City of Providence and FirstWorks Receive $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant Providence among 59 projects selected nationwide for the ‘Our Town’ grant

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and FirstWorks announced today that the City of Providence will receive a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant. The $75,000 grant will support a community design effort to create a cultural corridor in downtown Providence along Washington Street, and to establish the FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza as a biennial signature event in Providence.

The city’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and cultural partner FirstWorks will use the award to continue the transformation of Kennedy Plaza, a key component of Mayor Taveras’ economic development action plan,Putting Providence Back to Work.

“The National Endowment for the Arts’ investment in Kennedy Plaza and the surrounding area will strengthen the cultural vitality of our capital city by encouraging residents and visitors to enjoy the vibrant civic spaces in the heart of downtown Providence,” said Mayor Angel Taveras. “The project builds on Providence’s 2011 Our Town grant and strengthens collaboration between Providence’s arts and business communities.”

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation played a key role in supporting the Our Town grant. U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who oversees federal arts funding as the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, brought top NEA officials to Providence to see firsthand the transformational potential for creative economic development. Reed helped provide $146 million for the NEA last year and has championed the Our Town grant program. Rhode Island has received multiple Our Town grants from the NEA, including a $200,000 award for Providence in 2011 and a $50,000 award for Woonsocket in 2012.

“I congratulate Mayor Taveras and FirstWorks on putting together a winning application. This federal funding will enhance Providence’s efforts to use the arts as a catalyst for economic development. Encouraging creative activity and investing in the arts will pay dividends culturally and economically for the entire city,” said Senator Reed. “ I was pleased to help make this funding available because the Our Town grant initiative is all about using the arts to bring the community together. This initiative is a terrific example of how funding from the National Endowment for the Arts provide that spark that ignites something special that reflects the talent and values of the local community. By combining federal funds with state and local funds and private donations with a broad base of partners, the city can really leverage these resources. And of course I am looking forward to attending another successful FirstWorks festival.”

“Providence offers a vibrant arts scene for Rhode Island residents and out-of-town guests, which boosts the local economy,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, an ex-officio member of the National Council on the Arts, the advisory body of the National Endowment for the Arts. “This grant will help the city continue to expand its wide variety of cultural opportunities, and I congratulate Mayor Taveras and FirstWorks on a successful grant application.”

The Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and FirstWorks, in partnership with the Downtown Providence Park Conservancy, will lead a coalition from the arts, business and civic sectors to further the cultural activation of Kennedy Plaza.

For the 2014 FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza, scheduled for September 20, Downtown Providence and Kennedy Plaza will be transformed into a multi-stage venue, with performances and installations along Washington Street and the internationally-acclaimed Waterfire on the Providence River.

The FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza will be an exciting global mash-up of public art interventions and performances by world-renowned artists, leading Providence artists and cultural organizations, such as the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brown University/Trinity Repertory MFA Programs, along with guest artists in-residence.

The initiative will take the Kennedy Plaza transformation efforts down Washington Street to create a cultural corridor that promotes pedestrian use and enhances Providence’s livability by animating vacant and underutilized spaces with cultural activity.

In advance of the 2014 Festival, design planning activities will create programming linkages in a downtown cultural corridor that includes the River Walk, Kennedy Plaza and Washington Street – a major transit artery and home to AS220, Trinity Repertory Company, restaurants, shops and hotels. These spaces, all adjacent to Kennedy Plaza, will be activated with programming during the September 2014 FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza.

“We are grateful to the congressional delegation, particularly Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse for their continued stewardship and thank the NEA for supporting this transformational project,” said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director of FirstWorks. “We look forward to collaborating with our long-time partner, the City of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and an incredible coalition of Providence art groups to create a destination event that showcases creative Providence. The FirstWorks Festival will foster community engagement, present the finest local, national and global artists, and inspire audiences with nationally-renowned exemplars of artistic excellence.”

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced 59 Our Town grants totaling $4.725 million and reaching 34 states in the Our Town program’s third year of funding.

Through Our Town, the NEA supports creative placemaking projects that help transform communities into lively, beautiful and sustainable places with the arts at their core. The grantee projects will encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help to revitalize local economies. All Our Town grant awards were made to partnerships that include at least one non-profit organization and a local government entity.

“This is an exciting time to announce the Our Town grants as the national conversation around creative placemaking advances and deepens,” said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “With these resources, we will help to ensure that the field of creative placemaking continues to mature, enhancing the quality of life for communities around the country.”

The NEA received 254 applications for Our Town this year. Grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000, with a median grant amount of $50,000.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit NEA’s website:

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