Developing and Revitalizing Rural Communities through Arts and Culture
IssueCulture in small and rural communities
The Creative City Network of Canada commissioned a series of reports on Developing and Revitalizing Rural Communities through Arts and Creativity. The summary overview of these reports sets the context: “As rural communities re-envision and reposition themselves, they are seeking to revitalize, diversity their economic base, enhance their quality of life, and reinvent themselves for new functions and roles.” Important challenges in rural communities include declining or aging populations, youth retention, as well as limited social and economic opportunities.
In this context, the report argues that “arts, culture and heritage are viewed not only as amenities to improve the quality of life, but as a foundation upon which the future of these rural/small communities rests. The arts and creative activities can profoundly affect the ability of a town not only to survive over time, but to thrive.” Rural festivals, events and facilities can help create and maintain rural identities, foster a collective sense of belonging, as well as enable community-building and community cohesion. However, the report also recognizes that “the extent of cultural/creative work occurring in rural communities tends to be undercounted, under-recognized, and often undervalued”.
The report notes that artists and other creative workers can be drawn to rural areas by the quality of life, an appealing landscape, lower rents, strong artistic concentrations, access to urban markets, opportunities for part-time employment, a local organizational catalyst, or the overall size of the community or region.
According to the report, critical ingredients in rural artistic vitality include:
· “An underlying appreciation and attitude of acceptance toward local culture, history, people and assets, and a community’s ‘sense of place’;
· A valuing of the arts in everyday life, and an inclusive encouragement of broad-based participation;
· Key leadership roles representing the broad community, and a community-based coalition willing to work towards a common goal;
· Social networks of key volunteers and arts supporters”; and
· Cultural infrastructure development.