Atlanta groups receive $420,000 in ‘creative placemaking’ grants

Atlanta, get ready for some serious creative placemaking.

Don’t know what that is? You’re probably in good company.

But matters should quickly get clearer, after last week’s announcements that the metro area has received five creative placemaking grants — three from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town program and two from ArtPlace America — totaling $420,000.

So what is this lava-hot yet still-evolving trend in arts grantmaking?

The NEA refers to it as a community development practice in which “artists, designers, arts organizations and local leaders collaborate on innovative projects that help build stronger communities and improve the quality of life for residents.”

And ArtPlace America — a 10-year collaboration among a group of foundations, federal agencies and financial institutions that has made grants since 2011 — defines creative placemaking as the use of the arts to “shape the social, physical and economic futures of communities.”

The website Inside Philanthropy, which tracks giving trends, added that creative placemaking is enjoying success because its “approach epitomizes ‘localism in action.’”

While some of the Atlanta grants will fund specific programming, others support projects that are less measurable. Here’s a rundown:

ArtPlace America grants

Horizon Theatre Company: The 31-year-old Little Five Points troupe received a $170,000 gift to stage a nine-month series of outdoor performances and visual arts installations on the intown neighborhood’s sidewalks and plazas, in partnership with the Little Five Points Community Improvement District.

Selected from a pool of nearly 1,300 applicants, the Little Five Points Arts Alive Program will unfold from April through December 2016, shining a light on the diverse artistic work of neighborhood artists and organizations. Some of it will include audience interaction or co-creation.

“We will focus on art that connects or celebrates our community, inspires hope and positive change and is accessible to diverse audiences,” said Horizon co-artistic/producing director Lisa Adler, a Little Five Points CID board member. “Our goal is to bring positive artistic energy to the area that can draw pedestrian traffic and create a welcoming, attractive, engaging, walkable arts destination in which arts, entertainment, dining and shopping thrive.”

Soul Food Cypher: Founded with the mission of using hip-hop’s freestyle lyricism to transform lives and communities, Soul Food Cypher has received a $50,000 grant to present a series of cultural events in the evolving Old Fourth Ward intown neighborhood.

“With the rapidly changing demographics of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward — historically an African-American community — new relationships are forming, identities being developed and the resilience of the community is being tested,” according to a grant announcement on Soul Food Cypher’s website. A series of pop-up cypher events “will spark social interactions, using the arts and shared neighborhood spaces as a cultural bridge.”

NEA Our Town grants

City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs: With this $50,000 grant, Atlanta’s cultural office will partner with the Atlanta Beltline and the Metropolitan Public Art Coalition on the Beltline's Arts and Culture Strategic Implementation Plan, out of which cultural facilities and programs will be developed.

Camille Russell Love, Office of Cultural Affairs executive director, said, “The facilities, partnerships and programs developed as a result of the implementation plan will add to the Atlanta Beltline’s identity as a creative place, improving the quality of life for citizens throughout the region and driving continued economic development through the arts.”

WonderRoot: The social change-oriented Reynoldstown arts and service nonprofit was awarded a $50,000 grant to support “En Route,” a public art project at several MARTA stations.

In this partnership with the Fulton County Arts Council, artists will be selected to design and execute works that provide “a platform for community dialogue on access, mobility and public transportation,” according to the NEA. While intended to beautify the stations, the art will be juried by the partners and MARTA to ensure that they are “responsive” to the host communities.

Alternate Roots: This Atlanta-based regional arts service organization has secured a $100,000 “knowledge-building” grant, one of five in this new category.

Alternate Roots will “identify, document, compile and disseminate best practices of creative placemaking in the South,” according to the NEA. As part of the project, it will organize local and regional gatherings “of social practice artists, community organizers, social justice organizations and other key leaders that are working to improve livability in their communities and instill a sense of pride in place.”

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