Launched in 2014, the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants provide financial and technical assistance to local community partners seeking to bring new life to their public spaces. This annual grant is part of the airline’s commitment to building social connections that bring people and communities together in working to create a more resilient future. Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Vice President and Chief Communications Officer explains, “These connections are creating the foundation for more resilient communities where local residents have a sense of ownership and pride in the places they call home with the people they love.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Through this exciting partnership, PPS has witnessed four years of impactful projects in 18 cities, and we are eager to fund the next round of innovative placemaking projects in cities served by Southwest Airlines. Click here to learn about all of our past projects, and to see why you should apply!
The goals of the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants are to:
- Help communities bring new life to their public spaces, transforming them into vibrant places that connect people and strengthen communities
- Raise awareness of placemaking as a mainstream approach and a catalyst for building sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and economically viable communities
- Encourage activation, participation, and volunteerism in public spaces to benefit local communities
How exactly do these grants help communities? An initial evaluation conducted by Southwest and Project for Public Spaces determined that the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant leverages an average of four times its amount in additional funding from other sources. Not only does this boost the valuable work of grant recipients, but it also shows how initial investment in public spaces can bring a number of other positive outcomes for cities.
The Open Air Reading Room in Providence’s Burnside Park, for example, brought hundreds of new families to the park, giving kids and their parents yet another reason to visit. In San Diego, after the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant encouraged adjacent museums to spill out onto the Plaza de Panama, food trucks and other vendors began to arrive in full force. In Baltimore, local restaurateur Josh Cowan of Dizzy Cow Pizzeria (see image below) has also benefited from increased patronage to Pratt and Light Plaza—a 2014 Heart of the Community project—and every Thursday the restaurant serves lunch to hundreds of locals during the weekly farmers market.
As the placemaking movement continues to grow, these projects are becoming part of much larger discussions about people’s connection to place and to each other. “Everyone has the right to quality public spaces and we all have a role to play in shaping them,” explains Fred Kent, President and Founder of Project for Public Spaces. “By collectively re-imagining public spaces as the heart of every community, we can strengthen the connection between people and the places they share.”
We hope to see you soon in your city!
The 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant application is open now through December 5th.
Make sure to join us for a live webinar on November 9th, 2016 2PM ET about the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants to learn more about this exciting opportunity to create a vibrant, active space at the heart of your community. Please register for the webinar here.