The Oxford American magazine has won a $290,000 grant to transform its new headquarters on Main Street (in Juanita's former home) as a place for the arts, built around a branded restaurant featuring Southern cooking.
The work includes audio and video equipment to record programs — music, video, literature — that can be distributed around the world.
Publisher Warwick Sabin envisions the addition to the South Main district as part of creating a cultural destination. The magazine was one of 47 recipients of support in a competitive program that drew interest from more than 2,000 organizations.
UPDATE: In an interview, Sabin reiterated the vision he laid out for the Times last November when the Oxford American signed a five-year lease on the space at 1300 Main Street: to serve lunch and dinner in the Southern themed restaurant and host cultural programming every evening — literary readings, film screenings, concerts, theatrical performances, lectures. NPR, already a partner with the Oxford American, and PBS both want to broadcast the programming. Sabin said he'd already talked with the Clinton School on partnering with programming and planned to reach out to other organizations in the state like the King Biscuit Blues Festival and the Ozark Foothills Film Festival.
"We want to retain the character of the room, but it needs some significant improvement and updating," he said. "My hope is that we’ll take this initial grant and use it to get the space in the condition we want it to be in, so that we can open by January 2013. I’m sure we’ll need additional resources. But the grant is certainly a strong endorsement and confirmation of the worthiness of our concept. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to attract additional support."
The new space, which the OA is calling South on Main, will only occupy the southern half of the ground floor, where Juanita's used to hold concerts. The magazine's business offices are on the second floor. The other half of the ground floor will house another tenant that's yet to be confirmed, Sabin said.
Naturally, the news comes with video.
The Oxford American, a literary magazine of Southern culture, will soon transform its new buildings in Little Rock's burgeoning South Main Street (SOMA) district into a home for diverse arts programming, thanks to a significant grant from ArtPlace.
The space will include a restaurant that will celebrate Southern culinary culture. Accompanying the food will be nightly cultural programming that will feature the best of Southern arts and culture across a variety of formats including literature, music, film, art and drama. The Oxford American will focus on community-oriented programming developed through partnerships with local organizations and institutions.
The Oxford American will also outfit this space with recording (audio and video) equipment that will allow all of the programming to be live-streamed over the organizationʼs website as well as recorded for podcasts, videos and other presentations. New and unique broadcasts also will be developed through The OA's existing partnerships with NPR and PBS. As a result, the programming will be viewed and appreciated by people all over the world.
ArtPlace is a new national collaboration of 11 major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks, and eight federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S. To date, ArtPlace has raised almost $50 million to work alongside federal and local governments to transform communities with strategic investments in the arts.
"Across the country, cities and towns are using the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "The arts are a part of everyday life, and I am thrilled to see yet another example of an arts organization working with city, state, and federal offices to help strengthen and revitalize their communities through the arts. It is wonderful that ArtPlace and its funders have recognized this work and invested in it so generously."
The neighborhood where the Oxford American’s offices are located has been making a considerable effort to become the artistic district of Arkansas. By serving as a cultural hub for the city, Oxford American will be generating attention to one of the lesser-known communities in the South and will serve as a platform for the voices of the numerous under-served artists in the region.
"We are honored and humbled to receive this ArtPlace grant, which will enable us to create a unique and sustainable cultural landmark on Main Street in Little Rock," said Warwick Sabin, Publisher of The Oxford American. "When we moved into our new location a few months ago, our goal was to transform these historic buildings into a dynamic space that would reflect the content and spirit of The Oxford American as it contributes vitality and opportunity to the greater community. With the resources and national recognition conferred by ArtPlace, we will be able to do just that. By creating a cultural destination, we hope to propel the cultural and economic development of our community and elevate its standing as a creative place."
ArtPlace received almost 2200 letters of inquiry from organizations seeking a portion of the $15.4 million available for grants in this cycle. Inquiries came from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 47 projects selected each take a unique and locally-focused approach to creative placemaking, from the creation of a Jazz and Heritage Center in New Orleans’ historic Tremé neighborhood to generate vibrancy and economic growth for the local community to ARTSIPELAGO, a comprehensive revitalization strategy that combines a number of unconnected arts and cultural initiatives in Eastport, Maine for greater effect.
“These projects all exemplify the best in creative placemaking,” explained ArtPlaces Carol Coletta. “They demonstrates a deep understanding of how smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of revitalization strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people.”
In September, ArtPlace will release a new set of metrics to measure changes over time in the people, activity and real estate value in the communities where ArtPlace has invested with its grants.
Participating foundations include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation, The William Penn Foundation and an anonymous donor. In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council. ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Participating institutions are Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.
A complete list of this year’s ArtPlace awards can be found at artplaceamerica.org.