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Creative Communities Initiative

Download the 2023 Creative Communities Initiative Application Guidelines and Coversheet (PDF) here. (Please note: The call for Letters of Interest for the 2023 round closed on December 2, 2022, at 5 p.m. EST. We anticipate that the next call for letters (2024 round) will be published in September 2023.) 

About the Creative Communities Initiative 

The Creative Communities Initiative (CCI) provides multi-year funding for place-based, community-driven, arts-based projects that serve as catalysts for social cohesion, livability, and community and economic development. Commonly referred to as creative placemaking, these projects are rooted in deep community engagement and authentically engage artists, culture bearers, designers, and community members through conversation, cultivation, and creation activities to address community needs, challenges, and opportunities.

Creative placemaking explicitly works to solve problems or take on a sticky challenge in our communities. Working together, artists, residents, grasstops and grassroots organizations identify community needs and create innovative solutions to the issues at hand.- LISC, Creative Placemaking Toolkit

What are the requirements of CCI projects?

  • Projects must be place-based.
  • Projects are managed by at least two community organizations, one of which serves as the lead applicant.
  • The lead applicant organization must be a unit of government, nonprofit (501(c)3 or 501(c)6 organization).
  • The lead applicant organization must be located in the community.
  • Projects have the support of the community's local government via an adopted resolution and pledge of at least 10% of matching funds (in-kind or cash).

What makes a great CCI project?

The PCA recognizes that each community is a unique with its own history, traditions, assets (people and places), traumas and triumphs, and opportunities, and challenges. For this reason, CCI projects are also unique to each community. Successful projects are of, by, and for the community and can utilize any artistic discipline to create change by addressing a wide variety of community issues including, but not limited to, economic development, the environment, safety, transportation, housing, health, beautification, social justice, and social cohesion.

Key elements of successful CCI projects:

  • Projects are of, by and for the community.
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.
  • Projects that include, amplify, and support diverse populations that have been historically, marginalized, misrepresented, and ignored.
  • Projects are community-driven employing deep and inclusive community engagement practices throughout the project.
  • Authentically engage artists, designers, and culture bearers in planning and implementation of projects.
  • Strength of the partnering organizations. Partners have shared values and can demonstrate a history of successful collaborations to execute impactful community work.
  • Projects have a beneficial impact on the community.
  • Projects engage existing community assets (people and places).
  • Partners leverage additional sources of funding (government, private sector, foundation).

Arts, culture, and design can help to strengthen communities by: 

  • Bringing new attention to or elevate key community assets and issues, voices of residents, local history, or cultural infrastructure. 
  • Injecting new or additional energy, resources, activity, people, or enthusiasm into a place, community issue, or local economy. 
  • Envisioning new possibilities for a community or place – a new future, a new way of overcoming a challenge, or approaching problem-solving. 
  • Connecting communities, people, places, and economic opportunity via physical spaces or new relationships. 

– National Endowment for the Arts

Program Contact Information

If you are interested in learning more about the Creative Communities Initiative, contact Sarah Merritt, Director of Pennsylvania Creative Communities and the Creative Economy at


Current Creative Communities Projects:

Project location: Sharon, Mercer County
Project period: 2020 - 2024
Lead partner: Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce
Project partners: Whole Life Services, Gannon University Small Business Development Center, Random Acts of Artists, City of Sharon
Project title: Valley Fab Lab
Project description: Implementation, and programming of a community, arts-based, co-work, micro-business incubator, and retail space, with an emphasis on serving community members with physical and intellectual disabilities and veterans. The Valley Fab Lab, a partnership of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, Whole Life Services, Gannon University Small Business Development Center, Random Acts of Artists, and the City of Sharon, provides access to equipment, training, retail opportunities, small business development, and creative entrepreneur support.

Project location: Meadville, Crawford County
Project period: 2020 - 2024
Lead partner: The ARC of Crawford County
Project partners: Art & Environment, City of Meadville, Allegheny College, Meadville Council on the Arts
Project title: ARC Community Greenspace
Project description: Transformation of a vacant lot, located in Meadville's historic business district, into an inclusive community greenspace. The greenspace will include community-designed public art, environmental interventions to address stormwater management and Mill Creek daylighting, and planning and implementation of community arts activities. The focus of the project is to support and advance inclusion and community connectedness for community members with physical and developmental disabilities.

Project location: Lancaster City, Lancaster County
Project period: 2020 - 2024
Lead partner: Spanish American Civic Association (SACA)
Project partners: Millersville University, Seed Project, The Mix at Arbor Place, The Taino Cultural Center, Lancaster Equity, School District of Lancaster, Boys and Girls Club, TCP Network, Mustafa Nuur, Thaddeus Stevens College, LGBTQ+ Coalition, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Communications Essentials, Church World Services, Speak to My Soul/Concrete Rose, Southeast Times, We are Casa, and Community Action Partnership
Project title: Seed Project
Project description: A partnership of the Spanish American Civic Association, Millersville University, artists and organizations of the Seed Project, and Lancaster City, the project supports community-based arts programming in the Southeast neighborhood of Lancaster. The project employs a team of artists representative of the predominately Latinx, African American, and refugee community members to work with neighborhood residents to identify and address community opportunities and challenges to inform and implement community-lead artworks and projects and identify and cultivate new collaborations. 

