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Help Rural America Thrive on Giving Tuesday

Good things are happening in rural America. Be a part of it.

Too often, the prevailing narrative about rural America is that it is failing compared to its urban and suburban counterparts. While rural America is certainly facing its share of struggles, there are so many bright spots and amazing things taking place in small towns and communities across the country. We know because we see it every day.

In October, HAC kicked off the Citizens Institute on Rural DesignTM (CIRD) with the CIRD Learning Cohort Summit in the towns of Thomas, Davis, and Elkins in rural West Virginia. The Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design™ is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, along with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. Participants representing 23 rural communities from across the country convened to learn the fundamentals of rural design and how it can help solve some of their community’s most challenging problems.

Giving Tuesday 2019

Over the next year, these 23 communities will receive access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. Here a few examples of the challenges these communities will be tackling:

  • One of the pressing issues still facing the residents of Iola, Kansas is the lack of quality, affordable housing. Thrive Allen County and the City of Iola will use the design challenge to develop an affordable housing master plan for a neighborhood on the north side of town.
  • The town of Entiat, Washington is exploring how it can reinvent itself as a destination for recreation, agritourism, small business development, and residential development.
  • The Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society in Athens, Ohio plans to rehabilitate the Mt. Zion Baptist Church into a multi-use space devoted to the contributions of African Americans in Southeast Ohio – honoring its founding in 1905 by a community of free-born and formerly enslaved people of color.

2020 holds many possibilities for HAC and the communities we partner with, like Iola, Entiat, and Athens. This #GivingTuesday, your donation to HAC will have more impact as every dollar raised will meet HAC’s match for the CIRD program. And every donation made to HAC on Facebook on #GivingTuesday will be matched by Facebook. You can be a part of changing the story in rural America.

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National Endowment for the Arts funds Design Assistance for Twenty-three Rural Communities

Contact:
Office of Public Affairs, publicaffairs@arts.gov, 202-682-5570
Evelyn Immonen, evelyn@ruralhome.org, 202-842-8600

Twenty-three Rural Communities Receive Design Assistance From National Endowment for the Arts

Washington DC, September 10, 2019—In its ongoing support of rural communities, the National Endowment for the Arts announces the 2019 communities taking part in its national initiative, the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ (CIRD). New this year, the Arts Endowment is expanding CIRD’s offerings to include a peer-learning component for rural leaders from 23 communities. These leaders will receive training in rural design and creative placemaking as well as support in navigating funding opportunities to make their communities better places to live, work, and play. Along with the peer-learning component, CIRD will conduct its traditional community design workshops in three new places: Millinocket, Maine; Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico; and Athens, Ohio.

This year is the first with initiative partners the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc]. This year also marked a record for the initiative with 85 applications received, the highest in the program’s history.

”It was inspiring to see overwhelming interest in the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design program this year,” said Arts Endowment Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Jen Hughes. “Rural and tribal communities across the country are putting forth ambitious visions for their future and view design and creative placemaking as a way to not only celebrate their cultural history, but also to drive economic development.”

Since 1991, CIRD has worked in communities with populations of 50,000 or less to enhance quality of life and economic viability through planning, design, and creative placemaking. To date, the Arts Endowment has convened more than 80 workshops in all regions of the country, bringing together local residents with teams of design, economic development, and creative placemaking professionals. Together, professionals and citizens leverage local and regional assets to guide the design of their communities.

The multi-day design workshops in the three selected communities will focus on different challenges. Dates for each workshop and members of the resource team are forthcoming.

Millinocket, Maine (population 4,400): The residents of Millinocket, located near Maine’s Mount Katahdin, have mobilized around sustainability, mental health/wellness, and diversifying the town’s economic base after the departure of the paper industry. The goal is to create a design principles guidebook that will inform downtown revitalization plans and be used by local businesses to help create a unified sense of place.

Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico (population 1,241): The Pueblo is developing an ambitious master plan for the Village of Laguna (one of six in the Pueblo) that seeks to address longstanding challenges, including a dearth of affordable housing and the need for both walkability and commercial space that builds on indigenous cultural assets such as artisanship and arid-land farming. The University of New Mexico’s Indigenous Design + Planning Institute will join local institutions to support the workshop.

Athens, Ohio (population 23,832): Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society wants to preserve and reimagine the use of a century-old church built by free-born and formerly enslaved black artisans. In addition to architectural rehabilitation, the Preservation Society and its partners envision the place as an economic engine and as a hub for black history and culture.

In addition to these three communities, 20 additional communities will form the inaugural peer-learning cohort and will meet for a Rural Design Summit in West Virginia, October 9-11, 2019:

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Organization

City

State

City of Eufaula

Eufaula

AL

Eastern Sierra Artists

Bishop

CA

Dancing Spirit Community Arts Center

Ignacio

CO

Huerfano County Economic Development, Inc.

Walsenburg

CO

Economic Council of Okeechobee County, Inc.

Okeechobee

FL

Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency

Sebring

FL

action pact

Waycross

GA

Thrive Allen County, Inc.

Iola

KS

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative

Hazard

KY

Snow Pond Center for the Arts

Sidney

ME

City of Excelsior Springs

Excelsior Springs

MO

McComb Creative Economy Partnership

McComb

MS

Clay County Historical and Arts Council

Hayesville

NC

Divide County Economic Development Council, Inc.

