A! Magazine for the Arts

Community Arts projects thrive with Creative Placemaking Grants

April 12, 2016

Creative Placemaking is an opportunity to animate public and private spaces and rejuvenate structures and streetscapes through the arts. It can be a catalyst for bringing communities together to experience a variety of artistic disciplines for positive economic and community outcomes.

Last year, the Tennessee Arts Commission awarded 12 Creative Placemaking grants for projects proposed to enhance a community's unique assets, improve livability and strengthen economic growth. Projects included repurposing historic buildings, brightening a neighborhood with meaningful murals and the production of a summer night concert series.

Playback Memphis' Performing the Peace Initiative received a Creative Placemaking award of $7,990 in FY 2016. The initiative is a tool for dismantling social and emotional barriers between communities and law enforcement. Recently it partnered with the Memphis Police Department and Mid-South non-profit LifeLine to Success, an organization that helps ex-offenders reestablish their lives after their release.

Beginning last September, the officers and ex-offenders were trained in the methods of Playback Theatre, an improvisational form of theater where group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. The result was greater understanding and empathy on both sides, as well as finding common ground in each others stories.

Another awarded project demonstrates how to build on an existing arts experience. In 2014, the Scopes Festival partnered with the Cumberland County Playhouse to produce Front Page News, a play about the world-famous Scopes Trial. Last year, the playhouse crew developed a series of photo images to project on the Rhea County courthouse wall to enhance the audience's understanding of the setting and personalities of the Trial.

The images sparked an idea to develop a 15-20 minute video incorporating scenes from the play and archival images that would be available to show either in the courtroom or in the Scopes Trial museum year-round. The crew is using their Creative Placemaking grant to develop the video script and research equipment needs. A portion of the project will be showcased at this summer's festival.

Applications for FY17 Creative Placemaking Grants are being accepted. The submissions deadline is midnight (CST), Monday, May 2, 2016.

The Commission expects to provide five to ten awards ranging from $5,000 to $8,000 for projects that occur in one place. Applications that involve partnerships of two or more towns, cities and/or counties can request up to $10,000. At least two awards will be made to eligible rural applicants. A total of $50,000 in grants will be awarded for FY2017. Projects must take place between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

Grant applications are now available online. Contact Hal Partlow, associate director of grants at hal.partlow@tn.gov or visit the website for more information