institutional structure, practices or policies; replication or scaling of innovative project models; establishment of training programs; or dissemination of informational resources to support the creative placemaking field. 
  • Potential to support artists, design professionals, and arts organizations by integrating the arts and design into the fabric of civic life.
  • Level of community engagement in planning for and participating in the project.
  • Strength of the partnership between required local and nonprofit partners, as well as engagement of the private and public sectors.
  • Where appropriate, potential to reach underserved populations such as those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited.
  • Ability to carry out the project based on such factors 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.
  • Appropriateness of the project to the partners' missions and the community in which the project will take place.
  • Appropriateness of the proposed performance measurements and their ability to demonstrate that project activities are advancing local physical, economic, and/or social outcomes, including, as appropriate, plans for documentation and evaluation of the overall project results.

NOTE: We fund arts engagement, cultural planning, design, and artist and creative industry support 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 lead applicant, local government, or within the same geographic area, the capacity of the lead applicant, 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 Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Chairman 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 2021.

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.