The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design


ARTery unveiling at Arts Eye View in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of the participants of NEA's Citizens' Institute on Rural Design initiative. Photo by Glenna Booth

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD)is an opportunity for not-for-profits, community organizations, and local governments to tackle critical rural design issues by bringing professionals to their community for a multiday workshop. CIRD was created by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991 in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since that time, nearly 60 workshops have been held to enhance the quality of life and economic viability of rural areas through planning, design, and creative placemaking. 

CIRD brings together rural community leaders in two-and-a-half-day workshops to address design issues ranging from downtown revitalization, arts-based development strategies, heritage preservation, and land and agricultural conservation to growth management, transportation, and subdivision design.  Experts in planning, architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, transportation, economic development, creative placemaking, and related fields are invited to participate as appropriate. These experts are engaged to work specifically on the issues identified by a community through the problem-solving lens of design.

CIRD works with communities with populations of less than 50,000. This includes towns in a non-metropolitan county or in a metropolitan county on the urban fringe. Past organizations that have hosted a workshop include university community design centers, chambers of commerce, county governments, main street organizations, local preservation organizations, historical societies, and other 501(c)(3) groups.

Guidelines for applying for a 2013 workshop are available at A panel will review the applications and selected communities will be announced May 2013.

The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design is run in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, along with the Orton Family Foundation and the CommunityMatters® Partnership. For more information, please visit