Extremely competitive national grant program will consider 70 projects

Today, Crafty Mart was named among the 70 finalists for ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund. ArtPlace selected these proposals from 987 applications, making our project to create a retail incubator space one of just 7% of the projects across the country to make this cut.

ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program, receiving 987 applications this year. Investing money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts and culture activity help drive community development change across 10 sectors of community planning and development: agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health; housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development.

Two projects from Akron were chosen as finalists. If either project is named a winner, it would be the first time that a project in Akron is awarded the prestigious and highly competitive grant since its conception in 2011.

CAN I GET A #WHYNOTAKRON?!

The challenge identified in our proposal is that there are too many empty storefronts downtown, and not enough opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to activate those space. With the help of the city and county administration, we're hoping to secure a building downtown with 2-3 storefronts that will serve as a launchpad for creatives to open a brick and mortar retail store.

Illustration by Gregory J. Peterson

Illustration by Gregory J. Peterson

“When clustered together, customer facing retail spaces promote walkability, activate connecting public spaces and make cities better places to live and work, which will help Akron attract and retain the next generation of young leaders,” says Executive Director Brit Charek, “We already see clusters of small businesses popping up downtown over the past few years. We’d like to build on that momentum.”

The City of Akron has admitted to having a problem fighting off the epidemic of the shrinking Rust Belt City with the population in steady decline, and released a report titled Planning to Grow Akron where they outlined a strategy not just to stop the decline in population but to increase the population size, which is why both the Mayor of Akron and the County Executive have endorsed Crafty Mart’s plan.

In addition to solving the problem of empty storefronts downtown, Crafty Mart is excited to provide opportunities to the artists and makers they work with regularly.

“We want to create a pathway for the makers who pop up sporadically at events like Crafty Mart to eventually land in their own brick and mortar storefront,” says Charek.

“But we won’t just hand anyone the keys,” says Director of Education Marissa McClellan. “There will be an application process, and the makers chosen will go through a fellowship program with a custom curriculum and mentorship aspect. We want them to take this opportunity to grow their business, get a head start on sustainability, and gain the skills to be successful in their own storefront, as well as have access to resources when things get tough.”

Check out our original video pitch! 

Thanks Tim Fitzwater for your video magic! ✨

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” said ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”

“We believe that these projects, when added to our tremendously strong portfolio of demonstration projects, will inspire, equip and connect members of the arts and culture field, the community planning and development field and those who are working to make healthy and equitable communities creatively across the country,” said ArtPlace America Executive Director Jamie Bennett.

After a strenuous application process this summer, winners for the National Creative Placemaking Fund will be announced in December. We'll be on pins and needles until then!

The complete list of the 2017 applicants for ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund may be found here.

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