Culture and government — The $50,000 grant is one of 59 directed at projects across the nation

The effort to design and implement the Newberg Cultural District got a boost last week when it was announced that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the city a substantial grant through its Our Town program.

The $50,000 grant, one of 59 directed toward projects across the nation receiving a total of more than $4.72 million, was announced July 17 and will facilitate the formation of a plan for the cultural district, formed in 2012 by a consortium of the city of Newberg, Chehalem Park and Recreation District (CPRD) and the Chehalem Cultural Center (CCC).

The cultural center, created in the 1990s by the CPRD when it took over ownership of the former Central School building from the Newberg School District, forms the cultural district in conjunction with the Newberg Public Library and Rotary Centennial Park. The cultural center plays host to a plethora of events, including the Camellia Festival in the spring and the popular Tunes on Tuesday concert series in the summer.

According to a press release from the NEA, funded by the grant the plan “will establish gateway elements, wayfinding devices, permanent and temporary art installations and a framework for the acquisition of future public art in the district.”

The Portland urban design firm of Mayer/Reed will lead the master planning process, the release said, and design the gateway elements. In addition, it will partner with the three public entities to develop a process for selecting outdoor sculptures created by local and regional artists.

The goal, according to the city’s website, is to “identify and strengthen the cultural district as a gathering place where people can discover the literary, artistic and historical culture of the area, attend a class or program, check out books, view an exhibit, participate in a community event, or simply sit on a bench and visit with a friend.”

“This is an exciting time to announce the Our Town grants as a national conversation around creative placemaking advances deepens,” said Joan Shigekawa, acting chairwoman of the NEA. “The NEA leads on this topic not only through our funding, but through webinars, publications and research. With these resources, we will help to ensure that the field of creative placemaking continues to mature, enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country.”

The NEA grants ranged in amount from $25,000 to $200,000 and went to projects that fell into two broad categories: arts engagement and design and cultural planning. Arts engagement projects center on artistic production or programming, such as public art and festivals, “that foster interaction among community members or are designed to activate existing cultural assets,” according to the NEA release.

Design and cultural planning projects are designed to help develop the systems necessary for creative placemaking to succeed. They typically include master planning for cultural districts such as the one in Newberg, as well as asset mapping and creative entrepreneurship, and include design of artist spaces, cultural facilities and public spaces.

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