Thursday, January 10, 2013

The NEA Announces The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design

This afternoon the National Endowment for the Arts has announced the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design, an exciting new program that is currently seeking applications from rural communities to participate in its inaugural year of workshops, which will be made possible by a $7,000 grant and in-kind design and technical support valued at $35,000. The deadline for application is March 5, with a series of application-assistance calls beginning on January 23. 

This news represents an exciting continuation of the kinds of cross-sector innovations sparked by the NEA's Our Town program, and we encourage our colleagues and readers to travel to the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design site to learn more about this project. The CIRD is an NEA leadership initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc., along with the Orton Family Foundation and the CommunityMatters Partnership.

Art of the Rural will be covering these developments in far greater detail in the coming months. Please find below an excerpt from the official press release which also places this program in context with the NEA's history of engagement in rural America:

CIRD (formerly known as "Your Town") works to help rural communities with populations of 50,000 or fewer enhance their quality of life and economic vitality through facilitated design workshops. The program brings together local leaders, non-profits, and community organizations with a team of specialists in design, planning, and creative placemaking to address challenges like strengthening economies, enhancing rural character, leveraging cultural assets, and designing efficient housing and transportation systems.
Since the program's inception in 1991, CIRD has convened more than 60 workshops in all regions of the country with results that range from the development of public art plans and business improvement districts, to funding for the design of waterfront parks and pedestrian-friendly streetscape improvements.
Each community selected to participate in the Institute will receive $7,000 to support planning and hosting a two-day workshop.  Communities will be required to provide approximately $7,000 in matching funds (cash or in-kind). CIRD will work with the communities to assemble teams of specialists based on the communities' individual needs. The workshops will be augmented with conference calls and webinar presentations led by experts who will cover topics related to rural design. The calls will also be open to the general public through CommunityMatters.
The new website at is a portal for resources on rural design gathered from diverse organizations across the country. It will be a place for interested citizens to connect with one another and get information about improving design in their own communities.