Holyoke has been designated as one of 64 successful “Our Town” grant recipients by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) this year, one of only 9 in the Vacant Properties category. Chairman Jane Chu announced last week that the City will be receiving $50,000 among $4.3 million in support for projects across the nation. The funds were pursued by the Office of Planning & Economic Development (OPED) as part of the gateway improvements to South Holyoke and Springdale neighborhoods as identified in Holyoke’s Master Plan, particularly to improve the area under I-391 on Main Street.
“We are honored that Holyoke has been recognized for its strategy of infusing creativity into its DNA in order to improve the quality of life for our residents,” said Mayor Alex Morse. “We appreciate the NEA’s support in helping move this project forward and look forward to the process of reimagining this key gateway to our downtown.”
The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. “For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Projects such as the one led by the City of Holyoke help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”
OPED achieved the NEA grant in collaboration with the Center for Design Engagement (CDE) – a non-profit community art and design resource center located on Dwight Street in Holyoke. Key project partners include Professors Joseph Krupczynski and Caryn Brause from the UMass Amherst Department of Architecture, who completed the design and installation of the “Arrivals” project under the Mosher Street rail bridge in August of 2015.
“We are excited to be the participating in this project as the primary partner, providing creative placemaking planning and designing the pilot public art installation,” said CDE’s Krupczynski and Brause. “The transformation of the I-391 underpass into a safe, well-lit, attractive connector between downtown, South Holyoke, and other neighborhoods will make this space more accessible for pedestrians and create a great gateway for the city. The project also provides an opportunity to change perceptions of the neighborhood, engage local residents and support their efforts to build optimism, pride, and economic opportunity in their community.”
The NEA funding will kick-start a series of community engagement sessions to design and develop the space that could provide new landscaping, public art, enhanced lighting, and other recreational amenities. In-kind contributions from the Holyoke Gas & Electric for lighting and the City Department of Public Works for grading and seeding are planned, while OPED continues to seek additional funding for the project’s full implementation.
“We’re happy to achieve this funding which will accelerate the project’s implementation, which we’ve been pursuing for several months as part of a long-held community aspiration” said Marcos A. Marrero, Director of Planning and Economic Development. “It’s humbling that the NEA recognizes that Holyoke is a good place in which to invest their very competitive dollars.”
In late 2014 the I-391 underpass project garnered Holyoke a place in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Infra-Space program, which seeks to revitalize under-utilized areas surrounding transportation infrastructure, such as elevated roads, bridges, and viaducts. The City of Holyoke was granted access to the area under I-391 on Main Street between the Springdale and South Holyoke neighborhoods in order to create a more attractive gateway to downtown, a more pedestrian friendly connection between the neighborhoods, and a space residents could use for cultural and recreational activity.
For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.
To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAOurTown16.
Find additional information about Holyoke’s I-391 project and CDE’s work at: