Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

Wow!  What a great week of blogs in our first Blog Salon on Rural Arts. Thanks to our bloggers and all our commentators, followers on Twitter, and Facebook fans.

As I read each of these blogs, I was inspired and encouraged about ways the arts are helping the economy, improving place, and creating change for rural America. I am from Wyoming and was an arts administrator on the frontier there for several years, so I especially loved Michael Lange’s blogs about how the arts are playing a leading role in revitalization efforts. This is especially challenging since Wyoming enjoys “the smallest population of any state, with 575,000 people and of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations are over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000”.

Did you know that 2014 is the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act? And that the Cooperative Extension Service is celebrating through a partnership with Imagining America called Extension Reconsidered? Thanks to Savannah Barrett for her wonderful post on how important Cooperative Extension Service has been to rural arts and economic development.

Other highlights: Michele Anderson’s blog about Fergus Falls and the steps the community is taking to save the former state mental hospital-the Kirkbride Building was inspiring. I loved how this project has helped Fergus Falls re-invent itself using this magnificent building and the arts. Gorgeous photos accompanied many of our posts, including Anderson’s and Michael Lange’s (which can also be viewed on our Instagram) and I loved watching videos from the Higher Ground project in Mark Kidd and Ada Smith’s piece on the Kentucky coalfields. Janet Brown’s blogs informed by her 26 years of work in rural arts – and how she is still impacted by the Declaration of Dakota Cultural Identity – amazed me because it still resonates today and it obviously had an impact on Janet.

Finally, thanks to you – our readers – for participating in this great week of rural arts. I hope that you will continue to revisit this blog salon in the future for more creative ideas and inspiration. Fortunately, all of the posts will be archived here. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, we’re holding a webinar series on Rural and Small Communities THIS week, Wednesday-Thursday-Friday – sign up today! Also, there will be Annual Convention sessions dedicated to rural arts, so consider joining us in Nashville in June.

And if you are ever interested in blogging yourself, just send us an e-mail. Keep in touch!

The Power of Partnerships in Placemaking

Posted by Eric Rogers On February - 24 - 2014
Eric Rogers

Eric Rogers

Small places typically have small financial resources. That certainly describes the environment for Jay County (population 21,253), where Arts Place started in 1967. Small also often translates into limited audiences if an organization cannot reach beyond its traditional boundaries.

One way Arts Place has found to hurdle these obstacles has been to partner with our neighboring rural communities to create economies of scale. This approach also breaks some of the isolation natural to making the arts happen in places outside the urban mainstream.

Partnerships and collaborations have become second nature to Arts Place. While survival may have stimulated our early efforts, the benefits of such an approach have made reaching out to other communities and organizations our preferred way of making the arts happen.

Partnerships can be as simple as offering the same program in multiple communities. For example, Arts in the Parks, a series of summer workshops and community projects for children, requires significant overhead for planning, fund raising, and management during the program. But, by spreading the overhead amongst more than a dozen communities in five counties we created a more cost effective program.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern New Hampshire

Posted by Jamie Feinberg On February - 24 - 2014
Jamie Feinberg

Jamie Feinberg

Growing up in New Hampshire, my favorite days of the year — a few major holidays excepted — were Old Home Days. I loved the crafts, the animals, the special parades, performances and fireworks – it was part of what made our town so special. Cultural traditions still play a large role in defining local community identity in northern New Hampshire towns. While it can be tempting to focus exclusively on new art forms when we look for ways to use the arts as a driver of 21st century rural economic development, we’ve found that the key is often in discovering, acknowledging, appreciating, nurturing — and then marketing and building upon — what we already have.

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts defines traditional arts as “artistic activities that are passed down from one generation to the next within families and communities and are regarded by the community as part of their heritage”. Whether we’re attending contra dances, purchasing locally woven ash baskets or fishing with a hand-tied fly, traditional arts feature prominently in both our daily life and in our celebrations.

