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Developing and Revitalizing Rural Communities through Arts and Culture

An International English-Language Literature Review and Inventory of Resources

February 13, 201013 February 2010

Culture in small and rural communities

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The literature review in the Creative City Network of Canada series of reports on Developing and Revitalizing Rural Communities through Arts and Creativity examines the nature of cultural activity in rural communities, the community context for arts development, the role of the arts in economic development, and governance strategies.

In rural communities, the arts encompass locally-generated activities and festivals as well as touring or “visiting” activities. Typically, volunteer involvement and community participation are important factors in local cultural capacity. The development of information and computer technologies, including broadband internet, are important in attracting creative workers, in marketing cultural activities, and in “internet-based creation and information sharing”.

In Canada, the cultural development of rural Aboriginal communities can be seen as a significant issue. The growth of cultural tourism initiatives and the movement towards “building community self-identity and strength through cultural pride and vibrancy” have led to an increasing focus on cultural development and an increasing need for cooperation and collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

The report provides a schema hypothesizing “what makes the arts thrive in (rural/small) towns”. Factors include community recognition of the value of the arts and heritage, individual champions, catalytic events, leadership organization, media coverage, regular arts activity, a “critical mass of artists”, funding, organizational support, and many more.

The literature review also outlines the variety of potential social, cultural, economic, health, psychological and interpersonal impacts of the arts. Whether via direct involvement in the arts, audience participation, or the presence of artists and arts organizations, the arts can help:

· Build interpersonal ties and promote volunteering;

· Reduce delinquency in high-risk youth;

· Relieve stress;

· Improve residents’ sense of belonging and attachment;

· Build community identity and pride;

· Build social networks;

· Increase tolerance of others;

· Foster “a creative milieu that spurs economic growth in creative industries”; and

· Increase the attractiveness of the area to tourists, businesses, new residents and investments.

Six categories of policy initiatives are outlined in the report:

· “Community buy-in and local ownership;

· Engaging youth;

· Developing leadership;

· Funding;

· Education and partnerships; and

· Implementation and further study”.

Profiles of some rural Canadian communities, as well as reports from Australia, the United States and Europe, also form part of the series.

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