2009 Metlife Innovative Space Award

The Carnegie Center wins prestigious award

Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and MetLife Foundation announced the six winners of the nationwide, competitive 2009 MetLife Innovative Space Awards. The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning was awarded $10,000 in recognition of its robust programming for professional writers and commitment to fostering improved literacy levels in its local community, recognizing the impact that art can have on basic life skills. The awards recognize outstanding efforts in the design and development of affordable space for artists, which is an integral part of LINC’s Space for Change: Building Communities Through Innovative Art Spaces program. These spaces provide a stable foundation from which artists may pursue their works and shape the neighborhoods they inhabit. The winners were selected from more than 90 organizations in 29 states.

Left vacated for nearly a year after the Lexington Public Library moved locations, the historic Carnegie library building was restored to public use with the idea of the Carnegie Center. Serving as the home of Lexington’s Public Library since 1906, the building now continues on as a community learning and arts center. Since its inception, the Carnegie Center has become an established haven for writers, as well as a welcoming place that addresses the needs of Lexington’s diverse community. From ESL courses for recent immigrants, to advanced workshops for established writers, the Carnegie Center exhibits a range of offerings for creative individuals at any stage of education. The building is also home to learning and arts organizations, aspiring and professional authors, writing/book discussion groups and the site for other non-Carnegie events, including the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. In addition to offering a gallery and performing arts events, the center’s emphasis on writing and promoting books by regional authors has made it the state’s literary hub.

“We are pleased to recognize The Carnegie Center for its extraordinary work to create innovative, affordable, and sustainable artist space that positively impacts its community,” said Dennis White, president and CEO, MetLife Foundation. “The Carnegie Center and the other winning programs serve as models for communities interested in creating and benefiting from sustainable art spaces.”

“The Carnegie Center exemplifies how the development of affordable living and working spaces for artists can play a powerful role not only in the lives and careers of those artists, but in the communities where these spaces are located. The Carnegie Center is an outstanding example of excellent programming, socially progressive real estate development, and the ability to provide creative and economic sustenance in a community,” said Judilee Reed, executive director, LINC.

Four other winning organizations each received a $10,000 award:

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Pa. provides outstanding levels of service to artists in exile through a residency program with a full range of support services for the personal and professional recovery of artists and their families.

Open Book 2.0 in Minneapolis, Minn. exemplifies collaboration among local non-profits. Three independent organizations, The Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, and Minnesota Center for Book Arts pooled resources to form a vibrant literary arts center.

Soo Theatre and STARS in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. jumpstarted the economic and cultural revitalization of its area by bringing arts education and programming to the region. Soo Theatre is now a cultural asset that allows the local hospital and university to attract and retain talent.

Watts House Project in Los Angeles, Calif. meshes artists’ skills with local needs to improve households, creating a bond between artist and neighbor by integrating sustainable building and landscaping into everyday life.

The grand prize winning organization, The International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA), received $50,000 in recognition of its development of the Curley School, an exceptional, community-engaged artist space anchoring an arts-based revitalization movement in the border town of Ajo, Ariz. and neighboring Tohono O’odham Nation and Sonora, Mexico.

“Artist spaces should be fundamental to well-planned communities. We hope a broader set of stakeholders, including policymakers, planners and other civic leaders, will embrace arts and culture as significant components of effective development strategies,” said Susan Silberberg-Robinson, associate project director, MetLife Innovative Space Awards and lecturer in Urban Design and Planning, MIT.