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Program Aims to Expand Arts and Culture Throughout Centre County

by on June 20, 2014 2:45 PM

Though State College "has a rich relationship with the arts," other areas of Centre County lack the same kind of artistic resources and availability, Arts Alliance of Central Pennsylvania Executive Director Marie Doll says.

A new annual grant through the Centre Foundation will help extend arts throughout the county, through time is running out for nonprofits and other organizations to apply for up to $100,000 to achieve this goal.

The Centre Inspires grant, which was created as a kind of sister program to the annual Centre Gives fundraising event, will fund a project in a different area of community need each year, including health and social services; environmental conservation and awareness; education and lifelong learning; and culture, community and the arts. 

Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkel says public response to the new Centre Inspires annual grant has been overwhelmingly positive, but community outreach and communication remain greatly important as the deadline to apply by the end of this month approaches.

“We don’t have a number of applications we want to receive in mind; we don’t know what we’re expecting since this the first time we’ve done this,” Kunkel says. “It’s less in some ways about the number we get, and more about encouraging people to think creatively.”

The foundation held series of informational meetings with non-profits, churches and government organizations over the past month to encourage participation in the new program. Kunkel has also hosted informal meetings at State College nonprofit organization New Leaf’s offices each week with various organizations to encourage collaboration and innovation as the June 30 application deadline approaches.

Kunkel says the Centre Foundation came up with the idea for the grant after studying similar programs in other communities and organizations.

“We didn’t want to always think that we know what the community needs, and we wanted to get their input and ideas,” Kunkel says. “We came up with the Centre Inspires grant as a way of meeting needs and engaging the community to find out what those needs are.”

Organizations interested in applying for this year’s grant, which will fund projects in community arts and culture, must submit a letter of intent outlining their project idea by the end of June. From this pool, several selected organizations will be required to fill out a more detailed application.

While Kunkel says this two-stage application process is more work intensive for the foundation, it allows for greater discussion of potential projects. This, combined with the weekly brainstorming sessions at New Leaf, has led to a strong focus on different organizations working together.

“One of the biggest things they’re really stressing is collaboration with other arts groups,” Doll says. “They’ve been encouraging meetings to work out ideas that will be bigger than anything we can do on our own.”

Kunkel says by encouraging relationships between organizations, funding and manpower limitations will be less dramatic, thereby allowing greater potential impact.

“It’s very important for these organizations’ long-term success to think about ways to work together differently,” Kunkel says.

Part of the art alliance’s work involves bringing art into unexpected community spaces like libraries, banks and businesses. Kunkel says this kind of community-wide engagement with art is one of the goals of the Centre Inspires grant.

The Centre Foundation looked at ways other communities brought art to the community in unexpected ways, such as through sidewalks or picnic tables elaborately painted by local artists. Though Kunkel doesn’t know what proposals the foundation will receive, she says she is excited to see where the program leads.

Doll says that the Arts Alliance plans to submit a project proposal for the grant, and she looks forward to seeing the arts extended throughout the community.

“Art should really be a part of everyone’s life,” Doll says. “I think some people don’t realize art isn’t just a painting on a wall or a sculpture in a yard. It’s being inspired by nature and letting this enrich your own creativity.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is StateCollege.com's general assignment reporter, an alumni of Penn State and the bassist for local indie rock band Sun Whales. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelMGarrett.
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