Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Getting an NEA Our Town grant is hard. Some tips to make it easier.

By Andrea Orlando, MSJ
Communications Manager, National Consortium for Creative Placemaking

Proposals for the NEA Our Town grant program ( are due August 9.  Only 25% of applicants get this grant.  

Here are some tips from an NEA senior staff member and some ideas on how The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking can help you.  NCCP's work has been supported five times through the Our Town program.

A successful grant proposal is as much about recognizing the unique assets of a place as it is about creating something entirely new, said the NEA's Katherine Bray-Simons at the Northeast Corridor Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit in May. 

Katherine Bray-Simons of the NEA conducting a workshop at the CPL Summit
Photo by Justin Jajalla

The NEA is looking to fund projects that leverage “undervalued” or “under-recognized” or “under-tapped” assets, Bray-Simons told the group. Those assets could include a unique local history, architecture or new civic energy around a special opportunity.  
The NEA distributes the funds to rural and remote areas as well as urban centers. Notable examples of Our Town grant recipient locations are Wilson, North Carolina, which received funding to restore whirligigs, vernacular art created by WWII veteran Vollis Simpson. The whirligigs are kinetic sculptures made from mechanical spare parts. A public-private partnership employed conservators to restore the aging structures and installed them in a local park. Bray-Simons said the most “poetic” aspect of the project was that locals who had once worked in a now-closed machine shop received training in conservation and are now conservators themselves. 
Vollis Simpson whirligig

Our town grants can range from $25,000 to $100,000. Bray-Simons encouraged the group to look for cross-sector partnerships and be “imaginative” about who those partners may be. The program requires at least one of the partners to be a 501 c3 nonprofit. The program also requires a letter of endorsement from a local official, either from the municipality or the county where the proposed project is located, or from a federally recognized Native American tribe. 

“We’re looking for a player who sets policy and has decision-making power in identifying and carrying out that policy,” Bray-Simons said. 

Clarify the community development goals of the project and justify its timing. “Why is now an important time for intervention?” Bray-Simons asked. 

NCCP has been in several projects supported by Our Town grants. They are creative placemaking plans for Long Beach Island and Perth Amboy (both in New Jersey), the Livable Neighborhoods Program of the Municipal Art Society of New York City, the New Jersey Creative Placemakers program, and the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits.

Working on the Perth Amboy Plan
Photo by Noelle Zaleski
     While we can't promise to get you a grant (and we will NOT lobby the NEA on anyone's behalf), we can help you think about better ways to connect arts and culture to community and economic development issues.  If you put NCCP in your proposal ($5,000 minimum from the grant), we'll help you free.  If not, we'll ask you for a modest amount to cover our costs. For more information, please contact NCCP Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez by email or at 973-763-6352, x1

The NEA website now includes a resource page for people interested in learning more about the program. 


Friday, April 20, 2018

Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits Send Ripples Across the Southeast and Southwest


