Program Results | Artists | Projects | Placemaking Resources

The Artists Lead! Match Program was designed to support creative people with great ideas for collaborative solutions to community needs. Across America, artists are stepping into civic life and using their skills to creatively address local issues. Through grassroots creative placemaking, artists act as partners in community development, working closely with residents, community partners, and local governments to help build a strong community for all.   

Artists Lead! was a 2019-2020 partnership between ioby and ArtPlace America, based on a shared belief that individual artists can play a special role in creatively addressing local concerns and helping communities thrive. Artists Lead! helped artists bring placemaking and placekeeping projects to life, and built artists’ long-term capacity to fund their work within their own neighborhoods, providing support through match funding, customized fundraising coaching, online learning opportunities, and one-on-one consultation services. 



With a $275,000 match pool from ArtPlace America, ioby held a national open call for artist-led creative placemaking projects, and ultimately supported 53 artists from diverse communities across the country in funding their local projects. Between September 2019 and May 2020, ioby supported those 53 artists to leverage the $275,000 in matching funds to collectively raise $306,377 in resident donations, for a total of $581,377 in funding for grassroots creative placemaking work.



Artists Lead! served a diverse range of artists. Some participants were developing their first-ever creative placemaking project and leaned heavily on the online learning opportunities and expert consulting that ioby made available. Others were mid-career artists supporting the next phase of their community-based work. Artistic disciplines included painting & murals, sculpture, installation art, music, dance, theater, interdisciplinary work, and social practice. Several project leaders worked with locally relevant traditional forms of music and dance. Some leaders were not practitioners of specific artistic disciplines, but rather identified as “network weavers” or civic leaders with community building as a creative practice. Working from a broad definition of the term “artist,” ioby and ArtPlace America were proud to support such a wide range of creative civic leaders. 

Of the project leaders:  

54% identified as people of color or multiracial  

52% identified as beginner or “very beginner” fundraisers at the beginning of their ioby campaign

Based on surveys before and after fundraising with ioby, we found that leaders self-reported a general increase in fundraising experience and fundraising confidence throughout the program. Many project participants who were first-time crowdfunders reported that after this program they would plan to ask their community for financial support of their work again in the future. 

In spite of the challenges of COVID-19 during 2020, 76% of Artists Lead! participants considered their ioby campaigns to be a success. The remaining 24% expressed that they weren’t sure because COVID-19 had significantly impacted their fundraising or project design.



Artists Lead! projects responded to the particular histories, cultures, and needs of specific places, serving a diverse array of communities. From a multidisciplinary event celebrating traditional plena music in Puerto Rico to an artist-designed bookmobile to address library closures in Alaska, the Artists Lead! projects provided a vibrant cross-section of examples of artists creatively engaging with their communities. Due to ioby’s presence in Cleveland, Detroit, New York City, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, there were small clusters of participating projects in those cities. Nine projects served rural areas in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Washington, South Dakota, and elsewhere.

Following ioby’s proven match program model, all project leaders had access to up to $15,000 in match funding, but were encouraged to set realistic budget goals that worked for the scale of their project. For some projects, this meant raising more than $30,000 to support large-scale efforts to open new artist-led community centers or support entire seasons of public programming. Other projects set goals of a couple thousand dollars to fund specific community events or art installations. Together, these projects illustrated that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creative placemaking. 

Detroit Sofa Stories, $5,246 raised on ioby

Sofa Stories is a participatory theatre experience amplifying the stories of young Detroiters who have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity, shining a light on an often invisible crisis. On sofas placed in public spaces throughout the city, one audience member at a time will take a seat next to a performer to witness a brief monologue or vignette. The theatrical pieces are being created with and by young people who have lived experience with homelessness and housing insecurity, in collaboration with professional actors. Read more about Detroit Sofa Stories.

Plants, Land, and Culture: RYC/TAAU Phase II, $18,426 raised on ioby

Cecilia Lim—a long time resident of Queens, NYC—led a public participatory art project to explore local experiences with and responses to climate change within Queens’ Filipino immigrant community. She worked with a team of other Filipinx-heritage artists to interview residents, documenting their stories and representing them through drawings that resident participants could keep. Read more about Plans, Land, and Culture.

