Blog Posts for advancing arts locally

Thanks to all the writers and readers that participated in our Rural Arts Blog Salon!

Posted by Theresa Cameron, Feb 24, 2014 0 comments

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”.

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Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern New Hampshire

Posted by Jamie Feinberg, Feb 24, 2014 0 comments

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?!)

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Rural/Urban Exchange and the Rural Model

Posted by Matthew Glassman, Feb 24, 2014 1 comment

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.

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Young Artists in Small Towns: Contexts of Creativity

Posted by Michele Anderson, Feb 23, 2014 2 comments

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.

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Rural Arts Resources Hunting Guide: Finding your inner soup stone

Posted by Pat Boyd, Feb 23, 2014 0 comments

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. 

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Arts and Mountains: Cultivating a Sense of Place – and Environmental Literacy - in Northern New Hampshire

Posted by Jamie Feinberg, Feb 22, 2014 0 comments

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.

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