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Biennial rural design, planning program open for applications

Strengthening rural communities through CIRD


Every two years, the National Endowment for the Arts seeks rural communities of 50,000 people or less to apply for the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) program.

With over 30 years of leadership in rural design, CIRD is perfect for creative, community-oriented rural leaders seeking to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality in their communities. Selected applicants emerge from CIRD programs with greater capacity and a wealth of resources to lead their community through current and future design challenges. “Access to design ideas and support for creative placemaking practices through the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design help set communities on a path towards achieving their visions,” said Jennifer Hughes, NEA’s Senior Advisor to the Chair on Partnerships, Expansion, and Innovation. “I’m inspired by the eager and agile leaders across rural America whose participation in the program shows energy and commitment to bold visions for their community’s future.” Well-designed rural communities are places where people want to live and invest in the future. Each community knows their needs best. From small projects like murals or pocket parks to larger initiatives like creating a downtown revitalization district, the community guides the notion of good design. Design strategies may include:
  • Historic preservation and adaptive reuse of community buildings
  • Designing quality affordable housing that supports livable, equitable communities
  • Creating public or civic spaces that support and integrate cultural expression and local identity
  • Developing recreational trails for mobility, active transportation, and economic development
  • Designing spaces and places that improve access to healthy food and local food systems
  • Integrating cultural identity into the built environment to drive heritage tourism

There are two opportunities to choose from:

Local Design Workshops

At least four communities will be selected to do a deep dive into a pressing design challenge that is impacting their community. With support from a wide range of design, planning, and creative placemaking professionals, workshops help small towns and rural and tribal communities develop actionable solutions to specific design challenges. Following the workshop, each community receives a customized design book and action plan created by the CIRD resource team that includes project-specific design and planning recommendations. Read about past workshops.

Design Learning Cohort

At least 15 communities will be selected to participate in virtual training in design, planning, community engagement, and facilitation techniques. Resources will include technical assistance, one-on-one coaching, and optional in-person convenings. There will also be tailored opportunities for active peer learning to share best practices and experiences. Each community will receive support in navigating funding opportunities to make their vision a reality. Read about the Design Learning Cohort.

Applicants must:
  • Be part of a rural or tribal community of 50,000 or less, that is rural in character
  • Identify a specific design challenge to address through the CIRD program
  • Be able to participate in CIRD as indicated in Participation Expectations described in the Request for Applications
  • If selected for a workshop, plan the workshop with CIRD staff during the designated period of programming
Details about the program goals, eligibility, benefits, expectations, and a preview of all the application questions can be found in the Request for Applications. ‍You can also go directly to the application in Survey Monkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/cird2023 Successful applicants will be notified in late May 2023 and CIRD Cohort Kickoff Meeting will be on June 21, 2023. Project activities will take place between June 2023 and December 2024. For questions, please contact cird@ruralhome.org
About Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council. The program has design support from To Be Done Studio. Focusing on communities with populations of 50,000 or less, CIRD’s goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of rural America through planning, design, and creative placemaking. National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. To learn more, visit arts.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that helps rural communities build a better future. Based in Washington, HAC provides below-market financing, capacity building, research and information, and policy formulation to support affordable housing and community development across rural America. For more information, visit www.ruralhome.org. TBD (To Be Done Studio) harnesses the inherent goodness in people and the power of design to create sustainable solutions to the endemic problems that our world faces. We seek a relevant practice, one which is accessible to all rather than the few. To do so, we design and build spaces that uplift, inspire and support power within the communities we work. For more information, visit http://tbd-studio.org.

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Stay updated on rural arts in S.C.

Curious about what's been going on in South Carolina's rural arts scene? The Art of Community: Rural SC can help.

Starting with today's, the five-year-old S.C. Arts Commission program is rolling out a newsletter series highlighting successes from recently completed FY2021. It ss planned to run well into October. Want to hear the news first? Use this link to subscribe to The Art of Community: Rural SC's newsletter. You can also visit the program's comprehensive page on SouthCarolinaArts.com.  

Jason Rapp

SCAC commitments to DEI, rural aided by grant from Coastal Community Foundation of S.C.

$14,339 grant expands agency work in Lowcountry

For Immediate Release

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A grant awarded to the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) by Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina (CCF) supported commitments to expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion and reaching rural communities.

