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May 2014

Greetings from Arts & Democracy!


On March 21 Arts & Democracy hosted a national conference call on Rural Engagement in collaboration with the New York State Council on the Arts. The call was organized to respond to the challenges and opportunities facing the 60+ local arts agencies in New York that include rural service regions, and by many other arts councils and arts organizations across the country. We brought together four individuals with expertise in rural community engagement to share their strategies, approaches, and resources. 


The presenters were: 

  • Ben Strand, University of Wisconsin Foundation, former development director for Young Auditorium in Whitewater, WI
  • Maria De Leon; Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture and member of the NEA's National Council on the Arts
  • Bob Gates, folklorist, formerly of KY and LA Arts Councils, and winner of a lifetime achievement prize from the American Folklife Society
  • Frumie Selchen, Executive Director, Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, and 2013 Governor's Award honoree for Arts Leadership.

The respondent was:

Judi Jennings, Kentucky Foundation for Women


In this newsletter you will find a link to the call recording and additional resources. While not comprehensive, we hope that these resources will be of use to you!


Art of the Rural facilitates rural-urban dialogue and cross-sector exchange through a digital platform that includes The Rural Arts and Culture Map, policy analysis, and information abour rural programs across the country. Resources include toolkits, funding sources, reports and commentary.  



Rural Organizing Project, a grassroots organizing project in Oregon, has effectively organized isolated citizens and far-flung counties to combat oppressive legislation and institutionalized inequities. Rural caucuses meet to create winning strategies. Toolkits on capacity building and on organizing focus primarily on human dignity issues and are easily adapted to arts and culture. 



Americans for the Arts hosted a Blog Salon for all things rural that included a post referencing the Cooperative Extension Service, a resource in rural areas cited by several of the call's presenters.  


Llano Grande Center for Research and Development located in rural South Texas, developed a toolkit on 
with Kellogg Leadership for Community Change.



Roadside Theaterfounded in the coalfields of central Appalachia in 1975 as part of a War on Poverty/Office of Economic Opportunity job training program, has organized its deep experience in rural organizing on their new web site, Art in a Democracy. Roadside is part of Appalshop, which offers many media resources about Appalachia.

The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) provides communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality. CIRD works with communities with populations of 50,000 or less, and offers annual competitive funding to as many as four small towns or rural communities to host a 2.5 day community design workshop.



The Rural Cultural Roundtable Report by Maureen Mullinax explores the role of place-based culture and creative industries in rural communities. It documents a roundtable that took place just prior to the 2011 National Rural Assembly that was co-sponsored by Arts & Democracy, Center for Rural Strategies, and InCommon. 
First Peoples Fund's report Establishing a Creative Economy: Art as an Economic Engine in Native Communities draws on market research conducted in Washington, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota to makes the case for Native arts as a strong and viable economic force in Indian Country.

People, Land, Art, Culture, and Engagement (PLACE) report offers research and analysis from this community-based arts initiative of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. PLACE was designed to build a platform for civic engagement in the arts by supporting projects that re-imagine cultural place and practice through collaboration with organizations, artists and residents of the region.
Feminist Arts Advancing Social Change in Rural Kentucky is an essay by Judi Jennings and Savannah Barrett that describes a mapping project by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and Art of the Rural. 


Cultural Organizing as Critical Praxis: Tamejavi Builds Immigrant Voice, Belonging, and Power by Erica-Kohl Arenas, Myrna Martinez Nateras, and Johanna Taylor provides a description and analysis of Tamejavi festival and cultural organizing in California's Central Valley 


Robert Gard and his daughter Maryo Ewell have spanned the generations with their insights into the power and promise of rural arts. Read Ewell's "Effective Community Arts Development, 50 Years, 50 Tips" here and Gard's "The Arts in Smaller Communities (and their encouragement)" here. Also check out this list of Gard's books, videostapes, and pamphlets.

Arts & Democracy's Bridge Conversations, People Who Live and Work in Multiple Worlds book features several rural essays including:

Miz Culchure Lady was written for the Mississippi American Festival Project by its organizer, Nayo Watkins. The essay celebrates the women found in small towns and city neighborhoods who ensure that their cultures flourish.
The Community Arts Network archived website is filled with excellent resources, including several essays about cultural work in rural communities.
As always, we're proud to highlight the great work in this field to support and cross-pollinate an extraordinary network of artists, cultural workers, policymakers, educators, and activists. Please be in touch, and let us know what you think!
All our best,

Amalia, Caron, Kathie, Javiera, Michelle and Michelle
Arts & Democracy Project 
In This Newsletter
Organizations, Toolkits and Web Resources
Essays and Reports
Folklife Resources

click here


You can also listen to our cultural planning call:  
click here
podcast image




A guidebook by the American Folklife Center has detailed information on how to conduct field research and is useful for documenting folk groups in your community.  


A Report on Latino Culture and Traditional Artists in Tennessee by Dr. Norma Cant´┐Ż documents Latino culture in seven Tennessee cities, exploring both assets and needs. A follow-up documentary project, Latino Folk Arts and Traditions in East Tennessee, is based on research by Rafael Casco.




August 5-10 Alternate ROOTS is holding ROOTS Week, the annual gathering of artists for social change.
ROOTS Week is part meeting, part retreat and part performance festival in the beautiful mountains near Asheville, in Arden, NC. The gathering, created by artists, led by artists, for artists and cultural workers and their supporters includes performances, studios, workshops, and time for collective art-making and the sharing of best practices.  
Sept 3-5 join the National Rural Assembly,
Art-Forceand other rural practitioners and leaders across the Southeast, U.S. for "CROSS CURRENTS: Art + Agriculture Powering Rural Economies in Greensboro, NC. The event will be three days of dialogue, workshops, and exploration of how partnerships between the creative arts and agriculture are producing innovative strategies for economic development and well-being in rural communities. 
For more info email:
[email protected] or 

[email protected]  

Submit session proposals here by May 30. 


The Rural Arts and Culture Working Group of the National Rural Assembly has launched the Rural Arts Happy-Hour. This series of virtual conversations taking place through 2014 brings together rural artists, leaders, practitioners, funders, and other rural advocates, to talk about what's happening in the rural arts. Google Hangout is the platform for these conversations. Send an email to [email protected] to get added to the circle.


The Working Group also has conversations via Facebook.



Arts & Democracy builds the momentum of a cultural movement that draws on a rich history of arts activism, social justice organizing, and grassroots engagement. Arts & Democracy Project is a sponsored project of State Voices. Thank you to the Nathan Cummings Foundation for supporting our work.



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