Old Home Days were created in New Hampshire in the late nineteenth century to encourage sons and daughters who’d moved west after the Civil War to come home – for a visit or to stay – and to support their hometowns. This same need – to attract young people and to reconnect with one another — exists in our rural communities today. Traditional arts have always been showcased at these celebrations, but it isn’t just the locals who appreciate them. These events have become popular with both tourists and new residents, people who are looking for authentic experiences and a glimpse of a unique community and culture. People from eight to eighty-eight can be seen both observing and participating in these community celebrations, which reflect past traditions while showcasing the best the town currently has to offer. (Oh, and did I mention they’re fun?!) Read the rest of this entry »

Rural/Urban Exchange and the Rural Model

Posted by Matthew Glassman On February - 24 - 2014
Matthew Glassman

Matthew Glassman

For many of us working in the rural arts and culture movement, years have been spent incubating and developing our model. This April marks Double Edge Theatre’s 20th year of its Farm Center in Ashfield, MA—once a thriving dairy farm community that lost almost all of its nearly thirty farms over the course of the 80s. Double Edge previously was based in Boston and had established itself as an international company both in make-up and its touring/ research activities. The company first inhabited the Farm as a part time theatrical laboratory in April 1994 and eventually moved its full-time operations here by 1997 to create an international center for performance, collaboration, and training in the heart of rural Western Mass.

The Farm Center, a vision of Double Edge Founder and Artistic Director Stacy Klein, is this singular sort of place where creative research thrives and creativity and sustainability are deeply intertwined. The mutuality and duality between ‘W’ Work and ‘w’ work is fluid and holistic in the best and most earthbound sense. Performance, farming, administration, education, and deep individual and group research flow harmoniously on this fertile landscape in cyclical evolutions.

A slow, steady, and organic development has taken place in the past twenty years that includes renovations of barns, animal stalls, and buildings – but also a focused honing of our artistic practice and methodology and a continuous elevation of collaboration with our local community.

After recent touring to major cities in transition such as Baltimore and Hartford, as well as to more developed and gentrified places like Chicago and Washington D.C. (not to mention Moscow), it has become clear to our company through these interactions with these urban communities that now is the time for more highly developed inter-local exchange and cross pollination between these rural models and urban contexts as well as cross-pollination through rural to rural exchanges. Read the rest of this entry »

Young Artists in Small Towns: Contexts of Creativity

Posted by Michele Anderson On February - 23 - 2014
Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson

I live in a small town, I am an artist, and I am young.

In my work helping other artists with their careers, I spend a lot of time thinking about the types of resources younger artists need in rural communities.  For the most part, this means just what you would expect: developing or identifying ways to help them find funding, sell their work, or learn new skills. But I also want to think more deeply than that: What kind of unique resources might actually motivate young artists to create art in the first place, be connected to their community and stick around to provide the strong, innovative leadership that small towns need right now?

In other words, what are the conditions of creativity and talent development in a small town, and how does this affect the $100 million-dollar question of rural America: Why do our young people stay or go?

Here at Springboard for the Arts’ rural office, working with and encouraging younger artists has become a priority. Last Saturday, we led a day-long creative placemaking workshop on the role of art in historic preservation and economic development as part of our Imagine Fergus Falls initiative. Much to our surprise and delight, this workshop attracted a powerhouse of young artists from the region, most of whom had never met one another before. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Arts Resources Hunting Guide: Finding your inner soup stone

Posted by Pat Boyd On February - 23 - 2014
Pat Boyd

Pat Boyd

Rural arts organizations like us are always hunting for resources. Sometimes it’s a treasure hunt.  Sometimes it’s a scavenger hunt. Sounds like fun. That must be why we just can’t stop searching out ways to support ourselves!  (Trumpets sound.) 

Resourceful is near the top of the list of most admirable traits of rural Americans, followed unfortunately but necessarily by self-reliant and thrifty.  We have to use as much imagination and skill to support arts opportunities as we do to create them.

You have license to go resource hunting within the territory defined by this circle of support and creation. Your carefully crafted mission and its resulting programs and projects come from there. They make your map, but there are no x’s to show where the hidden treasures lie.

Stray too far in your hunt for support and you risk losing your way in the real work of art.  Your role as an arts organization in your rural community is complicated in ways that belie the apparent simplicity of size and setting. Best be clear in your purpose.

As hunters and gatherers for the arts, we have to stand in that clearing and think about that purpose. If you are having trouble finding support, it is good to figure out what is the matter. So start with what really matters:

            What good does it do?                                                        

                        Who cares?

                                    What does it take to do it?

                                                What do you have now?

                                                            What are you looking for?

                                                                        How much do you need and when?

If you know the answers without thinking, you are probably wrong.  Take the time to explore the answers in full. If you go off half-cocked by making assumptions, you might hunt up some help and simultaneously create some problems you don’t need.

Getting and understanding the answers can lead to your best resources. You may be looking for support for general operations, a major program or a small project — starting up, sustaining, or starting over, you make your case successfully if you know.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jamie Feinberg

Jamie Feinberg

It’s impossible to talk about what makes northern New Hampshire unique without talking about the environment. I’ve found that the stereotype of North Country residents — hardy, resourceful and independent – is basically true, and I’m sure this is in no small part due to the landscape of our region, which captivates us – and, in some ways, holds us captive.

