Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and MetLife Foundation recently announced that AVA Gallery and Art Center (AVA/Alliance for the Visual Arts) in Lebanon, NH is one of six winners of a 2010 MetLife Foundation Innovative Space Award. This highly competitive national award recognizes outstanding efforts in the design and development of affordable space for artists, an integral part of LINC’s Space for Change: Building Communities through Innovative Art Spaces program. “The winning organizations,” states a press release issued by LINC and MetLife, “provide a firm base from which artists may pursue their work while simultaneously contributing to shaping vibrant, healthy communities.” The six winning projects were selected from nearly 100 applicants from 37 states. “The MetLife Foundation Innovative Space Awards acknowledge best practices in the field of artist space development,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “We are proud to partner with LINC to recognize outstanding programs and the important role that art plays in our communities.”

“Artists need affordable and appropriate work spaces to create new work. The recipients of the 2010 MetLife Innovative Space Awards address this challenge in diverse ways, offering solutions that foster creativity, spark neighborhood revitalization and invest in community,” said Judilee Reed, Executive Director of LINC.

The Grand Prize of $50,000 went to Side Street Project in Pasadena, CA. The five Honorable Mention recipients, including AVA Gallery and Art Center, each received a $10,000 unrestricted cash award. The other winning organizations are located in Boston, MA; Kona-Big Island, HI; Houston, TX; and Seattle, WA.

AVA Gallery and Art Center’s 2006-2007 renovation of its 11 Bank Street facility – formerly known as the H.W. Carter Overall Factory—was recognized for its variety of spaces, including four exhibition galleries, seven teaching studios, a sculpture garden, and 21 individual artists’ studios that together embody the creative, multi-faceted and community-oriented spirit of AVA. The sustainable strategies that were implemented as part of the renovation project, which resulted in LEED Gold-Certification, were also recognized.

AVA’s original application was submitted in April 2010; in June, AVA was selected as one of 15 finalists. The finalist status required additional follow-up, including demographic information about the local community; the “green” initiatives that were undertaken in the development of AVA’s spaces; notable building features; and the experience of using the building as an artist, as a community member, and as a staff member. In July, LINC’s Program Manager, Risё Wilson, came from New York City on a site visit to learn more about AVA. A highlight of the visit was a two-hour meeting with some 30 participants, including founding members of AVA, artists with studios in the building, board members, staff, community members, interns, key players in the renovation project, city councilors, as well as a Lebanon resident who worked in the building for more than 30 years when it was a clothing factory. All contributed invaluable perspectives on the impact that AVA and its innovative art spaces, have had, and continue to have, on the community.