Cultivating safe, healthy, livable, & vibrant places through Creative California Communities grants

By Shelly Gilbride, Programs Officer, California Arts Council

REGISTER NOW! 
Join our programs team for a CCC webinar on January 19, 2017 at 11 am.

Three years ago, the California Arts Council launched its pilot creative placemaking grant program, Creative California Communities (CCC). What began as a one-year experiment has now become one of our most competitive grant programs.  As a result of overwhelming demand, our Council increased its investment in the CCC program to $3.4 million and expects to fund 30 to 40 projects in 2017. We’ve also made some important changes to the program in an effort foster equitable access for organizations and projects of all sizes, and we’re accepting applications now.

The CCC program is centered on the belief that arts and cultural activities are imperative to healthy communities and that artists are central activators who can manifest positive change and foster vibrant, peaceful neighborhoods. Investing in creative placemaking is about cultivating safe, healthy, livable, vibrant places – creative communities that are as structurally sound as they are creatively welcoming.

What is creative placemaking?

Creative placemaking is a big, complex concept that positions artists and arts organizations at the center of community development strategies. Simply put, creative placemaking utilizes artists and arts and culture activities to make a place better. Our friend Jamie Bennett, the Executive Director of ArtPlace America and the ambassador-guru-champion of creative placemaking , wrote a great blog last year explaining the concept. Taking a cue from that piece, here are the basic elements of creative placemaking in our CCC grant program:

  1. A place-based orientation: creative placemaking happens in a definable place – a block, neighborhood, community, town, or city – where people live, work, and play
  2. A need, desire, issue, or priority to be addressed, one that is identified by the people that live, work and play in a place
  3. Artists/creatives and their processes are at the center of activities addressing the issue
  4. Cross-sector partners commit to addressing the issue through creativity and the arts – artists and arts organizations work with developers, government agencies, health care institutions, engineering firms, etc. – to create change
  5. Progress in addressing the issue is measureable and assessed through the lifecycle of the project

Projects funded through our CCC program extend beyond the walls of arts organizations and fully embrace a comprehensive community-engaged process.

What does successful creative placemaking look like?

trails-vistas-art-hikes_5

The National Endowment for the Arts just published a comprehensive book, How to Do Creative Placemaking, with examples of successful creative placemaking projects from across the country.

Here in California, successful CCC grantee projects are as diverse as the state itself. In the rural Tahoe region, Trails and Vistas is partnering with the Donner Land Trust on a series of events to raise awareness about open space and to promote trail use in one of California’s fragile but most beloved outdoor environments (pictured above). A Reason To Survive (ARTS) is addressing nutrition and food deserts in National City, using artists to create a health-focused gathering space in an affordable housing complex and to help redesign small neighborhood food markets to meet CA healthy food standards. StartSoCo in Sonoma County is working with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to infuse arts and cultural activities and creative use into the redevelopment plans for a vacant shopping center.

Common elements in all of these projects include:

  • Applicants, partners and artists with deep experience in the community
  • Organic partnerships built over time and based in shared goals or missions and that extend beyond the scope of the immediate project
  • Projects using existing assets within the community

How has the CCC program changed?

 There are a few major changes to the program guidelines this year based on feedback that we received.

  • Recognizing that real change takes time, this program now has a 2-year grant period beginning this year. CCC projects can occur from June 2017 through June 2019.
  • In an effort to be equitable to organizations and projects of all sizes, we have split the program into two categories based on organizational budget. Smaller organizations (with annual income under $750,000) will compete for funding with organizations of a similar size, and the same goes for larger organizations.
  • Creative placemaking projects can succeed at any scale, but projects shouldn’t drain an organization’s resources in an unsustainable way. To that end, organizations cannot apply for more than 20% of their annual operating income.

We’ve evaluated and refined the CCC program based on the most up-to-date research and thought leadership on creative placemaking. We recognize that not all arts projects fall under the goals of creative placemaking, even large-scale projects. If your project does not meet all five criteria listed above, another one of our grant program guidelines might be right for your project. But, if this type of work sounds like a good fit for your organization’s community goals, check out the complete details and guidelines on our website and join our programs team for a CCC webinar on January 19, 2017 at 11 am. March 6, 2017 is the deadline to apply.


Blog5-ShellyHeadshot
Shelly Gilbride
is the Programs Officer at the California Arts Council. She can be reached at shelly.gilbride@arts.ca.gov.

Featured Photo: First Voice, San Francisco

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