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Creative Action Receives NEA Our Town Grant

Austin Arts-education Nonprofit Receives $75,000 Grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Creative Action & City of Austin partnership one of 66 Our Town projects selected nationwide

(AUSTIN, TX) – The City of Austin Economic Development Department and Creative Action are pleased to announce a $75,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Creative Action, the only arts organization in Austin dedicated to positive youth development through the creative arts with a comprehensive in-school and after school model for Austin’s underprivileged communities, was selected as one of this year’s winners for their creative placemaking efforts in the Chestnut neighborhood.

The grant will leverage arts programming to engage the community in activities and cultural planning in central East Austin. Center for Creative ActionCreative Action will engage residents through extensive community outreach, free and affordable multidisciplinary arts programming, annual community events that celebrate local history, and provide opportunities for interaction between neighborhood residents and the city at-large. They will host monthly meetings for the Chestnut neighborhood, plan activities for the new gathering space/amphitheater and implement a community mural project at its new headquarters in Central East Austin – the Center for Creative Action, 2921 E. 17th Street, Building B.

With input from nearby residents, the large-scale community mural on the back of the Center will be led by Creative Action’s Color Squad, a group of teens that uses public art to activate and transform community spaces around Austin.

“The NEA Our Town grant allows us to move beyond having a new building for programming and really delve into creating a fully developed sense of community with our East Austin neighbors and the city,” said Karen LaShelle, executive director of Creative Action. “We hope through the creation of a beautiful mural, events, and programs, we can bring people together in a unique and thoughtful way.”

Currently under construction, the Center for Creative Action, will serve as a community arts and creative learning center for the surrounding East Austin neighborhoods and the city.

“This is the essence of economic development in Austin – where strategies empower and invest in our whole community,” said Kevin Johns, Executive Director of the Economic Development Department. “Creative Action’s latest project encourages confidence and critical thinking in young people – our future workforce. We know through studies conducted by Austin’s Creative Learning Initiative that for arts engaged students here in Austin, science and math pass rates are 10-29% higher. Creative Action provides the added bonus of extending their reach to their students’ families, communities, and neighborhoods.”

NEA Chairman Jane Chu announced awards of 66 Our Town grants totaling $5.073 million and reaching 38 states in the Our Town program’s fourth year of funding. The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year. Recommended grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000. In creative placemaking, public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors partner around arts, culture, and creativity activities to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region.

The Our Town award comes on the heels of two other creative placemaking grants for Austin from ArtPlace America totaling $656,500 to support the thinkEAST Living Charette and Drawing Lines projects in which the City is also a partner. And adding to these is another $30,000 NEA grant to support the City’s Cultural Asset Mapping project that directly informs these projects. These four nationally competitive arts-based creative placemaking grants bring over $760,000 into the Austin community and the topic of creative placemaking to the forefront of the conversation around the future of Austin.

Over the course of the 18-month grant period, the Economic Development Department’s Cultural Arts Division will engage the community in a city-wide conversation about creative placemaking – how arts, culture, and creativity can shape the physical and social character of a city; how partnerships and activities can bring diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired; and how such activities can measure and evaluate the impact on a community’s economic and social well-being. In August and September, national experts Maria Rosario-Jackson, Ann Markusen, and Mark Stern will give public presentations in Austin on different aspects of the creative placemaking process. More information about the presentations can be found at

Top 3 reasons why Creative Action matters to children’s arts programming and creative placemaking in Austin:

  • With arts at the core of their programming, Creative Action will provide pre-K, after school, teen, senior, and family programs for over 120 participants each week. At least 50% of participants will attend programs for free or at greatly reduced rates. 85% of Creative Action’s programs reach low-income youth.
  • Creative Action is the only arts organization in Austin dedicated to positive youth development through the creative arts with a comprehensive in-school and after school model. Every Creative Action program combines arts, social/emotional learning, academic skill-building, and community engagement to deliver a one-of-a-kind enrichment experience that inspires youth to help make their community a better place.
  • Creative Action, the City of Austin, and other partners, are working collaboratively to develop arts education strategies that can be used for this creative placemaking project and adapted for other neighborhoods in the City.

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