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Wormfarm Institute Awarded $100,000 in First ArtPlace Grants

"We are very fortunate to have local leaders who recognize that community revitalization, agriculture and the arts are linked." - Donna Neuwirth, Wormfarm Executive Director

Reedsburg, Wisconsin, is among two dozen cities and towns across the nation selected as the focus of an innovative economic development project.

On September 15, ArtPlace announced its first round of grants, investing $11.5 million in 34 locally initiated projects in cities from Honolulu to Miami. Wormfarm Institute of Reedsburg has received a grant of $100,000 from an unprecedented new private-public collaboration, ArtPlace (www.artplaceamerica.org) for "Reedsburg Fermentation Fest and Farm/Art Dtour". Each project supported by ArtPlace has been selected for developing a new model of helping towns and cities thrive by strategically integrating artists and arts organizations into key local efforts in transportation, housing, community development, job creation and more.

ArtPlace is an initiative of 11 of America's top foundations working in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts and seven federal agencies. Its aim is to drive revitalization across the country by putting the arts at the center of economic development. ArtPlace funders include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation and an anonymous donor. In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council. Federal partners do not provide funding to ArtPlace but participate in the ArtPlace Presidents' Council and Operating Committee meetings, ensuring alignment between high-priority federal investments and policy development and ArtPlace grants.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our region," said Wormfarm Executive Director Donna Neuwirth, "We are very fortunate to have local leaders who recognize that community revitalization, agriculture and the arts are linked. After all, the word 'culture' is embedded in agriculture. This creative placemaking grant will allow us to invest significant resources at a critical time as we build an ambitious cultural event that celebrates food and farming using the vision of artists to explore and expand the timeless connections between land and people."

Reedsburg Fermentation Fest - A Live Culture Convergence brings together new and existing arts activities and an energized food and farming community for a 10 day annual fall festival where farmers, chefs, artists, poets and cheese makers converge in the beautiful working lands of Sauk County Wisconsin for a series of tastings, demonstrations, art events, seminars, farm tours and more. It features the Farm/Art DTour a self -guided 50 mile scenic loop with land based art installations, artist-built Roadside Culture Stands, Field Notes (rural education sites), and outdoor performances through the landscape that is itself a cultural resource.

"To thrive, rural America will need infusions of new people, new ideas, and new sources of vibrancy" adds Reedsburg Mayor Dave Estes, " Wormfarm Institute is an asset for Reedsburg that delivers on all three of these needs. With the collaboration among Wormfarm, Sauk County and The Reedsburg Chamber, we can create a model to jump start our economy that is grounded in who we are. We are honored that ArtPlace recognizes the opportunity we have in Sauk County to be a national leader in this."

The approach being taken by ArtPlace, known as "creative placemaking," has emerged over the past twenty years as a promising way to increase the vitality of communities and help them grow. In 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts built on its two decades of work in creative placemaking by announcing the first grants in its new Our Town program, designed to support public-private partnerships to strengthen the arts while energizing the overall community. ArtPlace takes this movement a step further, as the first major public-private partnership to encourage creative placemaking across America.

"ArtPlace is accelerating creative placemaking, where cities and towns are using the arts and other creative assets to shape their social, physical and economic futures," said Rocco Landesman, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts. "This approach brings new partners to the table to support the arts and recognizes the arts as vital drivers of community revitalization and development."

"Economic development historically has been about bagging the buffalo-competing for the big employer to move operations to your city," said Carol Coletta, President of ArtPlace. "But now we know the economic development game is all about how you deploy local assets to develop, attract and keep talent. So why would you not deploy every asset you have-including artists and the arts-to do that?

"ArtPlace represents a new paradigm," says Luis A. Ubiñas, President of The Ford Foundation and Chairman of the ArtPlace Presidents' Council. "It brings to the arts the kind of economic development thinking that has long been pursued for attracting and developing businesses, big and small, across the country. ArtPlace's integrated, interwoven approach has the potential to kick-start local economies and transform communities. The arts can play a central role in spurring local economic activity."

Concurrent with announcing its first round of grants, ArtPlace has initiated its second funding cycle. A Letter of Inquiry has been posted on www.artplaceamerica.org as of September 15, 2011. Submissions may be made through November 15.

For more on Wormfarm Institute, visit www.wormfarminstitute.org