March 13 2013 12:00 AM

First year of public art grants from LEAP awarded to DeWitt Township, Mason

Wednesday, Dec. 19 — For the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, economic development isn’t just about luring new businesses to, or rehabbing blighted properties in, the area. It’s also about making the area attractive for residents, in turn creating a sense of place.

The latter is what drove the regional economic development agency to award two communities — DeWitt Township and Mason — $10,000 each to commission public art pieces there.

LEAP Spokeswoman Sara Graham said applications from five communities were judged by an 18-member panel on criteria ranging from the existence of a public art policy to how a piece would “contribute to the distinct identity of an area.”

Now, DeWitt Township and the city of Mason will issue a Request for Proposals to artists for an outdoor art piece in a highly visible part of the community. Graham said LEAP hopes the projects break ground in early spring or late summer.

The funding comes from LEAP’s general fund budget, which is made up solely of membership fees to the organization, Graham said. The board approved a line item for the grants, as well as for the next year, when it will increase to $30,000 for three different communities getting $10,000 each.

The committee overseeing the program is co-chaired by Steve Curran, president and creative director for Harvest Creative Services, and Julie Pingston, senior vice president for the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The Lansing region understands that innovation and a 21st century economic development is greatly about placemaking and talent development,” Curran said in a statement. “I am proud that LEAP is leading the state in this kind of economic development thinking.”