Memphis, TN (December 13, 2016) — Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announced awards totaling more than $30 million, including a $25,000 grant to help Memphis-based community leaders use the arts to revitalize local neighborhoods. The grant will be administered through ArtsMemphis, and it will go toward projects led by participants in the organization’s Community Engagement Fellows Program – an initiative aimed at training emerging leaders in the field of arts-driven social change.
The Fellows program was launched in 2014 and each Fellowship award comes with a stipend to participate in a six-month, hands-on curriculum, featuring leading scholars and practitioners. Over the past three years, the program has graduated 46 Fellows from a host of different nonprofits throughout Memphis. The Fellowship curriculum is led by nationally recognized thought leader Linda Steele. Steele is especially excited about the work that Fellows are carrying out in the Orange Mound neighborhood. "The Fellows have been working hand-in-hand with Orange Mound residents,” Steele said, “designing arts-based projects to address the neighborhood’s self-identified needs. With this grant, we’ll be able to fund some of the most promising projects.”
One example of the type of work spearheaded by Community Engagement Fellows is called “Art Cans.” It is the brainchild of LuElla Marshall – a lifelong Orange Mound resident and community leader. Ms. Marshall noticed that there was a litter and trash-collection problem in Orange Mound. To combat this challenge, she enlisted neighborhood artists to paint trash cans and make them more visible for potential litterers, and to make it clear to the city’s garbage collectors that local residents care about trash pickup. Ms. Marshall is eager to secure grant funding to expand the program and to pay a commission for each of the participating artists.
According to ArtsMemphis President & CEO Elizabeth Rouse, the use of the arts to support broader community goals is a nationwide trend. “More and more arts funders across the country are investing community-based projects like the ones led by our Fellows,” Rouse said. “There is a real recognition that the arts can be a major tool for revitalizing communities."
“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as ArtsMemphis, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”