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Charleston’s public arts project receives national attention

Public Art Guide CroppedThe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has chosen Charleston’s public arts project from among hundreds across the country to highlight as a successful arts-based community project.

Charleston’s public arts project, which included the combined efforts of the Charleston Area Alliance, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, Arts Council of Kanawha Valley, Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, FestivALL Charleston and the City of Charleston, is featured as a successful case study on the NEA’s new online resource, “Exploring Our Town.”

The online resource is designed to assist community organizers working across the globe to develop arts-based community projects. Sixty recipients of the NEA’s primary creative placemaking grants program, known as Our Town, are featured as model case studies. Visitors to the website will learn helpful planning steps and gain creative ideas from the chosen case studies.

Charleston’s program, which received the Our Town grant in 2012, is among featured projects that range from a whirligig park in Wilson, North Carolina to an art garden in Jackson, Mississippi.

“The Our Town program is a prime example of the power the arts have on our everyday lives,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The arts can connect us, they can weave communities together, and they can infuse our lives with a deeper sense of place and purpose.”

The Our Town grant supported a citywide initiative to gain an accurate inventory of the public art in Charleston. The project collected details of the artwork’s artist, owner, location, materials used, maintenance required, dates of inspection and more.

Based on the information gathered, guidelines were established to ensure that the present artwork is properly maintained by the owners. It also established guidelines for the creation of future work.

One result of the project was the production of a printed guidebook and online resource, found at publicartcharleston.org, to provide residents and visitors to the area a guide to public art found across the city. The website also provides residents the public art plan for Charleston, which serves to guide and inform decisions about public art in the future.

“One of the biggest effects of the project was the increased number of people who have a better understanding and appreciation for our public art,” said Susie Salisbury, vice president of Community Development for the Charleston Area Alliance.

“Encouraging, promoting, and maintaining public art falls within our Vision 2030 development plan’s focus on downtown revitalization,” said Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Alliance. “Public art enhances our downtowns and our communities.”

There are currently 45 public art pieces across Charleston featured in the guidebook. Check out Charleston’s art at publicartcharleston.org and read more about Charleston’s public art project at the NEA’s “Exploring Our Town” site by visiting arts.gov/exploring-our-town. 

To see more projects led by the Alliance, please check out the “Success Stories” section of the Alliance web site HERE.

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