Northern New Hampshire is beautiful in all seasons, but our communities are also isolated; much of the region’s land mass is part of the 1,200 square mile White Mountain National Forest, with mountains, lakes, and rivers defining the area’s character, offering locals and visitors alike a wealth of recreation opportunities – and simultaneously separating even “neighboring” communities from one another.

Northern New Hampshire is more depressed economically than the rest of the Granite State. Since the economic center of New Hampshire is in its southern corridor, making a living up north is often a struggle, especially since the past few decades have seen almost all of the manufacturing and “big” businesses in the region close down or move elsewhere.

In the nineteenth century, our mountains drew some of the country’s greatest artists to the region, and the White Mountain artists and their work became associated with the identity, expansion and development of the region. Many of the grand (and not-so-grand) hotels housed “artists in residence,” whose images became important drivers and symbols of the new and thriving tourism industry. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the Ecology, Stupid

Posted by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas On February - 22 - 2014
Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas

Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas

Ecology and economy share the same root word, oikos referring to a household or family. Because it is at that level that these concepts can best be understood –a discrete unit that can sustain itself, financially, culturally and environmentally; large enough to have impact; diversified enough to be resilient, yet small enough to retain knowledge and control of its elements.

Economies in rural communities retains some of this compact nature. We operate at a level where our work can have measurable impact. We can communicate directly with elected officials, business leaders and seldom have to introduce ourselves more than twice.

Our original household economic goals were modest- we sought to derive a living by growing and marketing organic vegetables. Though our backgrounds were in the arts, we were used to performing duties not directly related to our vocation in order to pay the bills. But we quickly discovered that there were connections between the fields of culture and agriculture- not the least of which is the work of farming.  But for us, without the necessary balance of art, it would prove unsustainable.

Wormfarm Institute Combine

Wormfarm Institute Combine

Because of this, the Wormfarm Institute has always found the relationship between a vibrant culture and economic activity to be a natural one. Over the past several years, as our projects have grown larger and more complex, involving several communities simultaneously we have come to value projects in part in terms of economic development. This isn’t a stretch or compromise but instead a natural result of working to increase diversity, vibrancy and resilience whether in our farm fields or our small downtown. This coincides with a nascent re-localization movement growing in response to the global economic upheavals of the last 8 years. It is easier now to make this oikos (human-scale) argument since most folks are aware how unwise it is to be dependent upon distant financial markets operated by self-interested entities, personal or corporate, untethered to any community.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where Do Resources Come from in a Place without Resources?

Posted by Janet Brown On February - 22 - 2014
Janet Brown

Janet Brown

People who work in the arts live in a perpetual state of aspiration and hope. We balance our budgets by projecting income that we “need” instead of income that we “expect.” Grantmakers in the Arts has spent four years focusing on the capitalization of arts organizations at GIA and other national conferences; through our web conferences, blogs, articles in the GIA Reader; and at our workshops for funders entitled Conversations on Capitalization and Community. Capitalization is defined simply as the resources an organization needs to accomplish its mission. The entire nonprofit sector operates in a business environment that is chaotic. It is the unpredictable nature of contributed income that makes the job of resource identification so difficult, requiring extreme cynicism and practical thinking by those trying to project budgets for the future.

This idea of projecting income in a chaotic marketplace is as important to the smallest of organizations as it is to the largest museum or opera company. Understanding how much money you need to exist and then understanding where that money will come from – this is the foundation of a good business model.

There is a false hope within the nonprofit world that all organizations, and even artists for that matter, can be saved by a good grant writer, that all we need to do is find a foundation and write a grant. The reality is that most organizations (and artists) are funded by only a small percentage of America’s foundations. About 10% of all foundation giving goes to the arts and one can probably predict without doing much research that the bulk of funding goes to institutions in urban centers. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s About Time; It’s About Place

Posted by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas On February - 21 - 2014
Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Some are born rural, some achieve rural, and some have rural thrust upon them. I am somewhere between the second two and have been immersed in rural life in Wisconsin for 20 years now. Though I was formed by urban and suburban places, none would claim me.

I used to call it portable roots and came by them honestly. Ours was a military family who moved every 3-4 years. There was once a time when my peripatetic life was unusual, but now even people like myself, who are most passionate about the places we live, once lived somewhere else and may likely relocate again. I live as I believe we all do—with varying degrees of awareness, along a rural/urban continuum.