Photo by Sooraj Shajahan

By Andrea Orlando, MSJ

Communications Manager, NCCP

A small city in Colorado may get solar panel murals for their planned live/work spaces for artists. Prison inmates in Georgia may have their art displayed throughout the community. A small-town art center in Alabama will reach out to the local young people to ask what would entice them to remain in the area after college graduation.
    These are just a few of the ripple effects of regional creative placemaking leadership summits produced by the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking.  
    “The summit has changed not only my life and my outlook, but it’s going to make huge changes in our community for a very long time,” said Elizabeth Welch, Executive Director of the Okefenokee Heritage Center in Waycross, GA.  Welch attended the Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit in Chattanooga, TN in March, the first in a series of five regional summits planned for 2018.   
     For Marilyn Leuszler, chairperson of a creative district in a Colorado town, the CPL Summit in Denver last month affirmed and inspired. 
     “There were so many passionate leaders who presented, and it was easy to see why their various programs and projects are successful, Leuzler wrote. Leuszler’s creative district, called Coraz√≥n de Trinidad, is part of a Colorado municipality with a population of fewer than 10,000 people.  “The resonating theme was that the best and most successful ideas are based on each individual community. There were no cookie-cutter plans for making your community better.”
     More than 500 artists, arts administrators, planners, architects and designers have attended regional creative placemaking leadership summits hosted by the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking in partnership with ArtPlace America. And those events are inspiring just the right people, the achievers who were already making their communities better through arts and cultural programming. More than 90 percent of summit attendees who took a post-summit survey either agreed or strongly agreed that what they learned at the convening was useful to their work.  
     Leuszler attended the
Photo by Andrea Orlando
Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver 
summit in Denver in April. The workshop on combining solar energy and art impressed her so much she is now gathering information on incorporating solar power into plans to develop affordable live/work spaces for the creative community. “I would not have known of this combination of art and solar had I not attended the Creative Placemaking Summit in Denver,” she wrote. 
     Leuszler is hoping to solve another community challenge with an idea from the summit. Her organization had been planning to plant grass seed to keep the wind from blowing dirt from the site of three buildings slated for demolition. After a workshop led by a presenter from Pheonix, she decided to plant native wildflowers and install benches and sources of shade as well as a maze of pathways to run through a colorful garden.   
     Sulynn Creswell, Executive Director of Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center in Camden, AL, said she had been grappling with the question of how to inject youthful energy and creativity into her paper mill town of approximately 2,500, a town she described as being in one of the poorest regions of Alabama.  She had her aha moment at the Chattanooga summit in a workshop on asset mapping. She realized that high school-aged children needed to be consulted in the town’s quest for improvement. “We really want our young people to stay, and how do we engage them in envisioning our future,” Creswell said. “Youth bring so much vitality, energy and new ideas. We want to make this a place that is going to hold on to all of that.” 
Photo by Ivan Schustak
CPL Summit in Chattanooga
     Creswell added that the only people under represented at the summit were elected officials. “I think it would have been helpful if there had been someone from city government there. They need these kinds of summits to really recognize what would happen if the arts were incorporated into the life of the community,” she said. 
     Rusty Sox, who does work for South Arts, an arts organization and co-organizer of the Chattanooga summit, said grant applications from summit attendees have been flowing in. South Arts works in partnership with the state arts agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Sox said the summit empowered people to talk to their elected officials about new ideas. “We’re getting new energy and excitement about creative placemaking,” he said. 
     The next summit will take place much closer to home for NCCP, which is based in Union, NJ and its co-producer, ArtPlace America, which is based in Brooklyn, NY. The Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit for the Northeast Corridor is scheduled for May 3 and 4 in Madison, NJ at Drew University. 
     “I think it’s going to be the best one,” said Executive Director of the NCCP, Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP. Vazquez said the upcoming summit in New Jersey will have fascinating workshops and impressive sponsors. 
Photo by Andrea Orlando
ART Factory, Paterson, NJ
      Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Parks Commissioner of NYC will lead a brainstorming session on making improvements to Oval Park in East Orange. Oval Park was the site of a baseball stadium and the sometime home of the New York Cubans. Most members of this unique team were from Latin America. Today the park is a small neighborhood open space in a challenged area of the Newark suburb.  There is nothing to remind visitors of the history of the team, which won the 1943 Negro Leagues World Series. The workshop, one of three mobile workshops that will take place on site, will resurface that history through creative placemaking.
     Attendees may also sign up for a mobile workshop at the ART Factory in Paterson, a complex of more than 20 factory buildings dating back to 1840. The buildings are now a burgeoning art studio center that is expanding to include an artists’ and makers’ market. Another field trip will take summit-goers to an abandoned baseball field in Paterson, Hinchliffe Stadium. The stadium also has a place in Negro League baseball history from the era of segregated baseball, which ended soon after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947. 
     Vazquez said the summits welcome everyone from people who are just starting to learn how to make communities better through arts and local cultural activities to those who have been doing the work since, “before placemaking was cool.” 
      “We all learn from one another,” he said. 
     Summit attendees are invited to stay connected through NCCP's online community on our website.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Look Who's Going to the Northeast Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit May 3 and 4

