The National Endowment for the Arts awards $5 million of “Our Town” grants each year to organizations across 38 states that drive community development with the arts.
This year’s local recipient of $150,000 is the The Arts Council of New Orleans, to support the Youth Solutions design program. Artists and designers teach design skills to local teenagers, who then work on improving their neighborhoods. They can design anything — from bike racks to benches to rain gardens.
Kim Cook is the President of the Arts Council. She says the partnerships between teenagers and artists serve another, therapeutic purpose.
"There is a need for what I would call trauma intervention or alleviation with our youth in New Orleans, who are subject to a great deal of violence in our communities," Cook says. "So, this is also a project that’s aligned around how artists engage with young people, and in turn, how young people can begin to feel a sense of their own ability to change the world around them."
Youth Solutions is a partnership of several organizations, including the Mayor's Office of Cultural Economy, the New Orleans Department of Public Health, and Tulane City Center.
About 60 young people are expected to participate in the design program this year.