Visit the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina's website at https://coastalcommunityfoundation.org/That perfectly complements the SCAC’s new strategic plan, released in late 2020, which calls for it to “promote equitable access to the arts” through a renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, the agency has a commitment to expanding arts opportunities in rural communities through such initiatives as its nationally recognized program The Art of Community: Rural SC. Extenuating circumstances in FY19 led to $500 from that year’s Expansion Arts Fund award being held over to FY20, bringing that year’s funding to $14,839. This is how the funds were distributed by the SCAC:
  • Aldwyth, an individual artist in Beaufort County, was granted $2,500 to support the creation of works for Pictures of Nothing or Mr. Varnedoe, Why Abstraction?, a multi-disciplinary exhibition focused on Kirk Varnedoe’s book, Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock. Pandemic restrictions continue to postpone the public display of the works created by Aldwyth and an assistant.
  • Fletcher Williams, an individual artist in Charleston County, was granted $2,500. He worked with a local fabricator and a team of assistants to create the mobile walls for his Picket Fence – Promiseland Consisting of sculpture and large-scale paper art, the installation encouraged visitors to imagine and observe the Aiken-Rhett House as possibly seen through different eyes, times, and sets of experiences. Though delayed, the project opened and was used as a tool to address current events, serving both artistic and social-awareness goals while engaging new patrons who may have previously been unaware of or disinterested in the arts.
  • Marlanda Dekine, an individual artist in Georgetown County, received $2,500 for research related to the experiences of the artist as a Gullah-Geechee descendant living in South Carolina “with a rootedness in Africana & Caribbean being and creolization.” Written and recorded interviews, community engagement, and tours of local museums and plantations assisted in the completion of written-word poetry. The culmination of this work is to be a serial poem offered through spoken word as a site-specific soundscape, or aural architecture, as well as in live performances for the community, with discourse and audience interaction as part of the final product. In this context, Dekine acts as a conduit and witness of present, past, and future.
  • Community arts organization Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen in Colleton County received $7,339 from the Expansion Arts Fund to support the development of WHAM!, Walterboro History, Art, & Music, a new public festival. They’ve used an indefinite delay to reexamine how they implement content for the rural community they serve. By reconceptualizing the initial project, they’ve seen increased interest from artists representing a broader segment of the community and now have a more flexible framework that can be used and reused at any time.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences. A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas: arts education, community arts development, and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on social media.

Jason Rapp

Pro bono strategic planning for rural arts organizations

Application deadline: Friday, Dec. 14, 2018

The S.C. Arts Commission received word today of a new resource for rural arts organizations. The timing dovetails nicely as the advisory committee for the S.C. Arts Commission program Art of Community: Rural SC gathers for its annual meeting this week. That program has of course been documented here from time to time. Despite only being a pilot program at this stage, rural revitalization through arts, culture, and cultivation of pride of place is an important part of the S.C. Arts Commission's work. The DeVos Institute of Arts Management is pleased to offer pro bono strategic planning services for up to five arts or cultural organizations based in rural, semi-rural, micropolitan, or similar communities across the U.S. The Institute seeks five partners with whom it will work to develop a long-term strategic plan that celebrates the unique assets of their organization, community, cultural history, and environment. The planning process will be fully underwritten by University of Maryland. Interested organizations are invited to apply through Dec. 14, 2018. A brochure describing the opportunity is available here. Full information and the application can be found here: http://devosinstitute.umd.edu/ruralcommunities Interested organizations are invited to address questions directly to segunning@devosinstitute.net or 301-314-0958.

