$100K Grant for Shenango Chamber Creative Communities Initiative

SHARON, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts awarded $100,000 to the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce as a result of the Creative Communities Initiative. 

The initiative is a first-time, multiyear grant that funds community-driven, art projects that serve as catalysts for livability, economic development, workforce development and connected communities. 

Named the Shenango Valley Community Connections Collaborative, it will have an area-wide impact on a variety of demographics including the artist community, veterans, minorities, displaced workers and those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“This community project will offer strategies to strengthen and revitalize our community’s cultural, economic and educational vibrancy through the creative arts and microbusiness development and support,” said Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. 

Initial collaborators include Random Acts of Artists, the Shenango Valley Urban League, the Guardians Nest Veterans Resource Center and Whole Life Services who will be matching the grant with in-kind Fab-Lab equipment.

“These organizations, along with chamber members, will be key partners with this project,” Moreira said. “We believe many cross-collaborative opportunities will result from the [Shenango Valley Community Connections Collaborative].” 

A U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis survey shows that arts and culture economic activity accounted for 4.3% of the 2016 gross domestic product. The arts and its supporting industries contributed more than $800 billion in wage and salary jobs across the nation, an amount that grew faster and contributed more than agriculture. 

“We believe a creative place making center such as this can become a catalyst for community and economic development in the Shenango Valley,” Moreira said, adding it will be developed over four years. 

The chartered Fab-Lab will partner with Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center for equipment and instructor training. The program will culminate in a retail incubator, providing brick and mortar sales opportunities as well as e-commerce options that will help artists develop revenue streams.

“The selection of the Sharon project as one of only four awards statewide demonstrates the strength of this collaboration,” said state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7 Mercer, in a statement.

Besides Sharon, the four community projects selected for participation in the pilot phase of the PCA’s Creative Communities Initiative include Meadville, Lancaster City and Philadelphia. 

“The PCA’s Creative Communities Initiative is an exciting opportunity for community and economic development industries across Pennsylvania to collaborate on work that will benefit the priorities and identities of our cities and towns,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.