— Today, Crafty Mart was named among the 70 finalists for ArtPlace America’s National Creative Placemaking Fund. ArtPlace selected these 70 proposals from 987 applications, making Crafty Mart’s project one of just 7 percent of the projects across the country to make this cut.
The challenge identified by Crafty Mart is that there are too many empty storefronts downtown, and not enough opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to activate those spaces. The organization hopes to secure a building downtown with two or three storefronts that will serve as a launchpad for creatives to open a brick and mortar retail store.
“When clustered together, customer-facing retail promotes walkability, activates public spaces and makes cities better places to live and work, which will help Akron attract and retain the next generation of young leaders,” said Crafty Mart Executive Director Brit Charek, “We’ve already seen clusters of small businesses popping up downtown over the past few years. We’d like to build on that momentum.”
The city of Akron has admitted to having a problem fighting off the epidemic of the shrinking Rust Belt City with the population in steady decline, and released a report titled “Planning to Grow Akron,” where they outlined a strategy to stop the decline in population but to increase the population size, which is why both the mayor of Akron and the county executive have endorsed Crafty Mart’s plan.
ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program, receiving 987 applications this year.
In addition to solving the problem of empty storefronts downtown, Crafty Mart seeks to provide opportunities to the artists and makers they work with regularly.
“But we won’t just hand anyone the keys,” clarified Director of Education Marissa McClellan. “There will be an application process, and the makers chosen will go through a fellowship program with a custom curriculum and mentorship aspect. We want them to take this opportunity to grow their business, get a head start on sustainability and gain the skills to be successful in their own storefront, as well as have access to resources when things get tough.”
You can view the organization’s original video pitch below.
Two projects from Akron were chosen as finalists (the other is East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation’s StormWaterColors project). If either project is named a winner, it would be the first time that a project in Akron is awarded the prestigious and highly competitive grant since its conception in 2011. After a strenuous application process this summer, winners for the National Creative Placemaking Fund will be announced in December.
“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” said ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres. “Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational.”
“We believe that these projects, when added to our tremendously strong portfolio of demonstration projects, will inspire, equip and connect members of the arts and culture field, the community planning and development field and those who are working to make healthy and equitable communities creatively across the country,” said ArtPlace America Executive Director Jamie Bennett.
To learn more about Crafty Mart and the programs they have in place to support artist entrepreneurs, including their shark-tank-style microgrant program, Creative Catapult, visit www.craftymart.org.
Crafty Mart hosts a bi-annual multi-venue craft show that showcases over 70 curated handmade makers regionally and draws thousands of shoppers to Akron’s downtown, along with occasional pop up markets with community partners all over the city. Crafty Mart also engages in entrepreneurial programming and support for artists by way of a program called The Maker Sessions which culminates in a shark-tank-style crowdfunded microgrant program, Creative Catapult.
ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a 10-year collaboration among 16 partner foundations, along with eight federal agencies and six financial institutions, that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical and economic fabric of communities. ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking, projects in which art plays an intentional and integrated role in place-based community planning and development.