The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, SC, Receives National Grant to Build Creativity Spots on Northside

The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg (TAP) has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to design, site, and construct artlets in the city’s Northside neighborhood in Spartanburg, SC.

Artlets are public structures designed to encourage people to be creative in their community. Conceived as public places with a platform approximately eight to ten feet in diameter and supporting a moveable vertical fence approximately six feet high, they were created during the development of the Northside Community-Creative-Cultural Arts Master Plan in 2014.  “The Northside artlets will be permanent, innovative, and replicable markers of connectivity and shared space for impromptu creativity sited throughout the community. Artlets are where residents make music, read, escape, converse, teach, draw, and share; magnets for increasing cultural exchange,” TAP President Jennifer Evins said. These artlets will be sited throughout the Northside; each will accommodate one to 10 people at a time.

“Visually and functionally derived from the neighborhood ‘front porch,’ these physical punctuations of community life will be designed, prototyped, and sited in Northside,” Evins said. “This project develops woodworking and design skills for residents, opportunities to learn urban planning strategies, and creates neighborhood portals for artistic enjoyment and appreciation.”

Currently, the City of Spartanburg is embarking an extensive redevelopment plan to revitalize Northside. TAP is leading the effort to include the arts in the redevelopment plans, using the arts as a means for  social and economic change in the neighborhood.

From June 2015 to May 2016, design and siting of four artlets will be directed by artist Tom Shields and Art-Force, a nonprofit organization that will manage the project. Northside residents designated as “Voyagers” will help refine artlet locations identified in the Northside Master Plan, contribute to their design aesthetic, learn woodworking skills through artist apprenticeships, and participate in community evaluation for permanent sites and design refinements, Evins said. Public spaces will be revitalized through these design activities for site-specific installations, or art created only to exist in one specific space. New partnerships will be facilitated and supported by TAP, including art students at Wofford College, The Cleveland Academy of Leadership, and Spartanburg Community College. The project will transform the landscape of Northside by emphasizing community values and traditions in innovative three-dimensional forms, she said.

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the NEA promotes opportunities for people in communities across the United States to experience the arts and exercise their creativity. This grant to TAP is in the second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2015. The NEA will make 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million nationwide in this funding round.

“The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States,” NEA Chairman Jane Chu said. “Funding these new projects like the one from The Arts Partnership represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

“As an artist who finds social responsibility and connectivity with a broad audience as important as historic and intellectual artistic dialog, I am incredibly excited to be part of the Northside Artlets project,” Tom Shields said about his enthusiasm for establishing a woodworking studio in Northside and working with the community to conceive, design, prototype, and install the artlets. “Art is something that should extend beyond the gallery, museum, and classroom and engage every member of our society through personal daily interactions. Working with community members on the design, prototyping, construction, and installation of these artlets will allow us to create public arts spaces, which are exactly what I feel art is intended to be; by the people for the people.

“The carpenter in me is also enormously excited to share my knowledge of tools, materials, and building techniques through the establishment of a woodworking studio in the Northside community,” Shields said. “Twenty years of woodworking experience has shown me how empowering the skills of a builder/maker can be. Whether you are crafting a gift for a friend, repairing an old chair, or building a house, all of these things remind us of the power of our own hands, and skilled hands working together can accomplish anything.”

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEASpring2015. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to (arts.gov).

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