Project location: Mifflin Square Park/7th Street Corridor, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Lead partner: Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC)
Project partners: Hip Hop Heritage, Mural Arts Philadelphia
Project title: Community Development Projects
Project description: Located in one of Philadelphia's most diverse neighborhoods and centered on Mifflin Square Park and the 7th Street business corridor, the partners, in collaboration with community members and elders to plan and execute community-lead public art projects and infuse art and design into neighborhood infrastructure and business improvements. The project embraces the neighborhoods diverse cultures to inform public art installations with wayfinding signage to tie the commercial corridor to the park. Additionally, the project includes creative programs that engage neighborhood youth and elders with the goal of the building a stronger sense of place.

Project location: Allentown, Lehigh County
Project Period: 2021 - 2025
Lead partner: Cultural Coalition of Allentown
Project partners: Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, City of Allentown
Project title: Cultural Coalition of Allentown
Project description: In partnership with the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown (CADCA) and working with local artists, creative entrepreneurs, and youth the project builds from 5 years of community engagement, research, and pilot programs in the center city region of Allentown. The Artist-Neighbor Growth & Opportunity Project (TANGO) is committed to providing artistic and cultural solutions to urban challenges including poverty, housing, and quality of life in the city through a 4-pronged strategy over the next 4 years addressing: Affordable Quality Housing, Creative Economy & Entrepreneurship, cultural Infrastructure and Community Building.

Project location: Indiana, Indiana County
Project period: 2021 - 2025
Lead partner: Indiana County Commissioners Office of Planning & Development
Project partners: Creative Spaces Collective, Spruce Arts Residencies, Indiana Arts Council of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Artists Hand Gallery, Clark Gallery, Dripped in the Road, River Valley School District, Blairsville Borough Council, Blairsville Community Development Authority, and the Indiana County Conservation District
Project title: Creative Spaces Collective
Project description: Led by the Creative Spaces Collective of Indiana County, a network of local arts organizations, artists, and community members, the project supports local artist development, community arts education activities, and community-driven public art projects through an artist peer partnership program and community programming to foster social cohesion, local artist capacity building, and community pride.  

Project location: Corry, Erie County
Project period: 2021 - 2025
Lead applicant: Impact Corry
Project Partners: City of Corry, Corry Blues Zones, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, City of Corry, Corry Chamber of Commerce, Corry Area Arts Council, Corry Area School District, Corry Area Historical Society, Corry Community Foundation, Corry RAILS, Corry Young Professionals, Downtown Corry Business Association, Corry Tree Committee, Edinboro University, Erie Arts & Culture, Erie County Department of Planning, Erie County Housing Department, Erie to Pittsburgh & Industrial Trails Coalition, Integrated Design, Jefferson Educational Society, Northwestern PA Trail Association, Penn State Behrend, Village Friends
Project title: Impact Corry
Project description: The development of the Corry Rails + Trails Park and enhancement of the downtown Corry business corridor to include community-driven public art (permanent and temporary), local artist design infrastructure elements, an annual festival, and support programs to attract, support, and retain creative small businesses to the community. The focus of the projects is the celebration and promotion of the community's industrial heritage, spirit of innovative entrepreneurship, and resiliency.

Project location: Hill District, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
Project period: 2021-2025
Lead partner: Hill Community Development Corporation
Project partners: City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning, #ArtsinHD, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, University of Pittsburgh
Project title: New Granada Square
Project description: Leveraging the Hill District's community-driven masterplan, which calls for building upon the African American cultural legacy to create a clear economic future for the neighborhood, the Hill CDC and its partners will implement arts-strategies to support and promote a vibrant arts and culture economy in the district by providing affordable artist housing and commercial space, connecting generations through its rich cultural history, supporting and cultivating local talent, and weaving African American culture into the built environment. A recent project, Nafasi on Centre, serves to connect resident artists with the community through professional development and creative exhibitions, events, and the Nafasi Art Market.

Project location: Reading, Berks County
Project period: 2022-2026
Lead partner: Barrio Alegria
Project partners: The South of Penn Taskforce, Wyomissing Foundation, Reading Public Library, City of Reading, Reading Redevelopment Authority
Project title: Creative Placekeeping Initiative
Project description: In the predominately Latinx neighborhood, South of Penn, support for a creative placemaking projects manager to lead a series of community-driven programs including public art workshops (Explorations in the Art Form), community photography (Beauty Through Their Eyes), community performances, art activities in a community park, Storytelling Through Dance, and the Microbusiness Art Engagement project.

Project location:
Berwick, Columbia County
Project period: 2022-2026
Lead partner: Community Giving Foundation: Berwick Arts Association
Partner partners: Berwick Theatre & Arts Center, Community Strategies Group, Exchange Arts, Destination Listening Room
Project title: Berwick Arts District
Project description: A collaboration of community organizations and local artists for the planning and implementation of Berwick Arts District activated through community art activities, public art installations, live performances, community greenspace beautification, artful façade improvements, and training youth and local artists in public art best practices.
Berwick Arts Association

Resources on Creative Placemaking
National Endowment for the Arts
Americans for the Arts
ArtPlace America