Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Can the arts help save rural America from the recession?

"Far from major population centers or cutting-edge cultural trends, galleries, museums and craft breweries have collectively brought life — and cash — back to rural communities devastated in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession and by longer-term decline," Stephen Starr writes for Ozy. "Now, these communities are counting on art to keep their economies going amid the crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic."

The arts can help improve the local economy, according to a 2019 National Governors Association study. About half of rural counties have seen population declines since 2000, but experts are predicting that more people will move from cities to smaller towns because of the increasing cost of living in urban areas and the possibility of working from home. Active arts and culture scenes could help attract former city dwellers, Starr reports.

Many rural arts programs have received pandemic funds. The National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency, "has announced $75 million in relief funds to arts organizations. State governments, commissions and universities are also pumping millions of dollars into small-scale rural arts ventures," Starr reports. "Such initiatives are paying dividends. In 2015, arts and cultural initiatives contributed $67.5 billion to states where at least 30 percent of the population live in rural areas. According to the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey, residents in rural counties that are home to performing arts organizations earn up to $6,000 more than people who live in rural counties without such platforms."

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