Indie Grits Labs seeks artists to tell story of rural Southeast

Rural Project calls for Proposals

Application Deadline: Monday, Dec. 24, 2018 Indie Grits Labs is a non-profit organization that works to serve communities through media education, artist driven projects, and the Indie Grits Festival in Columbia. In Their Words "In 2018-2019, we are focusing on the issues facing small town and rural communities of the Southeast in the 21st century. The dominance of industrialized farming and the shrinking of domestic manufacturing have transformed the landscape of much of the South. In its wake, we see communities struggling with many of the same issues faced by underserved urban populations: poor access to education, health care, and opportunities for advancement. With this open call, we are looking for artists connected to rural communities across the Southeast to develop projects around the stories and experiences of this often overlooked and disrespected part of our region." Eligibility [caption id="attachment_34666" align="alignright" width="251"] The world-famous Hub Calls for Art Megaphone.[/caption] All applicants and/or their project must have a connection to the Southeast U.S., and it's up to each applicant to make an argument for a valid connection. ALL disciplines of art are acceptable: painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, sound, video, installation, mixed-media, etc. Artwork can be pre-existing, but it must have a connection to the 2018 Rural concept. In the application each artist must describe how their proposed work ties into the Rural Project. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis, but the final date to apply for this cycle is Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. Past projects include "Two Cities 2018," "Seen & Heard," Visiones 2017," "Waterlines 2016," and "Daughters 2016." You can read more about each on the call for proposals page. (For inspiration, it's recommended that you familiarize yourself with the rural concept above and review the past projects to get a feel for the diversity, experimentation, and collaborative spirit that makes up the Indie Grits Labs history and approach to the media arts. Click here to read more on the call, its budget guidelines, and how it will tie into the Indie Grits Festival in 2019.

Art of Community: Rural SC recognized with Power of Rural award

The South Carolina Arts Commission's initiative, The Art of Community: Rural S.C., received the first Power of Rural award October 11 from the South Carolina Office of Rural Health at the 21st annual Rural Health Conference, which was attended by health and medical professionals dedicated to providing access to quality healthcare in rural communities. Program Director Susan DuPlessis also led a conversation of Art of Community team members around using the arts as a different approach to building healthy communities. The Art of Community: Rural S.C. advances the Arts Commission’s commitment to rural development through the arts, culture and creative placemaking and is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The initiative has led to national attention and new connections for the Arts Commission — from the White House to national thought leaders to significant organizations inside and outside of the state. In addition, the agency has been invited to take part in regional and national conferences and webinars to present the program as a model for building community, economic opportunity and local infrastructure for growth and development in rural and high-poverty communities. “Through this initiative, we have created a new framework for building local connections, community engagement and capacity,” DuPlessis said. “It was born out of our participation in the Promise Zone’s strategic planning process in the fall of 2015. In all of the sessions, I heard how arts and culture were important, whether we were talking about healthcare or workforce development. The arts were clearly identified as key to community pride, attachment and new possibilities.” Over the past year, The Art of Community: Rural SC resulted in six creative peacemaking projects being designed and implemented by local teams in the six counties in South Carolina’s federally designated Promise Zone . The Arts Commission provided small grants to assist with these projects. Six mavens are working closely with the Arts Commission to drive and sustain the work of each local team. Mavens and the communities they represent are Lottie Lewis, Allendale; Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Denmark (Bamberg County); Evelyn Coker, Blackville (Barnwell County); Gary Brightwell, Walterboro (Colleton County); Audrey Hopkins-Williams, Estill (Hampton County); and Johnny Davis, Jasper County Twenty-three national and state leaders representing expansive thinking in the world of arts, culture and community development serve on the Art of Community Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by two native South Carolinians, Union native Dr. Ann Carmichael, dean of USC Salkehatchie, and Bob Reeder, program director for Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) and a Rock Hill native. For more information about The Art of Community, contact Susan DuPlessis, 803.734.8693. Image: First row, left to right: team member LaShandra Morgan, maven Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Susan DuPlessis, maven Evelyn Coker. Back row, left to right: team members Ashley Jordan and Myron Brooker, Dr. Graham Adams, executive director, S.C. Office of Rural Health, and team member Brenda Hughes. Missing from photo: mavens Gary Brightwell, Johnny Davis, Audrey Hopkins-Williams, and Lottie Lewis.  

