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Santa Monica Receives NEA Our Town Grant

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By Lookout Staff

July 19, 2013 -- Santa Monica is one of 59 cities nationwide awarded an Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, City officials announced.

The $75,000 grant will pay to create two artist residencies and produce two sets of banner murals to attract visitors to the Bergamot Station arts center during construction of the adjacent EXPO Light Rail station expected to be completed by 2016.

“Bergamot Arts Center is the hub of Santa Monica’s vibrant and successful mixed-use creative district,” said Jessica Cusick, the city’s cultural affairs manager.

The grant, Cusick said, will support the City’s efforts “to engage the talent and imagination of local artists and arts organizations in making Bergamot Arts Center a more vibrant destination than ever while the Expo line is under construction.”

This year, Santa Monica was one of 254 applicants for Our Town grants, which ranged from $25,000 to $200,000, with the average grant amounting to some $50,000.

The grant is meant to support creative “placemaking” projects that “help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core,” NEA officials said.

“The grantee projects will encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help revitalize local economies,” grant officials said. “All Our Town grant awards were made to partnerships that consisted of at least one nonprofit organization and a local government entity.”

The City will partner with Wayne Blank of Bergamot Station Ltd., the Bergamot Station galleries, the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the 18th Street Arts Center, Cusick said.

The grant, Santa Monica officials said, will help develop “public art interventions” for the Bergamot Station arts center that “will present opportunities for artists to build enthusiasm for an expanding and newly redesigned arts destination, and help mitigate the disruption caused by the construction.”

The Bergamot arts center includes art galleries, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the City Garage theater company and creative businesses such as graphic designers, architects and jewelry designers.

The grant will pay for two onsite artist residencies, one for each year of the program, City officials said. The residencies will “generate performances, workshops and other participatory art activities, and two sets of banner murals, commissioned from two artist/graphic designer teams, for placement on Bergamot’s most visible buildings,” officials said.

"This is an exciting time to announce the Our Town grants as a national conversation around creative placemaking advances and deepens," said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. "The NEA leads on this topic not only through our funding but through webinars, publications, and research. With these resources, we will help to ensure that the field of creative placemaking continues to mature, enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country."

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