Friday, September 04, 2015

Initiative looks to use art to drive economic development in impoverished rural communities

A new initiative, Performing Our Future, is creating a model to show how art and culture can drive community and economic development in impoverished communities, states a joint press release from the governing organizations. Three communities will receive funding for two years to "demonstrate how artistic expression leads to community-wide empowerment and how the assets of local culture can develop economic sustainability."

Funding is from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, ArtPlace America and the National Endowment for the Arts, the release states. "A union of economists, artists and scholars is behind the initiative’s methodology: the rural arts and humanities institution Appalshop and its Roadside Theater; the economists and students at Lafayette College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project in Easton, Pa.; and the national consortium of 100 colleges advancing public scholarship, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. Key elements in the methodology include creating public performances based on local stories and mapping community assets to identify opportunities for value and wealth creation through market exchange."

"To enrich learning, ensure national impact and develop and disseminate findings, the three local projects will interface with each other and with the national research team of economists, artists, scholars and students," the release states. "The local college partners in each community will be drawn from Imagining America’s network of more than 100 higher education institutions elevating higher education’s public purposes."

"One of the project sites is Appalshop’s home of Letcher County, Kentucky, a county in the nation’s poorest and sickest congressional district, which has developed and enacted Performing Our Future’s methodology for two years," states the release. "Community residents are exploring new strategies for entrepreneurship to replace the decline of the coal mining industry" by translating "the region’s cultural assets into new and expanded businesses, leadership development programs and tourism." Appalshop earlier this year was one of 38 recipients of the 2015 National Grants Program.

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