Estill group embracing opportunities with Art of Community: Rural SC

(Image: The Art of Community: Rural S.C. team serving the Estill community. Shown, l to r: Audrey Hopkins-Williams, Deon Martin, Maude Saunders, Loretta B. Beckett, and Vonzetta Strong. Team members not pictured: Jacqueline Hopkins and Egeria Bostick.) In Estill, South Carolina, a small group of local citizens has embraced a new opportunity to make a positive contribution to the community through involvement with the South Carolina Arts Commission. For several months, Audrey Hopkins-Williams has been leading a team of individuals to consider which issues local citizens face and how arts and culture might be incorporated to address one or more of those challenges. Last spring, when the South Carolina Arts Commission reached out about a pilot program, The Art of Community: Rural S.C., Hopkins-Williams answered the call. Today, as part of the Art of Community initiative, she and her team are celebrating the creation of a plan to add arts and culture to the Estill Nature Walking Trail and engage more citizens in use of the park. [caption id="attachment_29095" align="alignright" width="300"]Estill Park Partnering with the Parks and Recreation Division of the Town of Estill, the local team is exploring ideas to help promote a more healthy community at the 1st Street park site.[/caption] “We know that this park is an asset and that health issues are major concerns here,” she said. “We asked ourselves, ‘can we add some elements to the park that will get people here and help them become more active?’” Hopkins-Williams and her team are considering the variety of ingredients that may fit the bill—from a performance series featuring storytellers to new play equipment that encourages creativity in children. “We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are looking at what keeps people from using the park. What can change the dynamic?” To aid in the development of the arts and culture “ingredients,” the South Carolina Arts Commission made a $1,000 award to help the local team design the project and solicit additional funds. “We are also pleased to have donations from the Martin Funeral Home of Estill, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Department, Maude Saunders of Gordon Logging Company and Mt. Moriah Worship Center of Furman,” she said. “We have just begun to see how the arts make change in communities—already we are being more creative in planning this project and getting people involved in the process.” The Estill team includes Jackie Hopkins, Maude Saunders, Loretta B. Beckett, Vonzetta Strong and Egeria Bostick. While Hopkins-Williams is serving as the “maven,” or connector, for Hampton County, five additional leaders were identified to serve as team mavens in Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton and Jasper counties. Since June, these leaders and their team members have participated in a series of regional meetings. “We are so happy to know more citizens of Hampton County through this project,” South Carolina Arts Commission Program Director Susan DuPlessis said. “Not only have we built new relationships in Estill, we are also building a regional network of citizens who are community builders. We are exploring ways that arts and culture can be used to engage people, to rediscover each community’s assets, and to build on those assets.” Part of the strength of the Art of Community is its connectivity both within the state and beyond. The initiative is informed by a committee of 24 advisors who hail from around the country and from South Carolina. Dr. Ann Carmichael, dean of USC Salkehatchie, and John Robert “Bob” Reeder co-chair the advisory committee. “This initiative is an example of how a state arts commission re-imagines arts and culture within the communities they serve,” said Reeder, a native of Rock Hill, S.C., and program director for Rural LISC, a national community development intermediary working in 44 states. “This effort is being recognized nationally as innovative. Its unique approach—starting with the partnership between a state arts agency and a Promise Zone—is getting well-deserved attention and building new relationships and engagement within small communities.” The Arts Commission received funding from USDA Rural to start this program in South Carolina’s rural Promise Zone in 2015. “As an official partner of the Promise Zone effort and as investors in South Carolina communities through grants, assistance and programming, we are extremely interested in challenges our communities face,” said Ken May, South Carolina Arts Commission executive director. The range of community development issues that have been discussed include health, housing, transportation, safety, environment, economic and workforce development and education. The initiative has also asked the participants to identify what makes them proud of their communities. “This begins with ‘what works,’ ‘what characteristics do you love about your town,’ and ‘what makes you feel connected.’ The best part is that we are working with the community teams—what happens is born out of local ideas and creativity. It’s exciting and inspiring to watch,” said May. Hopkins-Williams advises her local community to “stay tuned. We’re on it!” Anyone interested in becoming part of the Hampton County local team should call Audrey Hopkins-Williams at 843-943-8591.

