Residents in America’s small towns and rural communities care deeply about the future of their towns and value their uniqueness, strong sense of community, and special places. However, they increasingly face urgent challenges: How can they add jobs and support local businesses? How do they create a positive future for their kids? How can they honor and protect local character and history? How do they use limited financial, human, and natural resources wisely?
Developing locally-driven solutions to these challenges is critical to the long-term vitality of these communities, and the arts and design can play a powerful role in this process. The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) provides communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. CIRD offers annual competitive funding to as many as four small towns or rural communities to host a two-and-a-half day community design workshop. With support from a wide range of design, planning and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops bring together local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government to develop actionable solutions to the community’s pressing design challenges. The community receives additional support through webinars, conference calls, and web-based resources.
CIRD works with communities with populations of 50,000 or less. This includes communities located in a non-metropolitan county or in a metropolitan county on the urban fringe. Established in 1991 as Your Town: the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, CIRD has convened more than 60 workshops in all regions of the country. It is currently a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc, along with the Ortion Family Foundation and Community Matters Partnership.