Providence receives ArtPlace America Grant



EmcArts to pilot “Community Innovation Lab” funded by Kresge Foundation

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza announced Monday that the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism in partnership with Rhode Island LISC is among 38 recipients of ArtPlace America’s 2015 National Grants Program.  

ArtPlace, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies dedicated to creative placemaking, is investing $300,000 in Providence to further integrate arts and culture into the field of community planning and development.  The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and RI-LISC will collaborate with a series of community partners to make improvements to Grace Church Cemetery and build capacity and programs at the Southside Cultural Center. 

In addition the project includes a community engagement process that will develop strategies for change that involves all neighborhood stakeholders in improvements in the area.  ArtPlace selected the City of Providence and RI LISC from a pool of nearly 1,300 applicants.

“I am excited to share this great news with our community. We have seen arts and culture transform our city and we know that cultural expression in our neighborhoods is just as important as in downtown,” said Mayor Elorza. “I am grateful ArtPlace America has decided to join our efforts by helping provide this opportunity to improve Trinity Square.”

“Investing in and supporting the arts have a profound impact on the social, physical, and economic futures of communities,” said ArtPlace executive director Jamie L. Bennett. “Projects like these demonstrate how imaginative and committed people are when it comes to enhancing their communities with creative interventions and thoughtful practices.”

Providence has also been selected as one of two U.S. cities to pilot the Community Innovation Lab framework, a new approach to solving tough social problems by deeply integrating artists and artistic experience into a rigorously designed and facilitated process. The Lab framework was developed by EmcArts, a nationally recognized service organization for adaptive change, to bring together the best from the fields of social innovation labs and creative placemaking. Focused on public safety in Trinity Square, the Lab will engage a diverse, cross-sector group of stakeholders, including city agencies, community organizers, nonprofit service providers, business leaders, artists and cultural organizations to co-create innovative strategies for systemic change.

Richard Evans, president of EmcArts, said:  “We’re thrilled to be working alongside Mayor Elorza, RI-LISC, and the other partners to harvest the unique power of local artists and cultural workers to catalyze systemic change. Public safety is a complex problem. It requires questioning old assumptions, collaborating across boundaries, deep understanding of local system dynamics, and rehearsing many potential strategies for change. The Community Innovation Lab framework creates space for high-impact, creative solutions to emerge and builds a robust network of advocates to ensure that those strategies get implemented. With national support from the Kresge Foundation, the timing couldn’t be better to initiate a Lab in Providence.”

“We are so pleased to be partnering with the city on this initiative,” commented Jeanne Cola, executive director of Rhode Island LISC. “The funding from ArtPlace America is directly in line with a new initiative at LISC that is incorporating art and culture into our community development model, funded by the Kresge Foundation. We are thrilled that in addition to the ArtPlace funding we are investing more than $200,000 into this project over the next two years.”

“Rhode Island Housing is proud to invest in this collaborative effort that will continue the transformation of Trinity Square into a vibrant, livable centerpiece of the Elmwood neighborhood,” said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. “This effort builds on investments by Rhode Island Housing and our partners in recent years that have given families more safe, affordable places to live in Trinity Square. I applaud Mayor Elorza for bringing the arts into our neighborhoods through a thoughtful approach to community development.”

SWAP, under the leadership of executive director, Carla DeStefano, will be working with Grace Church to repair and improve the fencing around the cemetery.   A team from Rhode Island School of Design will create a permanent lighting installation with the input of residents and businesses in the square. 

“RISD is thrilled to be collaborating with the city and LISC,” noted Nancy Skolos, RISD’s Dean of Architecture + Design. “Guest faculty member Elettra Bordonaro has brought lighting projects to under-resourced communities internationally and recently here in Rhode Island through a course culminating in an installation by RISD students at Grace Church Cemetery. We look forward to being a part of this meaningful community project.”

The project includes a capacity-building initiative to enhance the work of resident culturally based organizations now working at the Southside Cultural center and immediate neighborhood. These organizations include RI Black Storytellers, RI Latino Arts, the Cambodian Society, the Laotian Society and ECAS Theater.

“We are thrilled to hear this news,” said Richardson Ogidan, executive director, Southside Cultural Center. “I have lived and worked in this community for close to 40 years.  I have no doubt that the work we do this year will help us build model of collaboration.  I’ve had a long term vision that this building would be a neighborhood anchor and this funding will help us get there.”

Lynne McCormack, director, Dept. of Art, Culture + Tourism and Carrie Zaslow, program officer, RI LISC will be directing the project over the next 18 months.

"The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that touches each of the sectors and stakeholders that make up the community development field,” said ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres.  “Last year, ArtPlace developed a Community Development Matrix to help us better evaluate our success on this front.  So, we're thrilled that this year's 38 grantees represent a dynamic spectrum of creative approaches and partnerships in community development that expand the dimensions of our portfolio." 

This year’s ArtPlace America grantees were selected from nearly 1,300 applicants across 48 states and the District of Columbia.  Grants range from $50,000 to $500,000 with an average of $265,000.

"Each one of these grants supports a geographic community: a collection of people who live, work, and play within a defined circle on a map,” continued Torres.  “In each case, a community development challenge or opportunity was identified by local stakeholders; and these 38 grantees are serving as conduits for their community's desires by leading arts-based solutions through their projects."

To view the complete list of 2015 ArtPlace grantees, go to 

(release from City of Providence)