Updated March 29 at 2:29pm

Woonsocket lands $50K NEA grant


WOONSOCKET – The National Endowment for the Arts is awarding a $50,000 “Our Town” grant to Woonsocket to help boost the city’s Main Street and Arts District and bolster economic development and education through the arts, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced late Wednesday.

“This competitive grant recognizes Woonsocket as an important arts hub and the potential of the community’s cultural plans,” said Reed in prepared remarks.

“This grant will help Woonsocket officials, local nonprofits like RiverzEdge and businesses further their efforts to use the arts as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization,” added Reed

In its application for the grant, Woonsocket said that a “decline in manufacturing has left the area with many unused mills and industrial buildings waiting for redevelopment and reuse.”

The federal grant would go to support the city as a whole and the nonprofit RiverzEdge, in collaboration with three additional organizations, so that they might “develop plans to foster a strong creative economy in the city to help address these issues. Activities include creative asset mapping, an artist needs assessment, artist attraction campaign, and community engagement activities,” according to a release from the R.I. State Council on the Arts

“Woonsocket is a great example of an old mill town that is re-imagining its role in the 21st Century,” Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the R.I. State Council on the Arts, said in a statement. “This federal support and the collaboration between the city of Woonsocket and its arts organizations will help lead the way to an exciting future.”

Earlier this year, Reed, who oversees federal arts funding as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse brought NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman to Woonsocket to tour RiverzEdge, the Arts District and the Stadium Theater.

At the time of the tour, city officials had applied for a competitive “Our Town” grant to build partnerships with local arts and cultural organizations and to help revitalize Woonsocket by using the arts as a “catalyst for urban renewal,” according to a release from Reed’s office.

“Creativity is a limitless, renewable resource and Woonsocket is enlisting the power of the arts in the service of economic development. Investing in the arts will pay dividends culturally and economically for the entire city,” said Reed.

“Vibrant artistic and cultural activities are an important part of an overall strategy to revitalize the city, especially Main Street,” said Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine in a statement. “A challenging economy and tenuous fiscal condition have conspired together to create difficult obstacles for the city, but with federal and state assistance we are moving forward with planning and implementation around our arts and entertainment district; the help provided was sorely needed and will have great impact.”

The NEA’s “Our Town” grants are designed to invest in collaborative projects between the public and private sectors, which aim to improve the quality of life, encourage creative activity, create a community identity and revitalize local economies.

All “Our Town” grant applications must show a partnership involving at least a nonprofit design or cultural organization and a government entity.

This year, more than 300 communities nationwide applied for “Our Town” grants. The NEA awarded 80 grants nationwide, which totaled $5 million.

According to the NEA, each dollar invested directly through the NEA is matched by roughly $8 of additional investment and generates $26 of economic activity in the community.

In 2011, Providence received a $200,000 “Our Town” grant to upgrade Kennedy Plaza and make it a more lively center of arts and culture. Overall Rhode Island received more than $1 million in funding from the NEA.


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