National Endowment for the Arts Announces 2012 Our Town Grant Recipients; Media Alliance in Troy NY one of 80 grantees selected nationwide
Our federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Troy for shutting down Iraqi American artist Wafaa Bilal's anti-war video installation at the Sanctuary in 2008 comes to a close with the recent announcement of a grant award from the National Endowment for the Arts, to be matched dollar for dollar by $50,000 from the city as agreed in our settlement of the case.
If you're unfamiliar with the history, the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center produced a great short documentary about what happened.
On July 11, 2012 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced 80 Our Town grant awards totaling $4.995 million reaching 44 states and the District of Columbia. Media Alliance (which operates The Sanctuary for Independent Media) is one of the grantees and will receive $50,000 for a project called “Found Art in North Troy.” The grant will be matched with $50,000 provided by the City of Troy.
Through Our Town, the NEA supports creative placemaking projects that help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core. The grantee projects will improve quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help revitalize local economies. All Our Town grant awards were made to partnerships that consisted of a minimum of a not-for-profit organization and a local government entity.
“This is an incredible opportunity,” said Media Alliance Executive Director Steve Pierce. “It’s just the boost our North Troy neighborhood needs. We’re very grateful to the mayor and Troy City Council for their support.”
“Innovative arts programming that fosters community interaction” is the single best description of “Found Art in North Troy.” This project's creative placemaking will enhance the livability of one neglected block of 6th Avenue between Glen Avenue and 101st Street, catalyzing it into a hub for public art, interdisciplinary creative practice and education, festivals, performances and cultural exchange with support for local artists, design professionals and arts organizations. The 18-month whirlwind of arts activities will strengthen the unique community identity and sense of place, capitalizing on existing local assets with a clear structure: music and cultural festivals bookending a participatory public art project driven by a summer arts program.
The core project will focus on the creation of public artworks on three sites—Troy Bike Rescue, Collard City Garden and Freedom Square—using found objects to address themes of repurposing, re-use and sustainability. Found art serves as a metaphor for the historic neighborhood itself; with the guidance of visiting and local artists, the community will design and build mosaics, benches and sculptures with the discarded resources of our landscape. Freedom Square will be reimagined as an art park, a welcoming venue for concerts, screenings, potlucks, festivals and workshops. Artist-led workshops will be key to the design and implementation of this project—focusing on painting, welding, mosaic, earth bag construction, video production and more.
"Cities and towns are transformed when you bring the arts–both literally and figuratively–into the center of them,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "From Teller, Alaska to Miami, Florida, communities are pursuing creative placemaking, making their neighborhoods more vibrant and robust by investing in the performing, visual, and literary arts. I am proud to be partnering with these 80 communities and their respective arts, civic, and elected leaders."
"'Found Art in North Troy,'" said Media Alliance Arts and Education Coordinator Branda Miller, "focuses on artists and non-profits, community groups and neighbors, coming together to transform our distressed communities through creativity and collaboration."
Mr. Aby Rosen, chair of the New York State Council on the Arts, said, “We congratulate Media Alliance on their grant from the NEA’s Our Town program. The New York State Council on the Arts applauds Media Alliance’s creative placemaking programs which engage all aspects of the creative economy and harness the power of the economic and community development attributes that New York State’s arts, culture and heritage organizations, businesses and artists offer its citizens. Like Media Alliance, the New York State Arts Council is strongly committed to supporting communities in the context of education, economic development, sustainability and revitalization.”
The NEA received 317 applications for Our Town that were assigned to one of three application review panels based on their project type; arts engagement, cultural planning and design, or non-metro and tribal communities. With only 80 grants emerging from the 317 applications, or a success rate of 25 percent, competition was strong, a testament to the artistic excellence and merit of the “Found Art in North Troy” project.
For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov.
Many partners have committed to collaborate: the Troy Architecture Project (TAP) will lead the design process and help as a bridge with the City. Troy Alley Action will head design and implementation of the mural component. Collard City Growers will integrate gardening and nutrition education with art workshops. Missing Link Street Ministry will be key in community outreach for arts and nutrition workshops in the large population they serve with a free food program. Troy Bike Rescue will connect an alternative transportation mission with bike art and safety clinics, art parades, and human-powered compost carts. Youth Media Sanctuary will work with neighborhood youth documenting activities through media arts. The Arts Department at Rensselaer, part of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer, will supply professors and students, academic resources and expertise. Transition Troy engages local networks dedicated to sustainability. School 1’s “Community Art Program” of the Troy Public Schools will involve neighborhood youth artistically in murals and mosaics. The Public Safety Committee of the Troy City Council will connect the public art project to its civic mission. Ansari Sustainable Living will consult and donate earth-bags developed with Cal-Earth.
A list of prestigious artists have committed to lead the community in arts workshops, planning and implementation, including: Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, local painter and muralist Marcus Kwame Anderson, Rivington School sculptor Tovey Halleck, photojournalist Brenda Ann Kenneally, and community media artist and theorist DeeDee Halleck. Locally, Professors of Art from the iEAR Studios at Rensselaer have committed, including media artist and cultural animator Branda Miller (Project Coordinator), bio-artist Kathy High, and performance artist Nao Bustamante. Sanctuary media artist/educators committed include media artist and TBR founder Andrew Lynn, digital story-telling and food artist Ellie Markovitch. Committed professionals will guide our community in design charrettes, planning and implementation, including: pioneer in sustainable architecture Iliona Khalili of Ansari Sustainable Living and CalEarth, architect and community designer Joe Fama, urban designer and permaculture teacher Rebekah Rice, architect, community mural artist and Chair of the City of Troy Planning Commission Barb Nelson. Consultants include AME Zion Church Pastor Willie Bacote, community educator and story curator Abby Lublin, and arts and social studies teacher Rita Cao-Garcia.
Media Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1980 to advance media arts, media literacy and media democracy throughout New York State. It is based at The Sanctuary for Independent Media (www.mediasanctuary.org), a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in North Troy, NY. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.