Crosby

ND

Woodward Arts & Theatre Council, Inc.

Woodward

OK

City of San Elizario

San Elizario

TX

Town of Scottsville

Scottsville

VA

Shenandoah County Office of Economic Development

Shenandoah County

VA

NCW Economic Development District

Entiat

WA

Laramie Main Street

Laramie

WY

For more information about the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design go to the initiative’s web page.
About the 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. For more information, visit www.arts.gov.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) is a national nonprofit that strengthens communities across rural America through investment and assistance with affordable housing and community and economic development. Based in Washington, DC, HAC is actively involved in shaping federal policy and the affordable housing industry with its research, lending and conferences. We also deliver technical assistance, training and affordable loans to local organizations that help rural communities prosper.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work.

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New Leadership for Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Brings Broad Reach

by David Lipsetz

Children in front of a mural - Photo: [bc]

The National Endowment for the Arts has selected the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) as its partner for the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD), one of the Arts Endowment’s leadership initiatives. As HAC’s CEO, I couldn’t be more excited.

CIRD‘s goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic viability of rural America through planning, design, and creative placemaking. It offers communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. The program awards competitive funding to small towns and rural and tribal communities to host multi-day community design workshops. With support from a wide range of design, planning, and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops bring together residents and local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government to develop actionable solutions to the community’s pressing design challenges. Following the workshop, the community receives additional support through webinars, web-based resources, and customized follow-up support.

HAC CEO David Lipsetz tours housing projects on the Pine Ridge reservation

If you are familiar with CIRD, but haven’t worked with HAC before, you might be wondering why a housing organization was chosen. Let me tell you a bit about us and hopefully it becomes clear. HAC’s mission is to build homes and communities across rural America. We’ve been doing so for nearly 50 years and have worked with over 10,000 rural communities.

HAC is attuned to rural life. We appreciate that every small town is unique. We understand that projects succeed or fail on the strength of local leadership and engagement. We see our job as building the capacity of local organizations to thrive well after we are gone. We know housing, but in rural places you never have the luxury of working with only one of the tools of community development. You must be able to wear many hats, and over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection.

I’m eager to watch CIRD’s core mission carried out through HAC. I’m equally eager to watch the interaction—both locally and nationally—of rural housing and community development practitioners working alongside designers and planners. CIRD will maintain its competitive funding for small and tribal communities to host multi-day design workshops. We will leverage our 50-state reach and capacity building network to bring peer learning and design-rooted capacity building to an additional 20 communities, and couple it with support for navigating funding opportunities. In late May 2019, CIRD will release a Request for Applications, inviting communities to apply for the program. Join CIRD’s mailing list to stay abreast.

If you are reading this post, you probably already know of rural and tribal communities that are trendsetters in design and creative placemaking. They often want to continue turning their community-rooted design ideas into reality. They want steady funding streams, coupled with the know-how to access such. They want to exchange ideas and break bread with their rural peers, gaining hands-on exposure to best practices. And they want to engage with the country’s best designers, including architects, planners, and other experts with a rural bent. They need a repository for what works and connection to a national conversation, boosting their collective capacity. HAC has been creating such connections for decades, and the National Endowment for the Arts has given HAC the resources to build even more via CIRD.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP (bc), a nonprofit community design organization, will join HAC as a key partner in carrying out CIRD. bc is known for engaging low-income communities with award winning design and planning. bc has earned the respect of local partners in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and beyond. Their expertise is a perfect complement to HAC’s reach and reputation for building local capacity.

CIRD - Studio in the Park

The National Endowment for the Arts and HAC have committed to furthering CIRD’s reach because CIRD works. HAC hopes to spend a decade leading CIRD in close consultation with a CIRD Steering Committee comprised of rural design leaders. Behind the National Endowment for the Arts decision to select HAC is HAC’s success with a National Endowment for the Arts-funded creative placemaking award, HAC’s groundbreaking report on Placemaking in Native American Communities, and a growing consensus among policymakers, pundits, and most recently the National Governors Association that arts, placemaking, and design are drivers of rural economic development.

NEA’s support is also allowing HAC to host bc and several design fellows and other visitors at the intersection of rural and design to collaborate. Deliberate co-locating of top designers and planners with HAC’s expertise in rural policy and programs will deepen everyone’s understanding. The idea grew out of a bc-led session at HAC’s recent National Rural Housing conferences. HAC has an ear to the ground in rural America; merging such with bc’s design bona fides and a mutual respect for rural practitioners will bring about design rooted upshot for hundreds of small towns.

Finally, HAC will put CIRD’s track record and potential to work with philanthropy and other non-government actors. Ensuring quality rural design on a scale commensurate with the need for such requires investment from business and foundations. In boosting CIRD’s funding level to reach up to 20 additional communities, the National Endowment for the Arts signaled a commitment to rural design as a driver of rural prosperity—even in a competitive funding environment. Private and public support, including Community Reinvestment Act-motivated capital toward creative and design-focused endeavors is already producing results. We are looking for several more foundations and financial institutions to join our journey.

Way back in 1971, HAC’s founders called for “foster(ing) planning” and “citizen participation in housing and community benefit” on a national scale. They were prescient in outlining the importance of locally-driven planning and citizen participation. I’m glad that the National Endowment for the Arts is trusting HAC, via CIRD and with bcWORKSHOP, to take on work that our founders knew as important, then and now.