Blog Posts for advancing arts locally

6 Characteristics to Successful Arts and Rural Economic Development Efforts

Posted by Shannon Ford, Feb 20, 2014 5 comments

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.

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Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States

Posted by Michael Lange, Feb 18, 2014 1 comment

Michael Lange Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome - the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts - is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3 Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 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 over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program.

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Welcome to our Rural Arts Blog Salon!

Posted by Theresa Cameron, Feb 18, 2014 3 comments

Welcome to our first ever rural arts blog salon. We have gathered together some of the best thinkers, practitioners, and artists to blog about art, placemaking, and economic development in rural communities. This blog salon will be in conjunction with our new rural webinars on these topics which will occur Feb. 26,27, and 28!

This blog salon will explore ways that small and rural communities are using the arts to help economic stability and growth in their communities. It will give you the opportunity to hear from these communities about some of the successful economic development strategies they have used like artists relocation, cultural districts, historic tax credits, etc.

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