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15 September 2011

ArtPlace: Putting Arts at the Center of Economic Development

ArtPlace: Putting Arts at the Center of Economic Development
A theatrical performance by San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts, one of 34 recipients of ArtPlace’s inaugural grants.

A public-private collaboration in the arts announced its first round of grants today. ArtPlace, a “creative placemaking” effort, is intended to drive revitalization in cities and towns across the United States through an innovative investment model that puts arts at the center of economic development. ArtPlace was established in March 2011 by the Ford Foundation and 10 other top foundations working with the National Endowment for the Arts and seven federal agencies. It will support projects where cultural groups collaborate with other community partners—private and public—to increase the vitality of neighborhoods and to help them grow.

Watts House Project The Watts House Project, based in Los Angeles, gathers community members for one of its redevelopment projects.

Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas is serving as chairman of the ArtPlace Presidents Council. ArtPlace grants are given through the combined support of Ford, along with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the James Irvine, John S. and James L. Knight, Kresge, McKnight, Andrew W. Mellon, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Robina foundations, and an anonymous donor. ArtPlace is also working in partnership with several federal agencies—the National Endowment for the Arts; the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation; and the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council—to ensure that grants align with high-priority federal investments and policy development.

In addition, ArtPlace is supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions: Bank of America, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley. The loan fund is managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

For its initial grants, ArtPlace invested $11.5 million in 34 locally initiated projects that are being carried out in cities and towns from Honolulu to New York. Each project represents an integrated approach to helping towns and cities thrive by leveraging the arts and culture with the existing assets of local communities and efforts to:

  • Revitalize neighborhoods
  • Stimulate job growth and economic development
  • Create new anchors for communities
  • Increase the appeal of transit corridors
  • Bring new economic opportunity to rural communities
  • Build brand for communities
  • Address urban challenges
  • Connect people and help them tell their stories
  • Provide artists’ housing and workspace for artists
  • Foster research
Wing Luke Museum The Seattle-based Wing Luke Museum’s skylight.

Some examples of initial ArtPlace grants include:

Artspace P.S. 109
New York, N.Y.
$1 million for the transformation of the magnificent but abandoned public school in East Harlem into 90 housing units for artists and 13,000 square feet of community space for arts-related nonprofits to promote a vision of El Barrio as a major Latino cultural capital.

Greater Milwaukee Committee
Milwaukee, Wisc.
$500,000 to create MiKE, an open design and innovation cluster, located at the Grand Avenue urban shopping center. MiKE will be built around a repurposed and revitalized infrastructure with three core elements: the Milwaukee Incubator and Accelerator (housing for-profit and not-for-profit design and technology-oriented groups); the Artists, Creatives and Entrepreneurial space (providing resources for design and art professionals, including workspace, pop-up shops and galleries); and the Milwaukee Open Design and Innovation Council (guiding the growth of Milwaukee’s design and innovation cluster).

Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, Calif.
$777,000 to redevelop, in partnership with real-estate developer Forest City, four downtown acres including the old San Francisco Chronicle Building, empty parking lots, and vacant warehouses. This collaborative effort is working to convert the properties into a profitable hive of digital-media businesses, social-entrepreneur offices, artist workshops, maker space, film and media companies, and cultural event space. Potential benefits include awakening entrepreneurial opportunities, decreasing crime by activating the streets and linking the low-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood to the surrounding downtown districts and its residents to new skills and economic opportunity.

Midtown Detroit Inc.
Detroit, Mich.
$900,000 for Midtown Detroit Inc. and its partners to create the Sugar Hill Arts District in a promising section of Woodward Avenue in the heart of the city. (Other projects in the Woodward Avenue corridor funded by ArtPlace include Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the business and arts incubator Fab Lab.) MDI is developing the vacant, historic Crossroads Church as the Sugar Hill Music Center, a space for performance, education and artist residencies.

Watts House Project
Los Angeles, Calif.
$370,000 for an artist-driven neighborhood redevelopment organization based opposite the historic Watts Towers, WHP has acquired three neglected houses and is re-creating them as The Platform, an office space, exhibition venue and visiting artist work site woven into the fabric of the area.

Wing Luke Museum
Seattle, Wash.
$100,000 for The Wing, in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, to develop a year-round cultural model for sustainable neighborhood revitalization, using arts and culture as a way to attract people (including “hometown strangers”) to the neighborhood. In one of Seattle’s poorest areas, it will act as an economic driver for district businesses and build positive associations with the neighborhood through a combination of tested and experimental programming.

ArtPlace expects to invest another $11 million to $12 million in its 2012 cycle. It made public the Letter of Inquiry for this cycle on Sept. 15, 2011, and is accepting submissions through Nov. 15, 2011.

More Information

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia..

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