Arts & Culture

Community arts projects vie for grant

Two Providence-based finalists could receive up to $500,000 to fund city art initiatives

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Three Squares and Inhabit, two Providence-based projects, are finalists for ArtPlace America’s Creative Placemaking grants, according  to a Department of Art, Culture and Tourism press release. The organization received 1,270 applications for the grant from around the country, out of which only 97 finalists were chosen. Among those, 40 to 50 will receive grants of up to $500,000 this May, said Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America. 

Bennett said the foundation seeks to invest in art as a strategy to help transform communities. The foundation looks to invest in projects that work with local artists to shape social, physical and economic futures of neighborhoods, he added.

Three Squares is a project conceived by the city’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism and involves initiatives that will instigate economic development, use cultural assets and engage the community, said Lynne McCormack, director of the department. The creative arts projects will be centered around transit hubs in Columbus Square, Olneyville Square and Trinity Square, involving developments like mobile art trucks led by artists from national community youth art organizations. McCormack noted that the three areas are in need of further arts investment. Core partners of the project include Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative, New Urban Arts, AS220 and Community MusicWorks.

McCormack said the proposal for the grant was created last November — the department requested $500,000 worth of funding.

“I think this grant will really help us spread the idea of a creative capital into our neighborhoods in a much more deep way,” she said.

McCormack  said students will play a large role in the projected laid out by Three Squares. “I would see students involved in the planning and implementation of the work if they live in those neighborhoods. They would have the opportunity to participate as artists as well,” she said.

McCormack said if Three Squares does not receive the grant, the initiatives planned in the proposal will probably not come to fruition due to funding limitations. But ongoing, smaller undertakings will still occur in the three specified areas, she added.

Inhabit was created by Community MusicWorks, a non-profit organization founded by Sebastian Ruth ’97 in 1997, that allows professional musicians to teach music to residents of urban communities in Providence. The project will work to renovate storefront spaces that house MusicWorks musicians in low-income communities by forming partnerships with non-profit housing development groups, according to their website.

If both Three Squares and Community MusicWorks receive grants, both proposals would combine their initiatives, McCormack said.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk about how we would dovetail the project, but I do believe that would happen if we were both funded,” she added.

Bennett said there is no limit to the number of grants awarded to organizations in a particular location, so Inhabit and Three Squares will not compete with each other directly.

“All 97 projects are essentially in competition with each other,” he said.

“One of the things we look for in projects is how they tie into a community’s overall investment,” he said. “We’re really looking for projects that are additive (and) help bring strength to activities that are already happening.”

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