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Fayetteville’s School Avenue Streetscape Project: One of 59 Projects Nationwide to Receive NEA Funding


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced 59 Our Town grant awards totaling $4.725 million and reaching 34 states in the Our Town program's third year of funding.  The City of Fayetteville is one of those grantees and will receive $100,000 for design of School Avenue: Integrating Art, Landscape, and Sustainability, an arts-integrated streetscape. The City’s partners, University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC), Walton Arts Center (WAC), and artist Stacy Levy are nationally - if not internationally - recognized in their respective fields.

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 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 at least one nonprofit organization and a local government entity.

School Avenue: Integrating Art, Landscape, and Sustainability project will go beyond an engineering-driven solution to merely build new sidewalks; it will create a new identity for School Avenue, one that leverages art to promote greater pedestrian activity. The City of Fayetteville Arts Council Action Plan, adopted in December 2009, listed the incorporation of functional art into municipal infrastructure as its first goal. The NEA Our Town grant will be used to design a transformation for downtown School Avenue into an "artscape" with public art serving a dual purpose as infrastructure. Funding for the project will be sought for, after the design has been completed. Sidewalks, lighting, and/or stormwater services will be reimagined as art that engages residents and visitors in Fayetteville's ecological narrative. The project area is anchored on either end by Fayetteville Public Library (FPL) and Walton Arts Center, which combined draw more than 500,000 visitors annually. The project connects the cornerstone institutions with the local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate and Hillcrest Towers, Fayetteville's largest public housing facility for the elderly and disabled.

Jeremy Pate, Development Services Director for the City of Fayetteville, will be the coordinator for the project. He relayed that City Council will need to vote to accept the award, which should happen at the next Council meeting. Pate said, "With discussions of the possible expansion of the library, renovations at the Walton Arts Center, and a new parking deck, we see this as a catalyst for redevelopment along this corridor in the downtown master plan, much like Block Avenue." Public input sessions regarding the project will be announced.

"I believe this public investment combining art and infrastructure will incent private investment in quality, mixed-use infill development," said Fayetteville’s Mayor Jordan. "This project will enable the public, elected and appointed officials, and staff to contemplate how we want our cultural arts district to grow in the future and what policies will help us reach that vision."

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) will provide much of the design and engineering plans for the project.  Stephen Luoni, Director of the UACDC commented, "As a partner, UACDC has committed matching support of $35,300 in-kind design work toward the project's success. Creating innovative urban design solutions that demonstrate how the arts strengthen our communities is an important initiative. We look forward to contemplating how the City's relationship to art and artists can be showcased within street rights-of-way."

Walton Arts Center is excited to collaborate with the City and the University, as part of the 2014 Artosphere Festival. "We we are committed to providing resources and support for this vision of a sustainable, arts-rich community space," said Peter Lane, President and CEO. "This project will complement the ongoing enhancements to the streetscape in Fayetteville's arts and cultural district, including the expansion and renovations of Walton Arts Center’s Dickson Street campus."

Stacy Levy, the artist selected for the project, has extensive experience with municipalities, engineers and landscape architects. "I like to explore the idea of nature in the city and make it visible to people, and I look for sites which give me the opportunity to bring the patterns and processes of the natural world into the built environment," says Levy. "I am excited to work with the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, Walton Arts Center, and the City of Fayetteville to design a streetscape that tells an ecological story." Walton Arts Center commissioned Levy to create an installation for Artosphere 2013. Spiral Wetland can be seen from the dam on the western most side of Lake Fayetteville. The installation also functions to provide shade for fish habitats, and to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorous from the lake. At the end of the installation, the plants will be adopted and replanted in other wetlands.

"This is an exciting time to announce the Our Town grants as a national conversation around creative placemaking advances and deepens," said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. "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 received 254 applications for Our Town grants this year. Grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000 with a median grant amount of $50,000.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and creative placemaking resources are available as well.

The Twitter hashtag is #NEAOurTown13

Illustration courtesy University of Arkansas Community Design Center.

School Avenue Artscape