This continuum is especially vivid to me today as I write from Mexico City, which has a population of 25 million.  Here among ancient and contemporary ruins, throngs of people, and centuries of visible history on nearly every corner, is live music or bizarre performances; every wall is either a reminder of Spanish conquest or crowded with murals and graffiti. The stream of romantic couples, the well behaved children, the ornate churches, the incense, the roaming vendors, and the incredible street food all goes through my senses into my brain and winds up comingled with Fermentation Fest or Roadside Culture Stands. Experiences here in Mexico for a couple weeks (during a polar vortex back home) can’t help but shape ideas to enliven and transform our very small, very different agricultural community. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts and Culture: Essential for Transition in the Kentucky Coalfields

Posted by Mark Kidd On February - 21 - 2014
Mark Kidd

Mark Kidd

Ada Smith

Ada Smith

January marked the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Johnson’s initiative that charged America’s institutions to create “maximum feasible participation” for those most affected by lack of opportunity. This focused effort made a lasting difference on living standards in Appalachia – but poverty, high unemployment, and shortened lifespans outlasted the war. During the last 18 months, Eastern Kentucky lost 6,000 coal mining jobs, often the highest paying career available in our region, leaving coal employment at its lowest levels since record keeping began in the 1920s.

Eastern Kentucky has 20 counties which are federally-designated as distressed, more than twice the number of any other state in Appalachia. Distressed counties have a three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate that fall within the bottom ten percent of the nation. On a recent winter weekday in Pikeville, Kentucky, almost 1,700 people traveled from mountain counties throughout Eastern Kentucky to participate in a day-long summit named “SOAR” — Shaping Our Appalachian Region. State and federal political leaders solicited ideas for a new regional planning process, which produced 600 written ideas about how to make positive change. We could not ask for a more encouraging sign that the local will exists to sustain our communities regardless of persistent, grinding economic distress.

Our region’s arts and culture sector is poised to make contributions to the civic, social, and economic transitions that are necessary for the future. Local partnerships that incorporate artists, arts organizations, social services, civic organizations, and the public have proven themselves a potent way to help a broad cross-section of community members take on complex projects here, including economic development. With this kind of infrastructure in place, communities can identify local issues and develop creative, ongoing solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Historic Buildings, Embodied Energy and Placemaking

Posted by Michele Anderson On February - 20 - 2014
Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson

Embodied energy. For anyone working to save a historic building from the wrecking ball in their town, this preservation term has likely come up in the fight— it powerfully illustrates the fact that buildings are literal repositories of the energy, labor and materials that they took to be constructed.

I love this image of energy just bubbling under the surface of our old buildings. It also makes me think about the stories, relationships and imagination that our historic buildings hold within their walls. For a long time I have wondered: How might creative placemaking be a strategy in activating a building’s embodied cultural energy – even before a permanent solution is found for its reuse? And how might many small creative gestures lead us to authentic and compelling reuse of the building, and attract responsible stewards of both the building’s cultural and physical embodied energy?

In Fergus Falls, our former state mental hospital, or the Kirkbride Building, has been front and center as a key community and economic development issue since 2005. Last July, the narrative of this complex problem began to shift closer to a renaissance, as a new developer and the city finally began the complicated process of working out a purchase agreement and redevelopment plan.

There is still a lot of work to be done and I admire the individuals behind the scenes who are working out the complicated web of tax credits and other things I don’t fully understand. As the rest of us wait to see if the building will finally have a new life, small acts of creative placemaking through our community’s Imagine Fergus Falls project have been helping the community step back ever so slightly from the preservation fight, and focus more on temporary animation of the space and artist-led storytelling about the building.

Our first official activity of Imagine Fergus Falls, a project funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, was a community picnic this fall in front of the hospital’s administrative tower. The picnic featured our community jazz band, The Lakes Area All-Stars, who played from the same sheet music that was used by the hospital’s resident band, The Happy Ramblers. Our community college choir also performed. A local photographer created a lovely (and hilarious) photo booth with costumes for friends and family to pose in, and another visual artist facilitated a community history collage with photos both of the buildings history and the preservation efforts in more recent years. We even had a camera obscura booth set up in front of the tower, made from a portable ice fishing house.

This event was a hit, and a way to demonstrate to the community what we had in mind with using the arts to foster interaction about the building. But this winter, the magic has really taken hold as we have been forced to take our creative placemaking efforts indoors, and unable to do activities at the Kirkbride Building itself because, well, we would freeze there. The average temperature here in west central Minnesota has not risen above zero for several months, which makes creative placemaking in an abandoned building near impossible.

