By Matt Larson
The arts are alive and well in Richmond, California. In fact, the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission has recently awarded 10 community members with Neighborhood Public Art Mini-Grants totaling $65,000, all directly from the city’s general fund, to contribute artistic works to the Richmond community, be it creating a mural, a stage play, a photography exhibit—any and all artistic ventures are supported.
“The main key factor to this program is that it involves non-artists—members of the community who have never worked with an artist or have never done art—and it gives them the opportunity to do that,” said Michele Seville, Arts & Culture Manager for the City of Richmond. “The whole point is to expose people to the arts and give them the experience of what it’s like to help make something happen.” Once a project is accepted, a commission liaison—who sits on the Arts & Culture Commission—is assigned to each grant recipient/project manager and will work with them every step of the way until the August deadline.
With only 16 applicants this year, and 19 applicants last year, you’d think there would be more for such an incredible program like this, but it isn’t easy to apply. “It’s a whole process of presenting to the art commission and learning how to represent yourself and place value in what you’re presenting,” said Seville. “If you’re selected then you have the opportunity to follow through on that and it’s a great learning process.” But it is a process that takes many months of planning, organizing, and even fundraising if you didn’t get awarded your fully requested amount. It takes a lot of work, but the end result can be one of the most fulfilling experiences in one’s life.
About 50 people showed up at the orientation that was held for the grants. It was there that they were briefed on what’s involved with making this happen and it is indeed a significant time commitment. “This is something that takes a lot of organizations and a lot of follow through,” said Seville. But the more word spreads and the more people see what can be done with one of these grants, the more confidence they’ll have to try and go for it next year.
Traveling through town you have probably seen many lasting results of the Neighborhood Public Art Mini-Grants including the historic mural on the curved corner of the Richmond Senior Center at Macdonald Ave. and Civic Center St., a series of murals on the Richmond Greenway Trail from Harbour Way to 2nd St., and much more including mosaic trash receptacles along the Greenway and throughout the city.
This year, among several media and visual arts projects, three plays have been selected to be produced. “Plays are an outstanding opportunity to have workshops,” said Seville. These grant recipients will learn the complete background on what it takes to produce a play, including workshops on acting, theatrical design, the whole gamut. “If they never had this experience or learned any of these skills they’d have no clue as to whether they would ever be interested in pursuing a career in this,” she continued. “If it turns out to be something that they enjoy doing they now know they can pursue that.” And that’s really what this program is all about.
“It’s important to have a program like this to teach people that there is an artist within them,” said Seville. “There is a creative ability within each person, and by learning how to work collaboratively with other people from the community, and with professional artists, they can learn how to create something that represents them, that comes from them and that leaves them with a huge sense of pride. And it leaves the community with a reflection of the people.”
For further details on this program and its upcoming event dates, and especially to get involved yourself, it’s best to contact Michele Seville directly at (510) 620-6952 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.