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP
They'll be there. Will you?
Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits, produced by ArtPlace America and The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking attract leaders and key influencers who work to make communities better through arts and local culture. Here are some of the organizations whose leaders will be at the Summit at Drew University, May 3-4 in Madison NJ. Register before April 26 to get the best ticket prices.
Age of The Creative New York NY | Alameda County Sheriff's Office San Leandro CA | Americans for the Arts Washington DC | ArtPlace America Brooklyn NY | Bunker Hill Community College Boston MA | Catamount Film & Arts Saint Johnsbury VT | Chestnut Hill Advisory Partners LLC New York NY | City of Bloomington Bloomington IN | Community Solutions / Brownsville Partnership Brooklyn NY | Conexion AmericasNashville TN | Creative Agency Somerville MA | Creative Glassboro Glassboro NJ | Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development Hartford CT | Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation Brooklyn NY | Detroit Collaborative Design Center Detroit MI | Drew University Madison NJ | Drexel University Philadelphia PA | Enterprise Community Partners Boston MA | Spaceworks NYC New York NY | Fairleigh Dickinson University Madison NJ | FEMA Riverside NJ | Flemington Community Partnership Flemington NJ | GARNER Arts Center Garnerville NY | Greater Jamaica Development Corporation Jamaica, NY | Greater Nashville Regional Council Nashville TN | HACE CDC Philadelphia PA | Heurista Co Asheville NC | Jersey Community Acupuncture Flemington NJ | Just Act Philadelphia PA | Larisa Ortiz Associates LLC Jackson Heights NY | League of American Orchestras New York NY | Local Initiatives Support Corporation Newark NJ | Little Tokyo Service Center Los Angeles CA | Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) NYC New York NY | Looney Ricks Kiss Princeton NJ | Los Angeles County Arts Commission Los Angeles CA | Lupoart Morristown NJ | Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts North Adams MA | Mayo Performing Arts Center Morristown NJ | MEC Placemaking Des Moines IA | Meta Local Collaborative New York NY | Metris Arts Consulting Easton PA | Metro Arts Nashville TN | Modern Vintage Ink, LLC Brooklyn NY | Moving in the SpiritAtlanta GA | Municipal Art Society New York NY | National Endowment for the ArtsWashington DC | Neighborhood Design Center Hyattsville MD | NeighborWorks America New York NY | NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley Woonsocket RI | New Jersey Community Capital New Brunswick NJ | New Jersey Community Development Corporation Paterson NJ | New Jersey Health Initiatives Camden NJ | New York City Department of Small Business Services New York NY | New York City Department of Parks New York NY | Northern New Jersey Community Foundation Hackensack NJ | Northeastern School of Law Boston MA | New York City Department of Small Business Services New York NY | Perkins+Will Atlanta GA | Queensland University of Technology  Queensland Australia | ReThink Theatrical New Brunswick NJ | Seattle Housing Authority Seattle WA | Shelterforce Magazine Montclair NJ | SHIFTSPACE Design Philadelphia  PA | Sierra Club Detroit MI | Sikora Wells Appel Haddonfield NJ | South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation Bronx NY | Southwest CDC Philadelphia PA | Studioful Architecture Salem MA | Surdna Foundation New York NY | The Cultural Planning Group Melrose Park PA | The Forever Museum Archive New York NY | the Neighborhood Design Center Baltimore MD | The Rockhopper Trenton NJ | The United Way of Passaic County Paterson NJ | Topos Partnership Cincinnati OH | Trenton Downtown Association Trenton NJ | True Stories Let Loose  Nashville  TN  | Urban Institute Washington DC | Urban Land Institute Washington DC | Urban League of Essex County Newark NJ | UrbanPromise Pennsauken NJ | What Works Cities New York NY | Youngstown State University / City of Youngstown Youngstown OH

Monday, March 19, 2018

What can NCCP do for you?

The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking will become a membership organization later this year. A membership program will help support our mission of growing the creative placemaking field around the United States.  But we also know that membership should have benefits. We’d like to know what you would like as an NCCP member.  Please take our short survey by March 31 at

To get these benefits, we will need to add more staff hours. Could you help us with a modest donation?  Donate $15                   Donate $25               Donate $35

Thank you for your consideration.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Welcoming new partners and sponsors

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

The Consortium in NCCP's name is intentional.  We never wanted to be just a center or institute -- with all the ivory tower connations that conveys.  Like creative placemaking itself, we are about meaningful and productive partnerships.

We are fortunate now to have more than 55 partners and a growing number of supporters.  These include 15 state arts agencies; several universities and colleges; and associations in community development, real estate development and urban planning.

