Thursday, October 20, 2016

Arts events and entertainment venues are helping revitalize some struggling rural towns

The Red Ants Pants Music Festival in Sulphur Springs,
Mont., has helped the local economy (Tony Demin photo)
Some small towns are revitalizing their economies by creating homespun arts and entertainment venues, Teresa Wiltz reports for Stateline. "Community leaders say the arts can foster community pride and create jobs, even on a modest scale," she writes. "To be successful, they say, a rural community must figure out what makes it unique and capitalize on that."

While individual figures are hard to come by, arts and cultural production in the U.S. in 2013 contributed $704 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 4.7 million jobs, Wiltz writes. Rural towns across the nation have cashed in on local arts and entertainment. For example, Sulphur Springs, Mont., a once-thriving logging town of 939 that fell on hard times, is now flourishing through the arts, including an annual music festival that brings the town thousands of visitors and much-needed revenue.

One way towns can promote arts and entertainment is through a National Endowment for the Arts grant that gives $125,000 "in seed money to fund a 'Next Generation' initiative to help build arts hubs in rural America," Wiltz writes. "The idea is to connect artists, arts groups, civic leaders and philanthropists and encourage them to create sustainable cultural scenes in rural communities to help spur economic development and entice new, young residents. Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota participated this year. Other states seek to join next year."

Charles Fluharty, president and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute, a public policy institute located at the University of Iowa, told Wiltz, “You need arts in rural America so that the next generation wants to come there and live. If you do not build vibrant, inclusive, diverse places for young people, they’re not going to raise their families there. They’re simply not. And those communities will wither away." (Read more)

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