Hey, Arts Groups Looking to Get in on Creative Placemaking: Read This Post!

We've theorized that "creative placemaking" could represent the future of arts funding. Leading the way is ArtPlace America, with a recent round of funding spread across 31 states that suggests there's no reason to think otherwise.

But before we dive into the funding itself and what it means for arts nonprofits, let's first take a brief look at the concept of creative placemaking." As we noted in a recent piece looking at this very topic, creative placemaking is "localism in action." It's local arts nonprofits working in their local communities to transform an area, catalyze community engagement, and bring people together by creating a destination. For example: Fermentation Fest, a project to stimulate collaborations between artists and the farming community in Sauk County, WI.

And there's no bigger proponent of creative placemaking than ArtPlace America. Including this year's grants, ArtPlace has invested a total of $56.8 million in 189 creative placemaking projects in 122 communities across 42 states and the District of Columbia since 2012.

Better yet, ArtPlace America has convinced other foundations that creative placemaking is the wave of the future; as we noted in the aforementioned IP article, ArtPlace America announced it secured close to $28 million in funding to support creative placemaking from 14 foundations like Knight and the Kresge, as well as its newest partner, the Barr Foundation in Boston. In other words, philanthropy's heaviest hitters have signed on and they remained committed to ArtPlace America's innovative approach.

Analysis of ArtPlace America's new round of funding, $14.7 million across 31 states, reveals some emerging trends around their decision-making process that should intrigue nonprofits doing interesting things in their communities. For example, the composition of grant recipients is increasingly rural; 31 percent of grants will go to "projects working in rural communities," up from 17 percent last year. Furthermore, while this year's projects generally focus on design, literary arts, and performing arts, new mediums are in the mix. For example, for the first time ever, ArtPlace awarded a grant to a "media arts-focused project."

As for the projects themselves, many focused on "improving physical environments through recycling, green initiatives, and site remediation, as well as a number of projects aimed at disaster recovery and resiliency." Lastly, ArtPlace has also increased its investments in projects that "collect a series of local interventions under a regional strategy, an approach that has emerged in both rural and urban settings."

The catch? With heightened awareness comes heightened competition. ArtPlace received 1,270 letters of inquiry; the 55 grants represent a mere four percent of total applicants.