Among the newest supporters of NCCP's programs are:

  • Lyndhurst Foundation
  • Tennessee Arts Commission
  • McClure Engineering
  • Cultural Planning Group
  • Colorado Creative Industries
  • Wyoming Arts Council
And we welcome our new partners
  • Maryland State Arts Council
  • New Mexico Arts
  • Oklahoma Arts Council
  • Montana Arts Council
  • Urban Land Institute - Northern New Jersey chapter
  • American Planning Association - North Carolina and Louisiana chapters
  • Arizona State University - Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • College Park Partnership
  • Public Art Reston
  • Prince George's Arts and Humanities Council
Supporters and event sponsors get free tickets, and partners get discounts, for NCCP events.  They are encouraged to share them with their networks.  If you would like to become a supporter, sponsor or partner of an event or of NCCP in general, please contact Leonardo Vazquez by email or at 973-763-6352, x1

NCCP offers more workshops in more places

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

Through NCCP's creative placemaking workshops, you can build your skills in developing public art, crowdmapping, sustaining initiatives for the long term and more.

The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking offers a growing array of half day workshops, starting in February 2018.  And they will be in more locations:  Burlington, NJ; Orange County, NY; and locations in North Jersey to be announced.

Each three-hour workshop is limited to 30 participants, so please register soon.   AICP planners may get Certification Maintenance credits for many of the workshops.  NCCP is applying to become a provider of CM credits.

For more information, or to host workshops in your area, please contact Leonardo Vazquez or Thomas Young at

Community Development for Artists, Designers, and Makers
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
To influence the people who affect quality of life in communities, it helps to understand them and speak their language. This workshop will help you make more persuasive arguments to elected officials, leaders of community organizations, and others who can make things go – or stop – in a community. Specifically, you can explore:
*How those involved in community development think about issues affecting quality of life in communities, and how they measure success
*The levers of influence in communities – from individuals to institutions. In other words – how things change – or don’t – in communities
*The sources of funding for community-oriented projects
*How nearby communities have engaged arts to address community issues.

Economic development for artists, designers and makers
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
We know that the value of art is priceless. Unfortunately, a lot of businesspeople, elected officials, investors and their advisors don’t see it that way. If you want to influence these people, it helps to talk about the arts in ways they can understand. This workshop will help you make more persuasive arguments. Specifically, you can explore:
*How those involved in local economic development think about issues affecting standards of living in communities, and how they measure success
*The levers of influence in communities – from individuals to institutions. In other words – how things change – or don’t – in communities
*The sources of funding for local economic development projects
*How nearby communities have engaged arts to address local economic development issues.
Building Teams for Creative Placemaking
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
As Geraldine R. Dodge President Chris Daggett has said, “The hardest part of collaboration is collaborating.” This workshop focuses on building sustainable and high-performing teams for creative placemaking. Participants will learn how teams go from starting off as a group of people with different agendas to a team with a shared mission and views on how to move forward. Participants will also learn the methods of Community Coaching, a team-building and planning tool that has been used in 15 communities in New Jersey and Louisiana.

Creative Community Engagement
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
Tired of traditional community meetings? A lot of people in the community are too. This workshop explores artistic and fun ways to engage community members. Participants will learn about easy ways to create community models, photo-voice, visual notetaking, role-playing and other methods of engaging audiences. Participants will learn how to use these methods to get critical knowledge about communities, build consensus, or generate enthusiasm.

Creating Community Murals
Instructors: Kadie Dempsey and Dan Fenelon
(note: no arts training is required) Murals can be important tools for bringing people together and building civic pride. Or they could just be paintings that come people like and others hate. The difference is how they’re done.
You will learn how to plan and manage a marling project that engages community members and works to support planning and creative placemaking efforts. You will get hands-on training by working on an actual mural in class.

Creating Public Art
Instructors: Kadie Dempsey and Dan Fenelon
A piece of public art can be a creative beacon that connects an entire community. Or it could be just another object on the sidewalk that some people, some people hate, and too many ignore. The difference often is about how it's designed, who's involved, and who's making what decisions.
This workshop will help you design and develop true community-guided public art initiatives. You will learn all steps of the process, from idea creation through site selection to installation.
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
Taking stock of your existing assets and opportunities can help you do more cost-effective creative placemaking. You will learn how to read a community for ‘hidden’ creative assets and opportunity sites. You will also learn how to engage stakeholders in crowd mapping and how to build better creative placemaking strategies from your maps.

Creative Assets Inventories
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
What you should do as a creative placemaker depends a lot on what is available in your community. Creative assets inventories help you get a better sense of resources and opportunities to achieve lasting benefits. Specifically, you will learn:
*How to assess creative and cultural organizations in a community
*To develop more effective surveys for creative placemaking
*Tools for measuring local and regional creative economies
*Effective ways to share information to convince and persuade key audiences

Financing Creative Placemaking
Instructor: Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
There are many ways to sustain your creative placemaking efforts — grants, tax credits, donations, sponsorships, and more. Which are right for you? What funders are giving what types of projects? Learn about financing opportunities and get a funding resource packet.

