Department of Commerce and Patterson Family Foundation Launch Creative Placemaking Pilot Project

TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Patterson Family Foundation are pleased to announce the Engaging Placemaking for Innovative Communities (EPIC) pilot program. With a focus on arts-driven community development projects that enhance rural communities and enable additional partnership and connection, EPIC is launching in south-central Kansas under the leadership of the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC). 

“The arts enrich communities and enhance the quality of life all across Kansas,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “Support from the Patterson Family Foundation is helping us elevate Kansas communities by developing innovative spaces and high-quality, creative destinations that will drive new growth, particularly in rural areas and small towns.” 

Groups from Hutchinson, Kingman, Lindsborg, Little River, Lyons, St. John, Stafford and Sterling will participate in the initial EPIC pilot. The program will help connect rural communities to one another, as well as facilitate partnerships with urban and micropolitan communities. The goal is to create a two-way street, where rural communities are uplifted through new, innovative collaborations. 

EPIC is designed to strengthen regional connections between community leaders, artists and arts organizations for unexpected and innovative projects that address community challenges. By strategically harnessing resources and increasing partnerships, communities can hone their unique identities to become more competitive as families choose where to put down their roots and do business. 

The pilot group was identified through a competitive application process. The EPIC team will work with them through a discovery and project planning phase, then provide technical assistance and support as the project is implemented. 

“Artists are experienced creative problem-solvers and critical thinkers,” KCAIC Interim Director Kate Van Steenhuyse said. “EPIC will give communities the opportunity to work through artistic processes to meaningfully engage their communities and explore new possibilities. EPIC positions arts and culture as the backbone for vibrant and welcoming communities in Kansas.” 

“We’ve seen before that the arts can help make rural places into destinations,” Patterson Family Foundation President Lindsey Patterson Smith said. “This program has the potential to fuel arts-based, community-driven development, adding to the distinctive character that makes people feel connected to places. We are proud to work with the Kansas Department of Commerce to bring the EPIC program to life in south-central Kansas.”  

The south-central pilot communities are participating in engagement sessions this spring to build community development project plans. Projects, co-designed with community members and area artists, will launch in the fall. 

To learn more about EPIC, arts-driven community development and creative placemaking strategies, click here.

About the Kansas Department of Commerce:

As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Kansas Department of Commerce strives to empower individuals, businesses and communities to achieve prosperity in Kansas. Commerce accomplishes its mission by developing relationships with corporations, site location consultants and stakeholders in Kansas, the nation and world. Our strong partnerships allow us to help create an environment for existing Kansas businesses to grow and foster an innovative, competitive landscape for new businesses. Through Commerce’s project successes, Kansas was awarded Area Development Magazine’s prestigious Gold Shovel award in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and was awarded the 2021 and 2022 Governor’s Cup by Site Selection Magazine.