Artists and the arts can be – and in many places, already are – central to economic development. That’s the fundamental concept behind ArtPlace, a nationwide initiative to revitalize communities through a new investment model. Read more in this week's post.

Artists and the arts can be – and in many places, already are – central to economic development. That’s the fundamental concept behind ArtPlace, a nationwide initiative to revitalize communities through a new investment model.

Rasmuson Foundation has joined with nine other national foundations, six major financial institutions, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and several federal agencies, in a collaboration that is spanking new at several levels. It’s a blended approach to local community investment from sectors  – finance, philanthropy and government – that don’t typically invest together or in this way.

In the first round of grants announced September 15, ArtPlace awarded $11.5 million in grants to 34 local projects around the country. A second round of grants is coming up and Alaska organizations may submit Letters of Intent by November 15 for consideration. For additional information, contact Jayson Smart (jsmart@rasmuson.org).

ArtPlace supports projects in which cultural groups operate with other community partners, private and public.  By leveraging the arts and culture with other existing assets in the community, ArtPlace aims to help communities achieve vibrant growth while using financial resources more creatively.

The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination. The 34 projects funded in the first round of grants are tackling a broad array of purposes: from revitalizing neighborhoods, to stimulating job growth and economic development, to connecting people and helping them tell their stories. The average grant was about $350,000.

Despite their diversity, the projects all are developing a new model of helping communities thrive by strategically integrating artists and arts organizations into key local efforts in transportation, housing, community development, job creation and more.

Rasmuson Foundation has committed $2 million to the initiative. And while all funds contributed are pooled and decisions are made collectively, Rasmuson funds will be dedicated to Alaska projects. That doesn’t preclude other funds being awarded to Alaska projects, as well.

The ArtPlace approach is known as “creative placemaking,” which has emerged over the past 20 years as a promising way to increase the vitality of communities and help them grow. In 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts built on its two decades of work in creative placemaking by announcing the first grants in its new Our Town program, designed to support public-private partnerships to strengthen the arts while energizing the overall community. (Alaska Arts Southeast in Sitka was Alaska’s first Our Town grant recipient.) ArtPlace takes this movement a step further, as the first major public-private partnership to encourage creative placemaking across America.

ArtPlace grants are given through the combined support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and an anonymous donor.  Bank of America, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley are supplying the $12 million loan fund.

In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council.