Deep Center was named as one of only 69 recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town awards today, announced NEA chairman Jane Chu. Nearly $5 million will be granted through this program, and Deep will receive $50,000 to support its Block by Block program for its second year.
The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful and resilient places with the arts at their core. Since the program’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 325 Our Town grants totaling almost $26 million in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
“Deep Center demonstrates the best in creative community development, and its work will have a valuable impact on Savannah,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”
Block by Block, piloted in 2015, is Deep Center’s creative-writing literacy program that helps Savannah’s young writers connect their personal stories to the narratives of their neighborhoods and society at-large. With crucial NEA Our Town funding—the first grant of its kind in Savannah—Block by Block’s team of adult creative writers and artists will work with 24 young writers (ages 11-18) from the city’s West Side to research, document and tell the past and present stories of their families, streets and community through creative writing and public art. The project will include public readings and culminate with a community celebration in fall 2016 that will include a book launch of original youth writing, public art celebrating the youths’ stories and an art march.
“At Deep Center, we know that everyone has a story worth telling, that stories told well can change both the writer and the reader, and that when young people write the forgotten or unheard stories of their lives and neighborhoods entire communities can be transformed,” said Dare Dukes, executive director of Deep Center. “We are grateful for the NEA’s support in helping our young authors elevate and celebrate the vivid past and present of one of Savannah’s most storied neighborhoods, the West Side.”
For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type and resources are available as well. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.