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Freeman receives $150,000 arts-based community development investment
By Staff reports

July 18. 2014 10:32AM
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded 66 Our Town grants totaling $5.073 million and reaching 38 states in the Our Town program's fourth year of funding. The Center will use the $150,000 grant to determine the feasibility of a facility incorporating a producing greenhouse configuration with an Arts center capable of supporting the area’s strong and vibrant arts, heritage, and agricultural traditions.

Our Town is the NEA’s most recent investment in creative placemaking, through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to shape the social, physical, and economic character of an area around arts and cultural activities. Since Our Town's inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 256 Our Town grants totaling more than $21 million in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“The support of the NEA is immensely important to us,” said Dr. John Koch, project director of the Freeman Arts/Earth Center. “It’s not just the financial support. It is an affirmation that the shared vision of our community is worthy of full and serious consideration.”

"The Freeman Arts/Earth Center demonstrates the best in creative community development and whose work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. "Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike."

“The NEA grant provides Freeman a great opportunity to demonstrate the energy in a small rural community,” Said Freeman City Administrator Carroll Vizecky. “A special relationship has always existed between Freeman and its farming community and it needs further development. Arts-based community development is the best method of centering around our strengths.”

The Our Town grants also involve a partnership with a local cultural organization to encourage cross-sector solutions to the challenges facing their communities. This is represented by Freeman Academy, the project’s co-applicant, whose mission describes a place “where Faith and the Arts bring learning to life”.

Freeman Academy Principal Katherine minister said, “Freeman Academy has a rich history of being leaders in the integration of the arts into a strong academic program. We are looking forward to the potential opportunities that this center brings to Freeman Academy and the surrounding communities.”

Also supporting the project are Director Stephen D. Luoni and the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC), an award-winning organization that strives “to advance creative development through education, research, and design solutions that enhance the physical environment.” Under Luoni’s direction, UACDC’s design and research has won more than 90 awards, including a 2014 Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism for their Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario project.

Dr. Marty Matlock and the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability’s Ecological Engineering Group will be developing the parallel agricultural pieces of the project. Matlock’s team will evaluate design options for creating sustainable food production systems that are economically viable and energy efficient. The UA Ecological Engineering Group strives to integrate design, science, and policy to enhance ecological services in built and non-built landscapes. Their collaborations with the UACDC have garnered more than 20 national and international design awards.

The NEA received 275 applications for OurTown this year. Recommended grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000.

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