Two Tennessee organizations selected for NEAs’ 2015 Our Town Grants

Congratulations to Community L.I.F.T., Memphis and Metro Nashville Arts Commission who are among 69 Our Town projects selected nationwide

By Anne B. Pope, Executive Director – 

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 69 Our Town awards totaling almost $5 million through the Our Town program’s fifth year of funding. Two of those 69 are being awarded in Tennessee. The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year and will make grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful and resilient places with the arts at their core. Since the program’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 325 Our Town grants totaling almost $26 million in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Community L.I.F.T., partnering with Memphis & Shelby County Office of Sustainability received a grant for $75,000. The funds will support training for emerging musicians, programming for artist residencies and a community-led design process in the Soulsville neighborhood. Local residents, businesses, students and institutions will come together to re-imagine a vacant property as a creative community space. The Slim House Studio will host training, apprenticeship programs, and residencies for emerging musicians, performers and visual artists. Community L.I.F.T., Memphis-Shelby County and the Soulsville Neighborhood Association will collaborate to lead the community engagement process and oversee artist training and programming. Soulsville is home to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and is a low income neighborhood that is 94% African American.

The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission in partnership with Lipscomb University, Nashville, also received $75,000 that will support the THRIVE Learning Lab. The Lab will be taught by experienced public artists and placemakers and will introduce 20 participants (two groups of ten) to best practices in community-based, creative placemaking techniques. Selected graduates from the Lab will be chosen via jury to complete temporary placemaking and public art projects in select Nashville neighborhoods previously identified as targets for cultural investment. The project is a partnership between Metro Nashville Arts Commission and Lipscomb University’s Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership, a program specifically dedicated to offering non-degree citizen education and action opportunities that expand citizen involvement and leadership.

“Community L.I.F.T and Metro Nashville Arts Commission demonstrate the best in creative community development and whose work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”

“The Tennessee Arts Commission is so pleased that the NEA has recognized these well-deserving organizations,” says Anne Pope, Tennessee Arts Commission Executive Director. “We congratulate them in their accomplishments in moving Tennessee communities forward through the arts.”

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA website. Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and resources are available as well. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.