Funding Alert! Our Town Creative Placemaking Grants

National Endowment for the Arts

Is your community looking for project-based funding to support activities that further the arts? The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently opened applications for its Our Town grant program. Our Town is NEA’s “creative placemaking” grant program, through which arts, cultural, and design activities strengthen and advance local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes. Ultimately, Our Town projects pave the way for systems-level changes that promote the sustainable integration of arts, culture, and design into the fabric of community life.

Who is eligible to apply?

Our Town grants require a partnership between a local government agency and a nonprofit organization. One of these primary partners must be a cultural (arts or design) organization. Note that the application package requires a formal statement of support from the highest-ranking local government official.

NEA encourages additional multisector collaboration that engages a strong network of diverse partners to carry out the grant-funded activities. This could include other nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, artists and design professionals, regional planning organizations, business leaders, and other public and private entities.

What do these projects look like?

Our Town projects may propose arts or cultural integration strategies that implement any of the following types of activities:

  • Highlighting key community assets, issues, residents, history, or cultural infrastructure;
  • Injecting a community, issue, or economy with energy, resources, activities, or people;
  • Overcoming local challenges or problems through innovative, creative thinking; and
  • Using physical spaces or new relationships to connect communities, people, places, and economic opportunity.

Our Town grants range from $25,000 to $150,000 with up to a two-year project period. These grants require a minimum 1:1 cost share/match in cash or in-kind contributions from nonfederal sources.

Applicants can request support for arts engagement activities (artist residency, arts festivals, community co-creation of art, performances, or public art), cultural planning (cultural district planning, creative asset mapping, or public art planning), design (artist/designer-facilitated community planning, design of artist space or cultural facilities, or public space design), or artist and creative industry support (creative business or professional artist development).

This application process is divided into two parts, with initial project information due to by August 5, 2021. The full application is due to the NEA applicant portal by August 17, 2021.

What makes a project a good fit?

Our Town grants strengthen communities by advancing economic change (improvements for individuals, institutions, or the community), physical change (beautification/enhancement of the built and natural environment), and social change (improvements to social, civic, and community identities and engagement). Potential applicants can review the Our Town theory of change to better understand how NEA measures programmatic impact.

The NEA is interested in proposals that recognize artistic excellence, including high-quality artists, arts organizations, works of art, and/or services that the project will involve. The NEA also prioritizes artistic merit, including the project’s ability to improve access to the arts for underserved individuals and regions; potential to make quality arts or cultural resources more widely available; correlation to the applicant organization’s mission and existing programs; evidence of direct compensation to artists, art collectives, and/or art workers; and ability to grow organizational experience and capacity.

What if I am ready to apply?

To move your application forward, take the following action steps ASAP:

  • Read through the program description for more detail regarding the strengthening communities initiative and eligible project types.
  • Check out the applicant resources available for this program, including online tutorials, sample narratives, checklists, and FAQs.
  • Mark your calendar for a live webinar on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 to learn more information and ask questions. You can register to attend here.
  • Make sure your System for Award Management (SAM) registration is active and that you have agov profile. You can check your SAM status here:

What if I need help with this application?

Contact Assel Grant Services today! Our team can help with all aspects of preparing the application and managing the grant if you are awarded. If you would like to discuss this possibility, please contact AGS as soon as possible. Rosie Brennan, Community Engagement Specialist will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you a quote for grant services.

What if I am not ready to apply this year?

Check out other opportunities to work with the NEA. The agency website provides resources regarding other upcoming grant programs, partnerships, and funding opportunities, as well as examples of previously funded projects.

How do I learn more about federal grant opportunities?

AGS is excited to offer a new Federal Grants Training Series in 2021! The series is designed to support nonprofit professionals before and during their first federal grant. AGS also offers several on demand webinars on a variety of topics to support the full grant cycle. Check out our website to learn more and sign up for our training newsletter.

AGS blogs, funding alerts, and trainings are aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs

Skill 1.2: Identify major trends in public funding and public policy

Skill 1.6: Identify fundable programs and projects for specific organization

Skill 1.7: Determine best matches between funders and specific programs