In a show of innovation and rare unity, nearly a dozen private foundations have partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts to fund local-level arts projects, recognizing the arts are essential for community growth, economic and otherwise.
Through a program called ArtPlace, a series of grants totaling $11.5 million (plus $12 million in corporate loans) will be distributed to 34 projects around the country.
"Too many people think of the arts as luxuries," the Ford Foundation's Luis Ubiñas told the New York Times. "The arts are inherently valuable, and they're also part of what's going to get us out of this economic problem we're in."
Federal agencies involved (not as funders) include no-nonsense departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, and Health and Human Services.
Of course, the grants total equals just two percent of what Ford gave out in grants for 2009. But the program gives a sense of action. In the 1930s only a tiny fraction of WPA and other recovery funds went to the arts.
The Times article also notes that a second group of grants starts today. Groups have a month to submit applications on the ArtPlace website.