Free webinar for rural community leaders: Thinking Beyond the Town Line

Rural community leaders are invited to participate in a free webinar to learn how small towns are working together to support each other. Offered by the Orton Family Foundation and the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design, Thinking Beyond the Town Line: Strengthening Rural Development through Cooperation will examine how pooling resources and cooperating across town boundaries can result in new efficiencies and improve quality of life. Susan DuPlessis, program director with the South Carolina Arts Commission, will share highlights from the agency's pilot project, The Art of Community: Rural SC. The webinar takes place November 17 from 3 - 4 p.m. EST. The webinar is free, but online registration is required. Webinar presenters:

  • Brett Schwartz, program manager, National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation. NADO offers a myriad of programs aimed at cross-border cooperation including training, research, and peer networking services in the areas of economic and disaster resilience, transportation, and sustainable community development.
  • Sarah Lucas, AICP, regional planning department manager, Networks Northwest. Lucas works closely with local governments, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders in northwest Michigan on a variety of community issues, including housing and economic development. She also coordinates and facilitates public outreach strategies and conducts in-depth community research and analysis.
  • Lori Meadows, executive director, Kentucky Arts Council. Meadows has headed up the Kentucky Arts Council since 2005. Her work has included convening a 54-county Appalachian region to initiate economic growth and development through arts-related tools, resources and ideas.
  • Susan DuPlessis, program director, South Carolina Arts Commission. DuPlessis has a wide range of experience in creative, place-based work including co-directing several significant agency partnerships including the four-state Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, South Carolina's Rural Promise Zone and the Riley Institute at Furman University. Susan will share highlights from a pilot project, The Art of Community: Rural SC, which is part of the South Carolina Promise Zone initiative.
About the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™ (CIRD) provides communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. CIRD works with communities with populations of 50,000 or less, and offers annual competitive funding to as many as six small towns or rural communities to host a two-and-a-half day community design workshop. With support from a wide range of design, planning and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops bring together local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government to develop actionable solutions to the community's pressing design challenges. The community receives additional support through webinars, conference calls, and web-based resources. About the Orton Family Foundation With an entrepreneurial spirit and funding derived from the profits of The Vermont Country Store, Lyman Orton and Noel Fritzinger established the Orton Family Foundation in 1995 as a resource for small cities and towns grappling with change and searching for solutions. An active resident of Weston, Vermont and a proud seventh generation Vermonter, Lyman saw that many communities around the state were unprepared for growth and lacking the information and tools needed to steer the change toward a vibrant, sustainable future. The Foundation began by developing a GIS-based 3D visualization and decision-support tool, CommunityViz®, which has helped hundreds of communities across the US imagine new possibilities for growth and change. The Foundation now emphasizes the Community Heart & Soul™ process,  a planning methodology that uses broad citizen engagement to build economically resilient and socially vibrant communities based on towns’ unique local character.

Rural communities eligible for design grants

The Citizens Institute on Rural Design is accepting applications for a new round of funding. CIRD helps communities with populations of 50,000 or less that are facing design challenges, such as Main Street revitalization, designing community-supportive transportation, preserving natural and historic landscapes and buildings, protecting working agricultural lands, and providing adequate and affordable housing. CIRD offers annual competitive funding to as many as four small towns to host community design workshops that link local leaders with teams of design, planning and creative placemaking experts. Selected communities will receive $7,000 to support the planning and hosting for a multi-day design workshop, and CIRD will work with the communities to assemble teams of specialists most qualified to address the communities' identified design challenges. Find more information and the application online. The application deadline for 2014 awards is May 6. CIRD, a design initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Project for Public Spaces, the Orton Family Foundation and the CommunityMatters Partnership. Via: Citizens Institute on Rural Design

City of Lancaster awarded $50,000 grant for arts feasibility study

According to the Lancaster News, the city of Lancaster will receive a $50,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture to study the feasibility of developing an arts incubator.

The city of Lancaster is getting several thousands of dollars to see if the area can support what’s being called an arts business incubator. At its Aug. 13 meeting, City Council voted unanimously to accept a $50,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The money is going toward a feasibility study regarding the incubator. Such a facility would provide artists and artisans throughout the region a place to create their goods. Food entrepreneurs would be able to use the site to produce and distribute their goods, as well. The city had applied for a $75,000 grant for the study. “It’s only going to be $50,000, but we’ll take it,” Teresa Meeks, the city’s support services director, said of the amount awarded. “We’re happy with that.” If created, the incubator would target municipalities and communities in Chester, Fairfield and Lancaster counties. A timeline projection calls for the project to go out for bids in late 2013, with work being completed in 2014. “The increased income and availability of local products would encourage more artists and craftspeople to stay in the region and to become economically viable small businesses,” city staff wrote in the grant application. “Because availability of local products is a top tourism interest, the region would gain from increased tourism as well.”
Via: The Lancaster News