City of Fresno Receives Prestigious Federal Arts Grant for Fulton Mall’s Mariposa Plaza
Fresno, CA – Mayor Ashley Swearengin today announced that the City of Fresno has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) “Our Town” program to work with local arts organizations and downtown stakeholders to invigorate Mariposa Plaza as the central destination and gathering place in downtown Fresno.

The “Mariposa Plaza Activation Project” will provide arts and landscape design improvements to the public plaza and “Free Speech” stage area at the intersection of Mariposa and Fulton. The improvements will make cultural gatherings and performances more enjoyable to attend and easier and less expensive to produce. It also will create a more inviting and useable public space for all users to enjoy on a daily basis. In addition, the project includes a national call for artists to commission and install unique, world-class, interactive artwork in the Plaza that supports greater vitality every day.

“Reinvigorating Mariposa Plaza is central to our revitalization strategy, and this grant is evidence of the continuing momentum that we’re seeing in our downtown,” Mayor Swearengin said. “Making it easier to use and enjoy the Plaza will encourage more cultural events and gatherings for our entire community, which translates into more foot traffic for surrounding businesses.”
Some 20 organizations are expected to participate in the project, with opportunities for members of the public to engage as well. The Fresno Art Museum will oversee the artistic process, from artist selection to installation. The Fresno County Office of Education will orchestrate student outreach, expecting to involve more than 2,000 community members and 1,000 students in Fresno County schools.

"The Our Town grant is a great endorsement from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of Fresno's vibrant arts and cultural community,” said Linda Cano, executive director and chief curator of the Fresno Art Museum. “We are extremely excited to collaborate with the City of Fresno, a number of local and national arts partners, artists and the broader community to reintegrate the Mariposa Plaza as a public gathering place and reactivate it through the visual and performing arts."

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa added, “This is an exciting time to announce the Our Town Grants as a national conversation around creative placemaking advances and deepens. The NEA leads on this topic not only through our funding but through webinars, publications and research. With these resources, we will help to ensure that the field of creative placemaking continues to mature, enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country.”

Mayor Swearengin also praised the work of the City’s federal partners involved in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) program, who provided intensive technical assistance to the project. The award builds on the sustained technical assistance and capacity building around the Mariposa Plaza from SC2 over the past year and a half, which began with SC2-supported participation in the American Architectural Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA) in April 2012. The NEA grant also builds upon design and programming ideas generated through the SCDA. In addition, SC2 is helping the City foster greater collaboration with national philanthropic foundations to attract funding to Fresno and support downtown revitalization through this project.

Fresno is one of six pilot cities in the White House’s SC2 initiative, which was formed to help economically distressed cities implement their plans for revival.

The NEA received 254 applications for Our Town this year and awarded grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 with a median grant amount of $50,000.

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(NOTE: Some information in this news release was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.)