Libraries of Eastern Oregon (LEO), a nonprofit based in Joseph, has received a $250,000 national grant awarded by ArtPlace America for a regional project, “Art: Engage at the Library!”

LEO will use the grant money to bring art programs, workshops and exhibits to at least 30 public libraries in the region over the next 18 months.

Projects will range from art activities inserted into preschool story times, to hands-on creative programs and workshops led by local artists, to advocacy for the arts to be part of community planning and development.

“The streetscape efforts in Enterprise and bronzes in Joseph are examples of art as part of community planning and development,” said LEO Executive Director Lyn Craig. “I think Wallowa County is way ahead of the curve in using art in city development, and set an example for other communities in eastern Oregon.”

Although no specific libraries have yet been chosen for the art programs and workshops, Craig said Wallowa County would definitely benefit from the grant.

A final outcome of the program will be the development of an online regional art-mapping project that will serve as a directory and resource highlighting public art, art centers, art organizations, artists and art-based business throughout eastern Oregon.

LEO will also create six part-time positions to help implement the programs of the grant. “I certainly hope we can hire individuals from Wallowa County for some of these positions,” Craig said.

ArtPlace America is a 10-year collaboration of foundations, banks and federal agencies based in Philadelphia, Pa., and Washington, D.C., organized in 2006. Nearly 1,300 applicants vied for the grant. LEO was selected as one of 90 finalists and ultimately 38 projects were chosen for funding.

“We were told that this is the first time ArtPlace America has worked directly with rural libraries, so really, we’re a demonstration project for other rural areas,” Craig said.

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