Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Art of the Rural expands website, seeks to build the field of rural arts

Matthew Fluharty, founder of Art of the Rural, a collaborative organization seeking to build the field of rural arts, is expanding the blog into a full website, the Daily Yonder reports. "There was a need for a kind of site that could share a range of media and integrate all those forms seamlessly," Fluharty says. The new site is not only well-organized and aesthetically pleasing but also simple enough to load quickly in rural places where internet speed might be a concern.

Matthew Fluharty (left) of Art of the Rural spoke with North Dakota State art
professor Michael Strang at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit this summer.
The original blog idea was born in 2008 through Fluharty's reflection upon his grandmother's life after her passing. The Art of the Rural's mission is "to help build the field of the rural arts, tell its stories and contribute to the emerging arts and culture movement across rural America," Fluharty says. He has learned that when it comes to blogging, process is as important as product.

Fluharty sees several themes emerging in rural America. "There's a real ethic of resourcefulness and improvisation," especially since the Great Recession. He also recognizes the growth of digital media to help celebrate place and tell stories about dispossession, extraction and inequity. "Put simply: rural culture has never been more accessible to the national consciousness than it is right now. It's an exciting cultural moment," Fluharty says. He is also pleased to see the increased engagement between rural culture and universities and is excited about the increasing multidisciplinary nature of this conversation. "This collaboration across disciplines is essential to the field of rural arts and culture but is equally vital to how, on the ground, we come together to articulate a shared future."

As a poet and an essayist, Fluharty values cultural work. "Arts and culture give us the metaphors and the imperative to communicate the value of our place," he says. Art can also help advance issues such as the expansion of broadband in rural areas. Although those in rural areas understand why these concerns are important, people in suburban and urban areas may not.

The new site for the Art of the Rural will feature some new digital tools, especially the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture, which involves a program designed to build community by allowing people to add videos, postcards, photos, PDF images, audio and more. "We now can present a digital space where folks can peruse books, watch video, learn about cultural events, discover new artists and find out more about what's happening across the country—and, importantly, suggest items for us to include in these individual features. This is our ultimate goal: to collaborate with folks from across the country and to learn from them," Fluharty says. (Read more)

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