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Charlottesville's Kindlewood housing development receives $100K grant for new art installation

An ambitious affordable housing development in Charlottesville, which has already seen 100 units built, received an additional boost last week, when it was approved for a $100,000 grant that will go towards an on-site art installation.

The award for Kindlewood, formerly Friendship Court, is one of 68 “Our Town” grants given out nationwide by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Projects like the public art installation at Kindlewood exemplify the creativity and care with which communities are telling their stories, creating connection, and responding to challenges and opportunities in their communities — all through the arts,” said the agency’s Chairwoman Maria Rosario Jackson in a statement. “So many aspects of our communities are advanced and improved through investments in art and design, and the National Endowment for the Arts is committed to ensuring people across the country benefit.”

The 45-year-old Section 8 housing south of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, the city’s largest subsidized housing development, has been undergoing an intensive transformation since 2017, organized by nonprofit developer Piedmont Housing Alliance.

Affordable housing projects require funding from many local, state and federal sources, and much of the housing alliance’s work requires applying for funding from various agencies. The arts grant is but the most recent win for the group, which has already secured millions of dollars in funding for the development.

The 150 units at Friendship Court will be torn down and replaced with more than 400, without displacing a single family currently living there.

The four-phase project has been guided by an elected advisory committee comprising residents who are paid for their time on the body.

The group has selected architects, co-designed the site layout and drafted plans for the public park where the art installation will be placed. After securing the National Endowment for the Arts grant, the committee will now have enough funding to begin the intensive process of finding a local artist to carry out the project.

Cultivate Charlottesville — a nonprofit group focused on building equitable food systems — and the Virginia African American Cultural Center will also have input in selecting the artist and the art installation itself.

The installation alone will take significant work and time. The Piedmont Housing Alliance only recently finished writing its proposal for the grant. Now the process will begin to find a local artist, which will require drafting a request for proposal, or RFP, outlining what the stakeholders want to see in their new and improved neighborhood.

What exactly that might look like is not yet clear. A statement from the housing alliance says the installation “will reflect the fraught history, rich culture, and thriving future of this neighborhood.”

That neighborhood was once home to a Black community, which the housing alliance says was “erased during Urban Renewal” and has kept the families there economically and physically isolated from Charlottesville.

“I anticipate the RFP to include direction to artists to consider both the history of Kindlewood, Friendship Court as well as what future holds,” Piedmont Housing Alliance Executive Director Sunshine Mathon told The Daily Progress. “It’ll be up to them to determine how to represent that.”

Completing the artwork will cost at least $100,000, Mathon said.

“I fully expect whatever ultimately gets installed at Kindlewood will cost substantially more than this,” he said. “This is a planning grant that allows us to go through the RFP process with potential artists to honor the time our partner organizations are spending in this process, specifically Cultivate and the African American Cultural Center.”

When artists apply for an RFP, it often costs them significant time and labor. The housing alliance will be paying them a small stipend when that time comes.

It will be some time before the artwork is completed, but whatever ultimately comes to the space will have been made possible in part from the latest grant and with the input from many community members.

Ezhar Zahid, a young member of the advisory committee, said in a statement: “Our vision is for this public art project to be an acknowledgment of the history and people who have lived here. We also hope that it will further enhance the sense of community that we are working so hard to nurture here at Kindlewood.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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