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Our Town: Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects

Grants to USA Local Governments and Nonprofits
to Integrate the Arts into Community Revitalization

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National Endowment for the Arts

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

09/25/17 11:59 PM ET


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Grants starting at $25,000 to USA and territories nonprofits and local governments for collaborative arts engagement, design, and cultural planning projects. Applicants must register or renew the required account by August 21 and submit the required form by September 11. Projects should represent the distinct quality and character of the local community, and be jointly implemented by a nonprofit in partnership with a local government agency.

The National Endowment for the Arts plans to support a variety of projects across the country in urban to rural communities of all sizes. Successful Our Town projects will impact livability by affecting community priorities such as public safety, health, blight and vacancy, environment, job creation, equity, local business development, civic participation, and/or community cohesion.

Projects should represent the distinct character and quality of their communities, and must reflect the following livability requirements:

-The needs of existing residents and institutions in the community.
-A vision for enhancing the social and/or economic livability of the community.
-Support for artists, design professionals, and arts organizations that integrate the arts and design into the fabric of civic life and/or community plans.
-Creative approaches to addressing community challenges or priorities.

Projects may include arts engagement, cultural planning, and design projects such as:

Arts Engagement:
Arts engagement projects support artistically excellent artistic production or practice as the focus of creative placemaking work. This includes artist-led projects that impact livability.

-Innovative programming that fosters interaction among community members, arts organizations, and artists, or activates existing cultural and community assets.
-Public art that improves public spaces and strategically reflects or shapes the physical and social character of a community.
-Artist residencies that provide artists with the opportunity to bring their creative skill sets to non-arts institutions, including residencies in government offices, businesses, or other institutions.
-Projects that provide artists professional development and access to markets and capital for business development in communities, including support for creative entrepreneurship.
-Festivals and performances that activate spaces not normally used for such purposes.

Cultural Planning:
Cultural planning projects support the development of artistically excellent local support systems necessary for creative placemaking to succeed.

-Creative asset mapping.
-Cultural district planning.
-The development of master plans or community-wide strategies for public art.
-The development of plans or policies for integrating arts and cultural activities into comprehensive strategies that address local challenges and advance community goals through processes that empower local residents.

Design projects that demonstrate artistic excellence while supporting the development of places where creative activities occur, or where the identity of place is created or reinforced.

-Design of public spaces, e.g., parks, plazas, landscapes, neighborhoods, districts, infrastructure, bridges, and artist-produced elements of streetscapes.
-Community engagement in planning and design processes that empower local residents, including design charrettes, design competitions, and community design workshops.
-Design of rehearsal, studio, or live/work spaces for artists, including innovative new models of artist space, such as co-working and shared spaces.
-Design of cultural facilities – new or adaptive reuse.


Through Our Town projects, the Arts Endowment intends to achieve the following objective from the NEA strategic plan: Livability: American communities are strengthened through the arts.

Successful Our Town projects will impact livability by affecting community priorities such as public safety, health, blight, and vacancy, environment, job creation, equity, local business development, civic participation, and/or community cohesion. The anticipated long-term results for Livability projects are measurable community benefits, which might include:

-Growth in overall levels of social and civic engagement.
-New avenues for expression and creativity.
-Design-focused changes in policies, laws, and/or regulations.
-Job and/or revenue growth.
-Positive changes in migration patterns.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 172668

Estimated Size of Grant:

You must request a grant amount at one of the following levels: $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, $100,000, $150,000, or $200,000.

NEA will award very few grants at the $200,000 level; these will be only for projects of significant scale and impact.

Term of Contract:

NEA support of a project may start on August 1, 2018, or any time thereafter. A grant period of up to two years is allowed. Allow sufficient time to plan, execute, and close out your project. The two-year period is intended to allow an applicant sufficient time to plan, execute, and close out its project, not to repeat a one-year project for a second year.


  • City or township governments
  • County governments
  • Independent school districts
  • Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
  • See RFP and/or Grant Guidelines for full eligibility
  • Special district governments
  • State governments

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

All applications require partnerships that involve at least two primary partners as defined by these guidelines: a nonprofit organization and a local governmental entity. One of the two primary partners must be a cultural (arts or design) organization. Additional partners are encouraged.