Khūrākī 2020, $13,333 raised on ioby

Created by artist Molly Rice in collaboration with a group of recently-resettled Afghan refugees in Pittsburgh, PA, Khūrākī (meaning “eat” or “meal” in the Afghan language Dari), produced sold-out theatrical shows that celebrated the beauty of Afghan culture, music, and food through "theatrical portraits" of five Afghan women who had recently relocated to Pittsburgh. Professional actors chosen by the women told their stories, and the women themselves gained experience cooking Afghan dishes for the audience—practice for the women’s long-term goal of opening Pittsburgh’s first Afghan restaurant, which the project supported. Read more about Khūrākī 2020.

Fundraising for Artists Lead! projects wrapped up in early summer 2020, at a time when COVID-19 had disrupted many lives, and communities across the country were in various phases of shutdown. Many artists had to adapt their projects to be able to implement them and achieve their project goals during the new reality of COVID-19. While some projects were delayed and will be fully implemented in 2021, 75% of project leaders implemented their project successfully within 2020, in spite of these challenges. 


Creative Placemaking Resources 

What is creative placemaking? Creative placemaking is an evolving field and practice. Artists Lead! was based on ArtPlace America’s research in the field and their evolving definition of creative placemaking, in which artists are positioned as change-agents and arts and culture are leveraged to drive community change. Creative placemaking is specific to a geographic community—whether a small town, rural region, or city neighborhood—and helps improve social, economic, or physical aspects of life for residents of that place. 

From fall 2019 through summer 2020, ioby and ArtPlace America hosted online learning opportunities including webinars introducing the program and helping to build a shared definition of creative placemaking, as well as an online panel discussion focused on racial equity in creative placemaking. 

Ask An Expert! Throughout the program, ioby’s team was available to artists to discuss their projects, and to provide on-demand assistance with creating their fundraising pages, planning their crowdfunding campaigns, and running successful fundraisers. Beginning in fall 2020—after polling artist participants to see what additional resources would be most useful—ioby and ArtPlace America developed a roster of 11 experts in various aspects of creative placemaking, and made free, one-on-one consulting available to Artists Lead! participants to support the implementation of their funded project or to support the development of their creative civic practice overall. 


Learn More: 

Webinar Recordings:

Crowdfunding for Creative Placemaking

Recorded October 2019 

Racial Equity in Creative Placemaking

Recorded August 2020 


Racial Equity in Creative Placemaking reading list, August 2020

Browse further resources



Select a project below to learn more, or ‘“view all” to browse all the participating projects:

  • Motor City Garden

    A safe place for people, plants and pollinators.

    NEEDS: $0 of 15,040 + Volunteers
  • Artists Lead! BUGS Community Market

    Support our students to launch the BUGS Community Market that will feature projects, performances, and local produce to connect with people of all ages about growing an equitable, healthy, and sustainable community.

    NEEDS: $0 of 36,935
  • Topsy illustrations created with ps139 students focused on promoting positive actions

    Topsy for Tolerance

    Addressing community intolerance with community creativity through murals and sculpture

    NEEDS: $0 of 8,460 + Volunteers
  • Alaska BookMobile in space!

    Alaska BookMobile

    Help get our BookMobile up and running so we can explore what an Alaskan mobile library can be.

    NEEDS: $0 of 11,560 + Volunteers
  • Introducing The Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center

    Developing Tamir's Center

    Honor Tamir Rice by supporting the building and development of the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center--a youth-focused community space for civics, arts, and healing.

    NEEDS: $0 of 30,741
  • Ceramics class at The Welcome Project


    Building Unity and Inclusion through Learning and Diversity: B.U.I.L.D. uses creative trades such as woodworking and ceramics to fight isolation and poverty through education, job training, and community

    NEEDS: $0 of 10,345 + Volunteers
  • Cleveland Rocks Shop music store

    Cleveland Rocks Shop

    Cleveland Rocks Shop is your gateway to discovering great local music, and keeping the music playing!

    NEEDS: $0 of 4,697
  • Product of Environment POE

    Writing plays to show life experiences to reach the community about so many things that people go through in life: homelesssness, depression, sucide, bad relationships, etc.

    NEEDS: $0 of 3,280
  • The Studio @ Alt Space

    A Meeting Space and Rehearsal Studio for local artists and community groups

    NEEDS: $0 of 4,699

    Micro Museum of Experiential Art | Built by Ypsilanti Community High School students

    NEEDS: $0 of 9,578 + Volunteers