YSU’s $100,000 NEA grant among largest in the nation

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Youngstown State University a $100,000 grant to launch a public arts project in Youngstown.

The award is among the largest of 64 NEA Our Town grants – out of nearly 250 applicants across the nation – announced last month. The program supports creative projects to transform communities into places with the arts at their core.

It is the largest grant that YSU has ever received from NEA.

nea-logo“Receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts is like winning the top prize in a funding contest,” said Mike Crist, interim dean of the YSU College of Creative Arts and Communications and one of the authors of the grant application.

“The fact that this proposal was funded at the level that it was, is a stamp of approval for the goals we have set for arts engagement in our community. This grant will help us attract more external arts funding to the Mahoning Valley.”

NEA Chairman Jane Chu added: “For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work and play. Projects such as the one led by Youngstown State University help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”

NEA is excited to build on the federal commitment that has been made in Youngstown, such as the Housing and Urban Development Strong Cities Strong Communities program, and the partnerships it has helped generate. SC2 is a White House initiative that places driven professionals who work directly with mayors, local government agencies and community nonprofits to help restore legacy cities and create a pathway to economic growth.

The YSU project, which partners with arts, educational and philanthropic organizations throughout the region, is called INPLACE – Innovative Plan for Leveraging Arts through Community Engagement.

The project will focus on themes that were prioritized for implementation during recent planning initiatives developed from collaborations between the City of Youngstown, YSU, Kent State University, the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, the Economic Action Group, and local community development organizations.

Themes include wayfinding, technology, parking, green infrastructure and lighting. Changing Views | Designing Youngstown’s Future at the McDonough Museum of Art, is an interactive public exhibition that offers attendees the opportunity to join the conversation and learn more about these revitalization themes.

city of you_logo-07Partners in the project include the YSU College of Creative Arts and Communication, the YSU Regional Economic Development Initiative, YSU’s McDonough Museum of Art, the city of Youngstown “City of You” branding and marketing campaign, Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design and Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

“The combination of these arts entities, along with growing public and private investment downtown and around campus, provides a powerful opportunity to involve citizens in shaping the future of the city,” Crist said. “This project is not limited to the creation and distribution of art but will act as an exploratory arm for community, economic and cultural development.”

Crist also acknowledged the support of the Youngstown Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, the Raymond John Wean Foundation, Kent State University, the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, and the Mahoning County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The grant application was authored by Crist; Dominic C. Marchionda, City-University Planner at YSU REDI; Leslie Brothers, professor of Art and director of the McDonough Museum of Art at YSU; and R.J. Thompson, YSU professor of Art.

“I’m proud to join Youngstown State University in announcing this federal funding that will take one more step toward revitalizing the city of Youngstown and bolster the economic and cultural development of our neighborhoods and the community as a whole,” U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said. “I have been a long-time supporter of the arts and will continue working to bring these type of funds back to our community.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown added: “Art is a critical part of local culture and can enrich our communities, but too often, art ventures don’t have the support they need. This award will help Youngstown State partner with Our Town to advance Youngstown’s Art District and the McDonough Museum of Art by working with local artists and organizations.‎”

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, visit the NEA web site at arts.gov.