The Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) has launched a national effort to fuel arts and cultural investments in low-income communities.

The Kresge Foundation is providing $3.5 million in seed funding for this new “creative placemaking” initiative, which will fund projects ranging from live/work space for artists to arts-related businesses in struggling commercial corridors. The money will also be used for cultural programming such as music festivals that strengthen a community’s sense of identity.

“Kresge is a game-changer when it comes to creative placemaking,” said Michael Rubinger, LISC president and CEO, in a statement. “It has a deep understanding of what it means to integrate arts and culture into broader plans to revitalize communities, and it is acting on that insight in bold and interesting ways.”

Kresge’s Arts and Culture Program seeks to expand the ways different fields and sectors incorporate arts and culture into efforts to improve the social, cultural, physical, and economic conditions in low-income communities.

“LISC is arguably the nation’s leading community development network, combining a foothold in neighborhoods in 30 cities with a national presence and perspective,” said Rip Rapson, Kresge’s president and CEO. “We’re delighted to help LISC integrate and systematize arts and cultural activities into its approach to community development across that broad network.”

LISC’s Erik Takeshita has been named to lead the initiative. Deputy director of LISC’s Twin Cities office, Takeshita has long championed the role of arts and cultural investments in low-income areas and has most recently been helping revitalize neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“This isn’t about art for art’s sake,” he said. “What we care about are people and places.  We care about the health of residents and the quality of the housing that’s available. We care about whether or not neighborhood businesses can flourish and if local streets are safe.  We care that kids can get a good education and that their parents can find good jobs. Investing in local culture is another way for us to advance all of that.”

In some places, this work is already in progress, he said. In Philadelphia’s Eastern North neighborhood, LISC has been working with community-based groups to create murals, mosaics, pocket parks and colorful storefronts—all with the intention of making the area a vibrant area for local entrepreneurs and visitors.

In St. Paul, Minn., LISC has partnered with the city and Springboard for the Arts to launch a program called Irrigate, which has supported more than 120 artist-led projects along a new light-rail line

The Kresge grant will initially support creative placemaking in five of LISC’s 30 local program areas—places where arts-related community development work is already underway but needs support to grow. That experience will form the basis for developing best practices that can help direct efforts in other places, and funding will expand to new communities across the country.

For more on creative placemaking, visit Erik Takeshita’s blog at LISC’s Institute for Comprehensive Community Development.