As it turns out, indoor creative placemaking, slightly removed from the place that you are focusing on, is something really special too. Read the rest of this entry »

Shannon Ford

Shannon Ford

“I’m not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean”

With this refrain, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians began the song “What I Am,” an anthem for simplicity, honesty, and common sense that has helped me in both my personal and professional life since I was a teen.  (And yes, I know I am dating myself, and I am happy to own my middle age.)

As a staff member of the Tennessee Arts Commission, I’ve assisted people from rural places with packaging their hopes, dreams, and aspirations into proposals that anticipate skeptical questions and outline the community benefits to be achieved. It’s my job as a grants administrator and steward of public dollars to think how to economize and get the largest return from small investments, since our grants often represent a fraction of the funds raised for any given constituent’s project or operational budget. What makes my job rewarding is that I work for a state full of incredibly talented artists and administrators who continually innovate and show me how to squeeze grant dollars for every ounce of public value possible.

My job has also afforded me the privilege of speaking to teachers, public officials, and community boosters who believe that the arts are good for students, seniors, downtowns, tourism, as well as plenty of other groups and initiatives. However, sometimes they don’t know what to say or do to persuade movers, shakers, and/or non-believers. In particular, they express frustration that the arts are kept on the fringes of discussions about moving their communities strategically forward, or that the arts are perceived as expendable amenities, rather than as essential forces of positive change.

I’m not aware of too many magic bullets for incorporating the arts into rural economic development, but I know to look for six characteristics from constituents who’ve been successful.

1)      Clarity of Goals – A plan is not a plan without an end in mind. If you want to do something, then be clear about the intended effects it will have on your community. A vehicle for reaching your community goals could be opening an arts center, or organizing a festival, or starting a gallery crawl, but those activities won’t have short-term or long-term effects without an expressed purpose. So your goals need to be clear, logically related to the means for achieving them, and attainable. Be very aware that if you are pitching your project or program as a component of economic development, then one of your long-term goals must be to generate revenue. Whatever form it takes – income for local artists, new business for the hospitality industry, a bump in the county tax rolls – it is important to show how economic benefits will accrue to the community at large. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning for the Arts in Rural Wyoming Communities

Posted by Michael Lange On February - 19 - 2014
Michael Lange

Michael Lange

Planning for the Arts in Rural Wyoming Communities

Due to Wyoming’s population and rural nature, the arts and cultural entities have the ability to be considered in key community development strategies in Wyoming. Below are two of the ways that the Wyoming Arts Council (WAC) has been focusing on development of the arts in rural communities.

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with only 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations more than 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population more than 10,000 people.

Getting the Arts in Community Plans

The Wyoming Rural Development Council (WRDC), part of the Wyoming Business Council, has developed a comprehensive assessment program to help communities develop locally conceived and locally driven development strategies, and provide a long term support system to help achieve development goals. Of the 99 incorporated communities, the WRDC has facilitated community assessments in almost 80 Wyoming communities, as well as revisited communities at five and 10 year increments. Read the rest of this entry »

savannah

Savannah Barrett

There are many ways that the arts contribute to a more diversified economy. As the funding consortium ArtPlace America demonstrates, creative placemaking has become an investment priority for many funders. With 32% of arts event attendees travelling from another county, cultural tourism is increasingly popular as an earned income generator for small towns across America. Arts organizations and the events that they host generate a significant boost to the economy, estimated at $135.2 billion annually by the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study. The question is no longer IF the arts contribute to a thriving economy, but HOW to best employ arts and cultural amenities to promote economic stability and social uplift in disparate communities.

Many strategies have worked well in communities large and small across the nation, and many of those position the arts at the strategy’s core. Still, there is no silver bullet to address the comprehensive needs of a whole community, as a different approach is necessarily used in each success. While we should study, reflect, and aspire to the opportunities for investment that each type of arts and economic opportunity provides, we as artists and organizers must envision a plan with our communities that amplify the resonance of our own cultural assets. That reverberation attracts others, and that collective energy can resound across the spectrum of a place to impact the social, domestic, and economic health of your community.

Engage Your Whole Community
Opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives and cultural experiences aren’t urban amenities, but quality of life amenities. When a region (rural or urban) envisions a future through art and demonstrates consistent offerings of varied activities that people can not only observe but participate in, those people (both tourists and locals) have the kinds of remarkable experiences that inspire devotion to a destination. The buzz that the arts and culture prompt in a community draws people into social space, which attracts business. Those kinds of thriving markets accomplish a dual task: they engage with their cultural richness by coming together as a whole community, which attracts new markets overtime and continues to honor their cultural heritage in a genuine, sustainable way. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.