Mercer and Crawford were two of four counties in the commonwealth to receive funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) as part of the Creative Communities Initiative (CCI). Each recipient will receive $100,000 in funding spread over four years.
Meadville and Sharon are revitalizing their communities through placemaking efforts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is excited to support their efforts.
In 2019, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts introduced the Creative Communities Initiative (CCI). The pilot initiative pledged to award four applicants with $100,000 each, spread over four years. The funds support community-driven, arts-based projects that serve as catalysts for livability, economic development, and community connectedness. In total, the PCA received 105 applications from throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to Meadville and Sharon, funding was also awarded to Lancaster and Philadelphia.
Meadville’s Arc Greenspace
The Arc Greenspace project, a collaborative revitalization effort based in Meadville, was one of the recipients of the $100,000 in funding over four years. The funding supports a unique collaboration between two Meadville partners - the Arc of Crawford County and the Arts & Environment Initiative.
The Arc of Crawford County is a non-profit social service organization that “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes”. The second organization The Arc is the Art and Environment Initiative (AEI) led by director Amara Geffen. Geffen has previously led the installation of the well-known “Read between the Signs” and “Signs & Flowers” installations of reclaimed road signs at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Meadville headquarters as well as murals on Park Avenue, at Shadybrook Park and elsewhere.
In 2018, the Arc purchased the site of the old Meadville Club at 953 Market Street. “The vision for the site is to transform one city block into an environmental and artistic amenity for inclusion and arts and culture events for residents and visitors of Meadville,” said Geffen. The Greenspace will be a place where individuals and others from the community can gather and form natural relationships through collaborative participation in arts, culture, and community events.
The proposed program not only includes the design of the space, but also the programming of community-based activities and costs associated with a variety of clean-up efforts, branding initiatives, and practical needs such as planting wildflowers and trees, as well as adding public benches, trash cans, and pet waste stations. Phase two of the project construction will include creating stormwater gardens. A series of murals will beautify the site while also celebrating the history and presence of Mill Run, a historically important stream in Meadville that flows through the site, and integrating other ideas suggested by the community. One of the murals will be the Snodgrass mural, a sculptural relief that will be attached to the building wall, completed by the end of summer 2020 per grant requirements.
Sharon’s “Fab Lab" and Retail Incubator
The Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce (SVC3) also received $100,000 spread four years from the CCI to assist in the development of a community "Fab Lab" and retail incubator located in Sharon. The space will be inclusive for artists, veterans, minorities, displaced workers, and workers with IDD, although the space will be open to the public as well.
Executive Director Sherris Moreira said the Fab Lab will work similarly to a gym membership and its services would include helping start-ups and small businesses with e-commerce needs. The exact location of the Fab Lab in Sharon is still to be determined.
“This community project will offer strategies to strengthen and revitalize our community’s cultural, economic, and educational vibrancy through the creative arts and microbusiness development and support,” said Moreira, adding that the collaboration includes the City of Sharon, the Random Acts of Artists, The Shenango Valley Urban League, The Guardians Nest Veterans Resource Center, and Whole Life Services who will be matching the grant with in-kind Fab Lab equipment. “These organizations, along with chamber members, will be key partners with this project. We also believe that many other cross-collaborative opportunities will result from SVC3. This project will help grow and support innovation in our community.”
“The Shenango Valley Urban League is excited to be a partner in this endeavor and look forward to the opportunity to be of assistance in any way we can to support minority entrepreneurs through this grant,” Said Dr. Erin Houston, President/CEO of the Shenango Valley Urban League. Brian Flick, Executive Director of The Guardians Nest, a veteran resource nonprofit, added “This grant opens up a great opportunity for our community to grow. We’re excited to work with the chamber and the other partners on this project to help Veterans learn new skills that can change their lives.”