Jim Clark

Jim Clark

“Creative Placemaking” as described by Anne Gadwa Nicodemus and Ann Markusen offers artists and arts administrators a template to engage business and civic leaders in the articulation of new cultural policies at the local level.  In her paper, “Fuzzy Vibrancy: Creative Placemaking as Ascendant U.S. Cultural Policy,” Nicodemus states that one of the hallmarks of creative placemaking is the development of cross-sector partnerships to promote “arts-centered initiatives with place-based physical, economic and/or social outcomes.”

Does this widespread interest in creative placemaking present an opportunity for us to expand and develop cultural policy at the local level? Read the rest of this entry »

Is Public Art Dead?

Posted by Norie Sato On May - 30 - 2014
Norie Sato

Norie Sato

In the late 1970s, artists and critics were asking “Is Painting Dead?” In the face of new approaches, media and concepts, the art world was looking at new ways of art making versus the old.   It was somewhat of a facetious question, yet there was a lot of truth in it. Public art as we know it, as “government-sponsored” percent programs, is getting to be more than 40 years old. Programs are celebrating 30, 40, 50 years of existence. It is no longer a new thought, no longer exciting in its promise, reach and approach…or is it? I’m not sure I can answer that question yet, but here are a few observations that may signal a trend. Read the rest of this entry »

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/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 »

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 »

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 »

If You Live in a Place, You Will Find Art There

Posted by Janet Brown On February - 19 - 2014
Janet Brown

Janet Brown

I’ve been a community arts developer for over 26 years. Most of that time was spent working in rural communities in South Dakota and the Great Plains. Moving back to South Dakota after a stint in New York City and San Francisco, I became increasingly aware of how people passionate about the arts impact rural and small communities making certain that art is a part of the lives of their children and their neighbors. Community arts councils, community theatres, visual art galleries, community choruses and bands…all defined the word “community” for me.

In South Dakota, many amazing professional artists draw inspiration from the rural countryside where they were raised. Others have escaped from the city and now feel at home on the prairie. There was no mistaking that these artists live and work in rural settings because it inspires their art. These professional artists, as well as the community artists who would not think of themselves as professionals, became my inspiration. This is where I learned that the arts do not need to be taught, that they are instinctive. Formalized learning can expand and inform art making, but the practice of music, dance, theatre, literature and visual art comes from the soul, from everyone’s soul. I’m still not sure what the terms “placemaking” and “rural arts” mean but I know what it means to be inspired by your home, your neighbors, your land and its people—and to express that inspiration through the arts that envelops an entire community. I know the sorrow of losing an elementary school and the pride of turning that school into a local center for the arts. I know the joy of combined church choirs singing Handel in December and of music and arts festivals in the parks in the summer.

We had our state centennial while I was director of South Dakotans for the Arts. For that event, I was honored to be part of an amazing team of artists and arts administrators who helped to write the following Declaration of Dakota Cultural Identity. (We wrote it with North Dakotans since we have the same state birthday.) I love this language but mostly I love the memories of people and places that come back to me, of ordinary people singing, dancing and celebrating through the arts in the place they call home. Read the rest of this entry »

Placemarking: Public Art and Emergency Preparedness

Posted by Lindsay Sheridan On July - 19 - 2013
lindsay headshot

Lindsay Sheridan

Doug Kornfeld knew he won the gig the moment someone mentioned Mardi Gras. He had just presented to the jury for New Orleans’ public art City-Assisted Evacuation marking project – dubbed “Evacuspots” – with his proposal for 14-foot-high, 850 lb stainless steel stick figures with one arm reached out in the universal sign for “I need a ride!” But what Doug, an artist based in Boston, MA, hadn’t counted on was that his design would have a perfectly iconic Big Easy connection: that of someone gesturing to have beads thrown at them on Mardi Gras.

This festive figure has a serious task, though. It’s part of a new solution for hurricane evacuation developed by the nonprofit philanthropy organization Evacuteer.org in the wake of the 2005 disaster Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 100,000 residents stranded in the city with no means of escape. Through an agreement with the City of New Orleans, Evacuteer.org recruits, trains, and manages evacuation volunteers – dubbed evacuteers – to run a system that is capable of picking up and transporting 30,000 residents to state-run shelters in the event of a necessary evacuation. The system was tested once in September 2008 in advance of Hurricane Gustav. While about 18,000 residents utilized the City-Assisted Evacuation Plan, many residents had little idea of where the pickup points were since they were marked by small, unnoticeable placards with a lot of text. So Robert Fogarty, co-founder and board president of Evacuteer.org, brought up a new idea: what better way to draw attention to the spots than with a public art piece? Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 2013
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Make Where You Live a Better Place?

