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Making creative places

by Andrew Taylor

There's been lots of talk about 'creative placemaking' and 'creative vitality' in cities and towns and communities. It seems many people want such things, but whose job is it to build them? Is it the job of innovative artists and arts organizations? Or community-focused private funders and philanthropists? Or banks and community development interests? Or government?

A new initiative, ArtPlace, seems to answer the question above with a single word: 'Yes'. The consortium, described in today's New York Times, gathers grants from major national foundations (Ford Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, James Irvine Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Kresge Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, Robina Foundation), a loan fund capitalized by major financial institutions (Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife, Morgan Stanley), and guidance by a consortium of federal agencies and offices (Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, White House Office of Management and Budget, Domestic Policy Council), with coordination through the National Endowment for the Arts. Funds are overseen by the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

All of this to foster and fund ''groundbreaking work in creative placemaking" in communities across the country, and to build ''vibrancy'' through those activities as measured by an evolving set of Vibrancy Indicators related to people, activity, and value (coming in May 2012).

The initiative announced its first grants yesterday, comprising 34 initiatives in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Really cool and compelling stuff, that may lead to a more thoughtful, cross-sector focus on building and growing creative places. And the inspired and inspiring leadership of Carol Coletta, formerly of CEOs for Cities, seems poised to encourage action over talk.

ArtPlace is now accepting letters of inquiry to consider for their next grant cycle, through November 15.