Release Date: June 16,2017

Crafty Mart Named Finalist for Artplace America’s 2017 National Creative Placemaking Fund

Extremely competitive national grant program will consider 70 projects

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 seven percent of the projects across the country to make this cut.

ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program, receiving 987 applications this year. Investing money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts and culture activity help drive community development change across 10 sectors of community planning and development: agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health; housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development.

Two projects from Akron were chosen as finalists. 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.

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 space. The organization hopes to secure a building downtown with two to three storefronts that will serve as a launchpad for creatives to open a brick and mortar retail store.

“When clustered together, customer facing retail promote walkability, activate connecting public spaces and make cities better places to live and work, which will help Akron attract and retain the next generation of young leaders,” says Executive Director Brit Charek, “We already see 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.

In addition to solving the problem of empty storefronts downtown, Crafty Mart is excited to provide opportunities to the artists and makers they work with regularly.

“We want to create a pathway for the makers who pop up sporadically at events like Crafty Mart to eventually land in their own brick and mortar storefront,” says Charek.

“But we won’t just hand anyone the keys,” says 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 headstart on sustainability, and gain the skills to be successful in their own storefront, as well as have access to resources when things get tough.”

After a strenuous application process this summer, winners for the National Creative Placemaking Fund will be announced in December.