Last week, Americans for the Arts held a blog salon on Rural Arts. There were a lot of familiar names and faces with posts by Wormfarm Institute and Springboard for the Arts’ rural offices, but there were more people with whom I was unfamiliar.
There were three posts that jumped out at me, likely because they were aligned with my penchant for practical knowledge. Two were by Savannah Barrett with Art of the Rural which is coordinating 2014 as Year of the Rural Arts.
Her first post suggests working with Cooperative Extension Services in your community as a method of developing the arts. Cooperative Extensions in many states operate arts extensions as part of their services and apparently the national 4-H has recently started placing a greater emphasis on communication and expressive arts according to Barrett.
Her second post lists federal and philanthropic resources that are involved with rural arts.
The third post was made by Shannon Ford from the Tennessee Arts Commission. He lists 6 characteristics which he has identified as making arts rural programs successful. Most of the characteristics are common to pretty much any activity planned by an arts organization- clarity, sustainability, evaluation. However because resources are often particularly scarce in rural communities, the need to be focused on these areas is especially important given the small margin of error.
This is why he emphasizes visibility and partnerships as a way of leveraging good will and shared resources as a way to communicate your goals to many corners of the community and achieve investment.
His last characteristic, authenticity, seemed most important of all given that the values of a rural community are shared. By which I mean in the general sense and in the course of conversation. Even if two people aren’t of like mind about your efforts, whatever you do is going to be a topic of their conversation. As Ford notes, “No good ever came of ignoring your community’s cultural context or norms, and rural perspectives have a long history of being ignored.”
If you are interested in learning more, Americans for the Arts is hosting a three webinars on the rural arts starting Wednesday, February 26, each at 3 pm EST.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014: Economic Development and Art in Rural Communities
Thursday, February 27, 2014: Resources For Rural Arts
Friday, February 28, 2014: Placemaking in Rural Communities