2018 Strategic Conversations webinar series starts in January

By Leonardo Vazquez, AICP/PP

The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking will again offer free webinars in creative placemaking in 2018. The webinars explore a wide range of topics, including community development, place history and resiliency.

AICP members may also get Certification Maintenance credits.  NCCP is applying to become a CM provider, and we expect to apply for CM credits for all eligible activities (such as the webinars.)

Webinars are limited to 100 people, so please register at your earliest convenience.  Register here

The upcoming Strategic Conversations are:

Tuesday, Jan 23, 2 – 3:30 pm eastern
Creative placemaking: integrating community, cultural and economic development
What makes creative placemaking a new way to make communities better through arts and culture? How can creative placemaking promote social equity, sustainability, and prosperity? Learn about a model developed by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking that integrates community, cultural and economic development in ways that are sustainable and asset-based. Also learn how our model fits in with the guidelines of the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Tuesday, February 20, 2 - 3 pm eastern
The growing creative economy in New Jersey: impacts on urban design, community planning and local economic development
A recent report from The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking shows that the number of artistic jobs and freelance artists, writers and performers in New Jersey is growing faster than jobs in New Jersey overall. What implications does this have for community planning, urban design and economic development. Though the focus of this conversation is on New Jersey’s creative economy, there will be a lot of takeaways for anyone outside of the state.
Friday, March 9, 2 - 3 pm eastern
History of creative placemaking in the United States
The term ‘creative placemaking’ was coined only six years ago, but it has been happening in various forms in the US since at least the late 19th century. This webinar will explore the earliest work in creative placemaking in America. Participants will learn about the pioneering work of Charles Mulford Robinson, Edgar Lee Hewett and others, and discover how placemaking through arts and culture has evolved over more than a century.
Tuesday, March 27, 2017, 2 - 3 pm eastern
Creative placemaking and human needs placemaking
The arts aren’t a diversion or a luxury. They are important for the well-being of individuals and communities. Many people already know about the power of the arts to enhance economic development. This webinar will discuss how the arts can help people develop and keep intellectual skills, build social connections, and more. We will explore how creative placemaking can support the elements of human needs placemaking.
Thursday April 12, 2 - 3 pm eastern
Community coaching: a new way to speak truth to power
Community coaching helps stakeholders build sustainable plans – and the shared leadership to implement them. This model helps build relationships between planner and client that makes it possible to address the big, difficult issues that keep a community from moving forward. It is a different approach to current models of planning practice, and it may challenge you to think about how you work with communities.
Tuesday May 8, 2 - 3 pm eastern
Incorporating arts in urban and site design
This Strategic Conversation explores how to design communities and sites to encourage more creative and cultural activities. Participants will also learn how the arts can help improve navigation, safety and other issues in urban and site design.
Tuesday June 5, 2 - 3 pm eastern
The rise of freelance artists: implications for urban planning and design
One of the fastest growing segments of the creative sector is freelance artists, writers and performers. To attract and retain these professionals, communities may have to rethink their approaches to urban design, community development, and economic development
Wednesday June 27, 2 - 3 pm eastern
Cultural districts and cultural institutions: suns or black holes?
One of the first things that many people think about in creative placemaking is creating a cultural district or building a large cultural institution. While districts and institutions can become catalysts for community-wide creativity and revitalization, they can also absorb a lot of time, energy and resources that could be used effectively elsewhere in the community. Learn how creative placemaking can make it more likely that districts and institutions have a broader impact on their communities.
Tuesday July 17, 2-3 pm
How creative placemaking can help build more resilient communities
With the damage caused from hurricanes, tornadoes and floods around the United States, more communities are looking to be more ‘resilient.’ Resiliency is not just about creative physical improvements to withstand storms; it is also connects to a community’s ability to revitalize quickly after disaster. Arts and culture can play a big role in helping communities recover. We will explore examples from Louisiana, New Jersey and Missouri, and discuss how to connect creative placemaking with resiliency in community dialogues.
Strategic Conversations in Creative Placemaking are made possible in part by generous support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and New Jersey State Council on the Arts