Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced plans to award 66 Our Town grants totaling $5.073 million and reaching 38 states in the Our Town program’s fourth year of funding. Gateway Community Development Corporation (CDC) is one of those recommended organizations and will receive $100,000 to fund Phase 3 of the Art Lives Here initiative. The goal of Art LivesHere is to boost vibrancy in the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District using a mix of short and long term projects to support existing small businesses, attract commercial in-fill, prepare for the next round of commercial development, and further strengthen our diverse and streetwise creative communities. In Phase 3, the initiative will launch a Creative Enterprise Incubator in the prominent retail space of the Artspace Artist Lofts on the Mount Rainier circle.
This year’s Our Town projects demonstrate again that excellent art is as fundamental to a community’s success as land-use, transportation, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety, helping build stronger communities that are diverse in geography and character. Our Town funds arts-based community development projects in away that is authentic, equitable, and augments existing local assets. Since Our Town’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 256 Our Town grants totaling more than $21 million in all50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Creative Enterprise Incubator will convert a long under-utilized commercial space at the Artspace Mount Rainier Artist Lofts into a vibrant hub of activity to serve arts-related and retail businesses and provide a comprehensive set of resources that will enhance opportunities for the creative economy to thrive. Purpose-built for arts usage, the available space includes 4,000 square feet of open and flexible gallery storefront, room for a mix of private commercial artists studios and offices, a large classroom space, and a residents’ gallery. Artspace will build out the space and a committed team of partners, artists, professional arts managers and business leaders will equip the incubator with a self-sustaining structure that brings a curriculum, services and resources to the Gateway Arts District’s creative communities.
“Gateway Community Development Corporation demonstrates the best in creative community development and whose work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding,arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”
Art Lives Here (ALH) began with an NEA grant of $50,000 to Joe’s Movement Emporium to focus on artist driven strategies to support small business development in Mount Rainier’s historic but distressed town center. In phase I (June 2012-June 2013) the initiative (a) engaged citizens through participatory public arts projects; (b) facilitated partnerships to place competitively selected arts projects in under-performing storefronts to enliven the space and attract locals and visitors downtown; (c) hosted Soup Nites where local donations were matched10:1 to support creative business developments; and (d) established a downtown arts season and visibility campaign that swirled public art, social media, street marketing and multimedia into the stock of existing events.
Designed to progress in seasons and up the Gateway corridor, phase 2 was funded with $240,000 by ArtPlace America to Joe’s Movement Emporium (July 2013-December 2014) to continue the visibility campaign developed in phase I and to extend it to neighboring towns in the arts district with projects based on the Mount Rainier pilot. In phase 2, the ALH initiative is: (e) hosting Better Block projects in Brentwood and North Brentwood near two active Redevelopment Authority sites; (f) competitively funding pop-up installations and performances woven into existing arts district events; and (g) working with local multimedia professionals to produce a series of artist profiles and spark a multimedia production micro-industry. ALH partners have also undertaken smaller scale urban design projects, including: (h) commissioning a series of 30+ place-making murals throughout the arts district; (i) locally producing boulevard signage for businesses and art spaces; and (j) public works projects around storm drains in partnership with the Department of Environmental Resources. Partners for ALH phase 2 include Art Works Now, Gateway CDC, Hyattsville CDC, Joe’s Movement Emporium, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center, Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council, and Red Dirt Studio.
“Through the Art Lives Here initiative, our team has strengthened its economic, social, and political ties, already attracting more positive attention to the Gateway Arts District,” said Gateway CDC Executive Director Carole Bernard. “With a new round of long-awaited arts-integrated facilities through the two-mile stretch of historic U.S.Route 1, our four large mixed-use development projects over the next 36 months will bring new density, new businesses and an anticipated increased interest in property in the corridor. At this exciting time in the arts district’s history, we need to focus on our local businesses and creative communities more than ever and form collaborative infrastructures for new creative enterprises that will enhance opportunities for continued economic growth and sustainability.”
“The City of Mount Rainier is pleased to partner with Gateway CDC on phase 3 of Art Lives Here,” said Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles. “By activating a commercial space within our business district and converting it into a creative enterprise incubator, our many local artists and businesses will receive critical resources and services that will help them grow and maintain their presence in a changing economic environment.”
“Artspace has a long history of investment in facilities across the country that support the arts, and we are excited to work with Gateway CDC, the City of Mount Rainier and the communities of the arts district to pilot this new incubator,” said Artspace Senior Vice President of Properties Greg Handberg. “Artspace is proud to be a partner on this NEA grant where we can activate our commercial space and be a part of helping our artist residents and other local businesses move their businesses forward in a community-focused initiative.”
“The Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority has invested millions of dollars into the Gateway Arts District because we know what this area and the communities there have to offer,” said Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Howard Ways. “We are excited about this project and our partnership with Gateway CDC, and the County looks forward to being a part of the continued community revitalization strategies within the arts district.”
The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year. Recommended grant amounts ranged from $25,000to $200,000. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and resources are available as well.