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Mesa Arts Center receives two grants totaling $90,000

The Mesa Art Center is receiving two grants totaling $90,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The first is a $15,000 award from Art Works that will go toward Jazz A to Z, a collaborative project by the Mesa Arts Center, ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and Jazz at the Lincoln Center.

Cindy Ornstein, the executive director of the Mesa Arts Center and the director of arts and culture for the city of Mesa, said the program is quite innovative.

“It uses jazz music and jazz history…to help teach American history by giving teachers professional development training and using music—and specifically jazz—as a primary resource in the classroom,” she said. “The history of jazz is very closely aligned with the history of America and there’s a lot of ways you can bring the stories of American history to life with jazz.”

The extensive program will serve 150 music, history and grade-level educators in Arizona, including 50 ASU history and music students and more than 1,500 elementary to high school students. Through workshops and jazz clinics, the program gives participants a chance to build strong and lasting connections with jazz.

The second grant, worth $75,000, comes from Our Town and will support the 2017 D-Lab Festival.

“(This) is a creative placemaking program of the National Endowment for the Arts for a festival and a community art project around downtown design and creating prototypes for ways to improve connectivity and activation in downtown,” Orstein said.

The community will get a chance to weigh in on the projects and choose what they like and don’t like.

The projects are designed to be temporary, low-cost and experimental, and it’s all about creating a more pedestrian-friendly and welcoming environment in downtown Mesa. There will be public art, renovated alleyways, a festival and “pocket parks.” The festival is set for fall of 2017.

Ornstein said the arts center is thrilled to receive both awards.

“When you get support from the National Endowment for the Arts, it’s sort of like the good housekeeping seal of approval,” she said. “It really validates the quality and value of the programming and artists we’re bringing into the community and the benefits to our local citizens.”

The fruits of the grant money will start to take effect as soon as this summer.

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