ArtPlace America Awards $656,500 to 2 Austin Projects

Jun 25, 2014 - 8:36 am

Grants advance Imagine Austin initiative to invest in creative economy

The City of Austin’s Economic Development Department is pleased to announce that two Austin, Texas projects have received grants totaling $656,500 from ArtPlace America (ArtPlace), a consortium of leading national and regional foundations, federal agencies, and banks, dedicated to accelerating the field of creative placemaking. The department’s Cultural Arts Division is a partner in both projects.

After a seven-month competitive process with 1,270 other applicants, the final 55 selected projects were announced Wednesday June 25, 2014. In this round of ArtPlace funding, $14.7 million is being granted to projects in 79 communities of all sizes across 31 states. Past recipients of ArtPlace grants have demonstrated creative placemaking as a means of investing in art and culture at the heart of a portfolio of integrated strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities.

“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.”

The first Austin project, currently known as Drawing Lines, is receiving a grant of $256,500. The project is a public-private partnership between the Cultural Arts Division and GO collaborative with Public City, Fisterra Studio, and Austin Creative Alliance. The project seeks to harness the power of arts and artists to directly engage the political transformations taking place in Austin as a result of the 10 newly drawn Council Districts. The project will assist district residents in identifying their communities’ cultural assets and artists will create artistic expressions of the districts’ character and diversity. The ten artists, one per district, will then collaborate on a single artwork that expresses the collective understanding of Austin’s diverse communities. The community engagement process is expected to last up to 12-months, culminating in a public exhibition with project maps, single district artworks, one collaborative artwork, and the City of Austin GIS-based cultural asset maps. 

"Austin is undergoing a process of historic political change and art has a role to play in creating those changes. We are thrilled that this project will support opportunities for artists to work directly with community members to discover, understand, and ultimately express an understanding of the diverse identities that we have within our newly formed districts.  Art can help to mirror the larger political transformations we're undergoing as a city and thus help us to more fully engage in our civic life together," said Lynn Osgood, GO collaborative.Drawing Lines Project Poster

The project expands upon the Cultural Arts Division’s current initiative to map Austin’s cultural assets, a project funded through the National Endowment for the Arts. The process will produce a set of GIS maps organized by Council District, a findings report developed with community input, and a set of cultural economic development strategies for each district.  Aligning with Imagine Austin, the Land Development Code Revision, and the City’s CIP Strategic Plan, the goal of this project is to better integrate creative economy strategies into City Planning Areas and Initiatives.

“We are excited for the opportunity to expand on our cultural asset mapping project to include artists in this way,” said Cultural Arts Division Manager Megan Crigger. “This project will engage citizens in expressing their identity as a District while growing the numbers and capacity of artists and creatives working in the civic realm. The new information gathered and new civic engagement skills developed will help in the future growth and sustainability of a creative Austin.”

The second project, “thinkEAST Living Charrette to Shape a New Creative Community” (thinkEAST Living Charrette), is receiving a grant of $400,000. The project is led by Fusebox, the local nonprofit that produces the annual Fusebox Festival; Richard deVarga and Robert Summers, owners/developers of the thinkEAST Creative District; Fred Schmidt, Bullseye Business Development/Capital Factory; and the City of Austin Economic Development Department /Cultural Arts Division. 

thinkEAST Living Charrette unites Austin’s creative communities, city planners, developers, and residents to envision and prototype a creative district of affordable living, working, learning, and exhibition and performance activity at thinkEAST, a 24-acre former industrial site in a diverse, urban neighborhood in East Austin. During the 2015 Fusebox Festival, the project will prototype a temporary creative community to investigate what a vibrant, healthy, mixed-use Austin creative community of the future might look like on the thinkEAST site. 

“We see this project as an exciting extension of our Free Range Art initiative. It's an opportunity to explore how we can reposition the arts to play a more vital, indispensable, role in civic life. The cross-disciplinary nature of this collaboration speaks to our interest in hybridity, which is central to creativity and innovation,” said Ron Berry, Fusebox Executive Director.

“thinkEAST is an exciting project that will put art, artists, and creativity at the center of community development in East Austin. You know a project is special when you are able to build such a broad and diverse coalition of partners including developers, local government, tech companies, artists, arts organizations and other innovative non-profits,” said Richard deVarga, thinkEAST developer.

These two projects are happening within the larger context of the developing ten Council Districts, Imagine Austin and Creative Economy Priority Program implementation, the Land Development Code Revision, CIP Strategic Planning, and implementation of other cultural economic strategies by the City of Austin, the Austin creative sector, and the larger Austin community. 

“Individually, each Austin ArtPlace project is outstanding – thinkEAST Living Charrette models a future that will provide a new standard for current fast growing development in Austin, informing how creatives can have an impact on neighborhood, town centers, and corridor development as identified in the Imagine Austin Growth Concept Map; Drawing Lines will support Austin in shaping creative conversations around positive growth within the new Council District identities.  It is an honor to be selected for the ArtPlace America grants, and we believe separately and together, these projects enable Austin’s creative sector to be a leader in the making of Austin as a livable, vibrant, sustainable City,” said Crigger.

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division
The Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department provides leadership and management for the City’s cultural arts programs and for the development of arts and cultural industries. The Cultural Arts Division is responsible for the Cultural Arts Funding Programs, Art in Public Places Program, community-based arts development, and programs to assist the development of film and creative industries in Austin. For more information, visit

Drawing Lines Partners
Partners include the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division; GO collaborative, a design and planning firm helping connect people to places; Public City; Fisterra Studio, Artist Jennifer Chenoweth; and Austin Creative Alliance.

thinkEAST Living Charrette Partners
Partners include Fusebox, championing adventurous works of art across a variety of different mediums and producer of the annual 12-day hybrid art festival; Richard deVarga and Robert Summers, thinkEAST owners and developers: Fred Schmidt, Bullseye Business Development/Capital Factory ; and City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.

ArtPlace America
ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) advances the field of creative placemaking, in which art and culture plays an explicit and central role in shaping communities’ social, physical, and economic futures.  To date, ArtPlace has awarded $56.8 million through 189 grants to projects serving 122 communities across 42 states and the District of Columbia.

ArtPlace is a collaboration among the Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The William Penn Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Surdna Foundation, and two anonymous donors.
ArtPlace seeks advice and counsel from its close working relationships with the following federal agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts, the US Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education, and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council.
ArtPlace has additional partnership from six major financial institutions: Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife, and Morgan Stanley.

For more information about ArtPlace America, other grantees, or the selection process, contact F. Javier Torres, Director of National Grantmaking, at  or