One of the two primary partners must act as the official applicant (lead applicant). This lead applicant must meet the eligibility requirements, submit the application, and assume full responsibility for the grant.

Eligible lead applicants are:

-Nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) U.S. organizations with a documented three-year history of programming.

-Local governments. For the purposes of these guidelines, local governments are defined as counties, parishes, cities, towns, villages, or federally recognized tribal governments. Local arts agencies or other departments, agencies, or entities within an eligible local government may submit the application on behalf of that local government. The following do not qualify as local governments: state level government agencies, other state-designated entities, state higher education institutions, regional governments and entities, quasi-government organizations, regional planning organizations, and business improvement districts.

For U.S. territories, if no local government exists, the territory government can serve as the local government.

To be eligible, the lead applicant organization must:

-Meet the National Endowment for the Arts "Legal Requirements," including nonprofit, tax-exempt status, at the time of application:

-Have submitted acceptable Final Report packages by the due date(s) for all National Endowment for the Arts award(s) previously received.

Additional partners are encouraged and may include an appropriate variety of entities such as arts organizations and artists, design professionals and design centers, state level government agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, real estate developers, business leaders, community organizations, council of governments, rural planning organizations, transportation agencies, special districts, educational organizations, as well as public and governmental entities. Federal agencies cannot be monetary partners.

The designated state and jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs) and their regional arts organizations (RAOs) may serve as partners, but not primary partners, in projects. National Endowment for the Arts funds can't support any SAA or RAO costs. There is an exception for U.S. territories. The territory's SAA may serve as the local government primary partner. However, all grant funds must be passed on to the other partners.

All applicants must have a DUNS number ( and be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM, and maintain an active SAM registration until the application process is complete, and should a grant be made, throughout the life of the award. Finalize a new or renew an existing registration at least two weeks before the application deadline. This action should allow you time to resolve any issues that may arise. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in your inability to submit your application. Maintain documentation (with dates) of your efforts to register or renew at least two weeks before the deadline.

Application Restrictions:

An organization may submit as a lead applicant two applications to Our Town.

A partnering organization may serve as a partner on as many applications as they like.

If two applications are submitted from a single lead applicant, local government, or within the same geographic area, the capacity of the lead applicant, local government, or geographic area to carry out and sustain two Our Town projects will be considered in the review of applications.

All applications must include a formal statement of support for the project from the highest ranking official of the local government participating in the project. Each local government -- whether applying as the lead applicant or as the primary partner with a nonprofit organization -- is limited to two applications. The local government must coordinate internally to ensure that only two applications are submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts, rather than multiple applications through its various offices. The submitted applications must be identified as proposing the chosen projects by formal statements of support from the highest ranking official of the local government. If more than two applications are submitted for a government, NEA will ask the highest ranking official to select two applications to move forward.

Other National Endowment for the Arts Funding Opportunities:

You may apply to other National Endowment for the Arts funding opportunities, including Art Works and Challenge America, in addition to Our Town. In each case, the request must be for a distinctly different project, or a distinctly different phase of a project. If you have applied to the NEA in the past and were not recommended for funding, you may apply again to any funding opportunity, including Our Town.