Posted by Ruby Harper On April - 15 - 2013
Ruby Harper

Ruby Harper

So when I was asked to write the opening post to “set the tone” for this year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon—I did what any self-respecting, confident, and capable individual would do—I PANICKED!!

What would I write about? What would I say? Why would people care? What if I said something wrong?

Then I took a deep breath…and another…and then I started:

This year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon extended invitations to submit posts responding to “What would make where you live a better place or bring it to the next level?”

We received more than 30 submissions. The depth and breadth of the responses will make you laugh, cry, but most importantly, they will make you THINK, WONDER and they will INSPIRE!

Hopefully—at least, that’s what the Emerging Leaders Council intends.

This year, for me, has been about taking action—I was standing in a line at the BMV (or DMV, depending on where you live) and I turned towards one of the TV screens playing and a message —clear as day, white letters on a black screen—ominous in their intent and direct in their purpose: INACTION IS NOT AN OPTION.  Read the rest of this entry »

Has Endowment Become a Dirty Word?

Posted by Leah Hamilton On December - 13 - 2012

Leah Hamilton

Endowment. Much like the word “elite” or “patronize,” the term “endowment” seems to have acquired a negative connotation.

The traditional endowment model was sold as a core strategy of sustainability for an organization; the interest provided reliable budgetary support, and the principle was the legacy of dedicated arts patrons. But organizations began to use the fund’s annual draw in place of fundraising.

Then, when times got tough, the principle became a financial lifeline. When this happened, a new trend emerged; funders began to redirect their initiatives towards innovation and creative placemaking instead of endowment.

But, as with most trends, there are exceptions to the rule.

Springfield, MO is nationally recognized as a collaborative community, as highlighted recently by Mayor Robert Stephens on the Huffington Post. With consistent job growth in the city as well as lower than average unemployment rates, Springfield’s collaborative nature has helped the community weather the recession.

In the arts community, more than 30 local groups share The Creamery Arts Center. The 35,000-square-foot building, once home to the Springfield Creamery Co. and later the first distribution center for O’Reilly Automotive, includes administrative offices, as well as an exhibition hall, board room, arts library, arts classroom, film editing bay, a shared costume shop, and set design/fabrication studio. Read the rest of this entry »

Collective Impact and the Wisdom of Slow Culture

Posted by Bill Cleveland On December - 7 - 2012

Pomegranate Center works with communities to imagine, plan, and create shared public spaces designed to encourage social integration and build local identity.

In the world of commerce scaling up has a long history. In the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries, mass production spawned the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, scaling applied to retail businesses like fast food and electronics manifested as chain stores and franchising.

The intention with these enterprises is to maximize profit by providing reliable and affordable products and services through economies of scale. In terms of profitability, mass production, chains, and franchising have been stupendously successful.

On the nonprofit side, given the significant gap between community needs and resources it is understandable that policymakers and funders are going to eager to find ways to extend the benefits of what they see as effective ideas and practice. Slow Food USA, Link TV, and KIPP charter schools are good examples of how innovative nonprofits have shared and spread the wealth.

The downside, of course is that one-size-fits-all predictability and sameness can have a sterilizing effect on the delicate strains of quirk and diversity upon which vital culture depends to multiply and thrive. For people like me who are concerned with community cultural development, or in the current vernacular, creative placemaking, this is no small thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Questions to Ask Before Addressing Scale

Posted by Judi Jennings On December - 5 - 2012

Judi Jennings

Does size matter? Of course it does. But is this the right question to ask first?

How about approaching the question of size by first asking how arts, culture, and philanthropy advance positive social change? And how does size relate to equity?

Size matters locally and globally, but arts and culture drive change regardless of the size. Maria Rosario Jackson’s recent report on Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities convincingly argues that arts and culture create community identity, stimulate civic engagement, and affect neighborhood economies directly and indirectly.

Writer and cultural organizer Jeff Chang argues that “where culture leads, politics will follow” on national and international issues.

As a place-based grantmaker, my theory of change is that local people make the most appropriate and lasting advancements when they have the necessary tools and resources.

Allied Media Projects (AMP) in Detroit is a great example of place-based social change. AMP argues that “place is important” and “Detroit is a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions.”

Honoring local culture does not mean working in isolation. MicroFest USA, for example, led by the Network of Ensemble Theatres, is looking at how art and culture can create healthy communities in Detroit, Appalachia, New Orleans, and Hawaii. The idea is that performance-based learning exchanges like this can connect artists, activists, cultural workers, and thinkers working locally and nationally. Read the rest of this entry »

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.