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New Kensington looks to foundation grants for burgeoning arts facility

| Monday, July 11, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
Josh Davis, an installer with North American Fencing, moves a bundle of fence as he works to complete the dek hockey rink in Memorial Park in New Kensington on Monday, July 11, 2016. A $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County helped to pay for the construction.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
Tom Dunn, a volunteer with the New Kensington/Arnold Social in the Park, right, shows Phil Koch, executive director of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, one of two new steel pavilions that were built this year in Memorial Park in New Kensington with a $20,000 grant from the foundation, as seen on Monday, July 11, 2016.

A thriving arts emphasis in downtown New Kensington could encourage community and economic development there, too, visiting community developers said Monday.

Community Foundation of Westmoreland County officials saw how two prior foundation grants were used with money from the all-volunteer New Kensington/Arnold Social in the Park group to replace pavilions at New Kensington's Memorial Park as well as a revamped tot lot playground at Arnold's Roosevelt Park.

Phil Koch, foundation executive director, and Caleb Crousey, development officer for the foundation, also spent about an hour touring the New Kensington Arts Center in the former Career Training Academy.

“Part of our mission is to understand what the community needs and how we can help,” Koch said.

He was surprised by the size of the arts building along Fifth Avenue and the considerable programs under way.

“I thought it was a storefront,” Koch told Bill Hall, of the camera club and arts center, and Cindy Downard, a freelance graphic designer who works with the center and is part of the Social in the Park group.

Since the mid-1990s, the foundation has issued about $14 million in grants to nonprofit groups.

The pavilion and playground grants were part of the foundation's revitalization grants.

The foundation gave the Social in the Park group $20,000 toward the $70,000 cost of replacing two pavilions in Memorial Park. Other money came from a federal block grant and fundraising by Social in the Park.

The $26,000 grant to Arnold, with $9,650 matching money from the city, added rubberized mulch and new equipment at the small children's playground in Roosevelt Park.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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