Under these guidelines, funding is not available for:
-Costs incurred before or after the beginning of the official period of performance.
-General operating or seasonal support.
-Costs for the creation of new organizations.
-Direct grants to individuals. (NEA encourages applicant organizations to involve individual artists in all possible ways.)
-Individual elementary or secondary schools -- charter, private, or public -- directly. Schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible organization applies. Local education agencies, school districts, and state and regional education agencies are eligible. If a single school also is a local education agency, as is the case with some charter schools, the school may apply with documentation that supports its status as a local education agency.
-Construction, purchase, or renovation of facilities. (Design fees, preparing space for an exhibit, installation or de-installation of art, and community planning are eligible. However, no National Endowment for the Arts or matching funds may be directed to the costs of physical construction or renovation or toward the purchase costs of facilities or land.)
-Commercial (for-profit) enterprises or activities, including concessions, food, T-shirts, or other items for resale.
-Cash reserves and endowments.
-Subgranting or regranting, except for state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, or local arts agencies that are designated to operate on behalf of their local governments or are operating units of city or county government. (See more information on subgranting.)
-Costs to bring a project into compliance with federal grant requirements. This includes environmental or historical assessments or reviews and the hiring of individuals to write assessments or reviews or to otherwise comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and/or the National Historic Preservation Act.
-Awards to individuals or organizations to honor or recognize achievement.
-Generally, professional training programs or courses in degree-granting institutions.
-Projects that replace arts instruction provided by an arts specialist.
-Literary publishing that does not focus on contemporary literature and/or writers.
-Generally, publication of books, exhibition of works, or other projects by the applicant organization's board members, faculty, or trustees.
-Exhibitions of, and other projects that primarily involve, single, individually-owned, private collections.
-Projects for which the selection of artists or art works is based upon criteria other than artistic excellence and merit. Examples include festivals, exhibitions, or publications for which no jury/editorial judgment has been applied.
-Expenditures related to compensation to foreign nationals and/or travel to or from foreign countries when those expenditures are not in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control.
-Project costs supported by any other federal funding. This includes federal funding received either directly from a federal agency (e.g., NEH, HUD, National Science Foundation, or an entity that receives federal appropriations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or Amtrak); or indirectly from a pass-through organization such as a state arts agency, regional arts organization, or a grant made to another entity.
-Alcoholic beverages.
-Gifts and prizes, including cash prizes as well as other items (e.g., iPads, gift certificates) with monetary value.
-General miscellaneous or contingency costs.
-Contributions and donations to other entities.
-Fines and penalties, bad debt costs, deficit reduction.
-Social activities such as receptions, parties, galas.
-Marketing expenses that are not directly related to the project.
-Audit costs that are not directly related to a single audit (formerly known as an A-133 audit).
-Rental costs for home office workspace owned by individuals or entities affiliated with the applicant organization.
-Visa costs paid to the U.S. government.

Pre-proposal Conference:

NEA will conduct a live "How to Apply" webinar on July 24, 2017, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time followed by a Q&A session.

NEA will conduct a live "Tips & Tricks for Success" webinar on July 31, 2017, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time followed by a Q&A session.

Pre-Application Information:

Grants cannot exceed 50% of the total cost of the project. All grants require a nonfederal match of at least 1 to 1. These matching funds may be all cash or a combination of cash and in-kind contributions.

If you are recommended for a grant and your project may be subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and/or the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Endowment for the Arts will conduct a review of your project to ensure that it is in compliance NEPA/NHPA.

Some of the common project types that garner a NHPA review are:

-A project involving or occurring near a district, site, building, landscape, structure or object that is 50 years old or older and therefore included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (please note that in some instances, buildings or structures may be included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places that are less than 50 years old).

-The commissioning and installation of temporary or permanent outdoor furnishings such as benches or market structures or art such as a sculpture or mural.

-An arts festival in a park.

-Design planning and services for projects that may involve a historic site, structure, or district.

This review and approval process may take up to several months to complete and may delay your project's start date. The results of the review may impact our ability to make a grant award/our ability to release grant funds.

Application Calendar:

-Step 1 - Submit SF-424 to September 11, 2017 by 11:59 PM, Eastern Time. Register/renew by at least August 21. Submit by at least September 1.

-Step 2 - Submit Materials to Applicant Portal: 9:00 AM, Eastern Time September 18, 2017 to 11:59 PM, Eastern Time on September 25, 2017.

-Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection: April 2018

-Earliest Beginning Date for National Endowment for the Arts Period of Performance: August 1, 2018

You are required to use Before you apply through for the first time, you must be registered. Registration with
-Is a multi-step process.
-Takes time; allow two weeks.
-Must be completed before you can submit your application.

In the event of a major emergency (e.g., a hurricane or technological failure), the NEA Chairman may adjust application deadlines for affected applicants. If a deadline is extended for any reason, an announcement will be posted on the NEA website.

Funding Restrictions:

Application Calendar:

Other Information:

Award Information:

Applicant Eligibility:

Application Review:

Award Administration:

How to Prepare and Submit an Application:

Submit the SF-424 to

Submit Through Applicant Portal:


View this opportunity on

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Click here to register (TBD) for the upcoming webinars and for an archive of the webinar after it is concluded:

Applicant Portal:


Voice/TTY: 202/682-5082

Individuals who do not use conventional print should contact the Arts Endowment's Accessibility Office at 202/682-5532 for help in acquiring an audio recording of these guidelines.

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)