ArtsMemphis 2014 Fellow, Lecolion Washington, presents his case for support to peers and faculty
ArtsMemphis 2015 Fellows at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention left to right: Tierney Bambrick (Opera Memphis), Amy Ruggaber (Playback Memphis), Brittney Boyd (Crosstown Arts), Melody Barham (Soulsville Foundation), Siphne Sylve (UrbanArt Commission)
Dec. 8th, 2015
Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a $40,000 grant to help ArtsMemphis train emerging leaders in the nascent field of arts-driven social change. The initiative is called the Community Engagement Fellows Program.
ArtsMemphis launched the Fellows program in 2014, with seed funding from the First Tennessee Foundation. Each Fellowship award comes with a stipend to participate in a six-month, hands-on curriculum, featuring leading scholars and practitioners. Over the past two years, the program has graduated 30 Fellows from a host of different nonprofits throughout Memphis.
"Our Community Engagement Fellows serve as ambassadors to peers in Memphis and around the country at national conferences on how to use the arts to transform underserved communities," said Bruce Hopkins, ArtsMemphis Board Chair.
The Fellowship curriculum is led by nationally recognized thought leader Linda Steele, who joined ArtsMemphis as Chief Engagement Officer two years ago. Steele is especially excited about the work that ArtsMemphis Fellows are carrying out in the Orange Mound neighborhood. "The Fellows have been working hand-in-hand with Orange Mound residents,” Steele said, “designing arts-based projects to address the neighborhood’s self-identified needs. And we’ve been able to fund some of the most innovative projects through ArtsMemphis."
The Fellows program is just one piece of ArtsMemphis’ larger strategy to show that the arts can be a major tool for revitalizing communities. "We’re working to place community engagement at the center of everything we do at ArtsMemphis," said President & CEO Elizabeth Rouse.
The NEA grant was awarded under the agency’s "livability" category, which is focused on projects that incorporate the arts into strategies that improve quality of life within local communities. According to NEA Chairman Jane Chu, “Supporting projects like the one from ArtsMemphis offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”