National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts

In its ongoing support of rural communities, the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council, announces the 2021 communities taking part in its national initiative called CIRD – Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design.

Midway, Alabama is one of four communities selected for a multi-day design workshop. Midway, a rural town of 650 people, is a hub that serves a much larger community of almost 10,000 people located in surrounding towns and small unincorporated townships within a 15-mile radius.

To provide more local access to services for this rural population, community leaders and residents in and around Midway are uniting as a team and bringing all their superpowers to transform the shuttered Merritt Elementary School campus into a thriving community center for health, learning, recreation and jobs.

In the CIRD workshop the Merritt Team will work together with architects, landscape architects and economic development experts to create inspiring cohesive plans and design for the whole Merritt Community Complex, including the main school building, auxiliary facilities and 29 acres of surrounding property.

In addition, Midway and the other three workshop communities will participate in CIRD’s 18-month Design Learning Cohort for rural leaders, along with representatives from 15 other communities.

“Design is a powerful tool to leverage local assets and celebrate culture; ultimately fostering a strong sense of place,” said Arts Endowment Director of Design and Creative Placemaking, Jen Hughes.

“As rural America recovers from the global pandemic, the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design stands ready to support the bold visions that communities like Midway have put forth to guide their future development.”

Since 1991, the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design has worked in communities with populations of 50,000 or less to enhance quality of life and economic vitality through planning, design, and creative placemaking.

To date, the Arts Endowment has engaged more than 100 communities in all regions of the country.

“Partially done and piecemeal design does not exude excellence; will not become a source of pride; and will not uplift the same way an inspiring cohesively-designed campus can. We think of CIRD as getting a ‘Life Coach’ to help us design and transform Merritt in a more excellent way and at a more accelerated rate.

If we can come away from the workshop and design cohort with inspiring drawings, plans and design that show the full-blown vision, we will be in a much stronger position to excite and engage our rural community and attract all the additional resources we need.” ~ Merritt Community Complex Foundation Team

For more information and/or to get involved with the Merritt Community Complex, visit

For more information on this program announcement, visit or

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