August 5, 2016
How SAAs Serve Rural Communities
Rural communities exist in all states, and state arts agencies (SAAs) serve these communities in a variety of ways. Increasing citizen access to the arts, SAA grants invest in public programming available to all. Small towns and rural areas receive more than $35 million through more than 5,100 grants each year. Twenty-five percent of SAA grants go to rural locales, which account for 15% of the U.S. population. These important investments help create a highly desirable quality of life, as well as draw tourists and residents to these communities.
Beyond grant making, SAAs deploy innovative strategies to expand the creative capacity within rural communities. Entrepreneurial training, creative place making and work-force development initiatives are only a sampling of the rural development strategies successfully advanced by SAAs. Through direct programming that is often enhanced by grant making, SAAs are engaging in ground-breaking and creative strategies to expand the benefits the arts bring.
I recently had the privilege of speaking to our nation’s state directors of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Like the USDA, the work of SAAs includes catalytic efforts to improve rural economies and quality of life. The reason for my visit with the USDA state directors was twofold: (1) to help them as a collective see the power of the arts as a rural development strategy, and (2) to encourage them to develop relationships with their respective SAA directors. Happily, some of them have already earned bragging rights in this arena and are presently in partnerships with NASAA members. I’m hopeful that those who aren’t are inspired to reach out to their SAA counterparts soon.
Current SAA practices in this field definitely impressed the group. Montana’s Artrepreneur Program (MAP), for example, is an art-centered business development program taught by working artists. It provides college level instruction and practical business tools. Artists improve their artwork, develop a solid understanding of their marketplace and create strategies to best sell their work. Five-year tallies show that MAP-certified artists increased their net sales by an average of 391%, with a 53% increase in out-of-state sales. One participant recently opened her own full-time studio/gallery. In 2015, her net sales totaled $116,000. Eighty percent represented sales of her own art, and 20% represented art sold on consignment. What a success!
Kentucky was in the news last week, as the Kentucky Arts Council secured a USDA grant to integrate arts products into farmers markets. The project will equip and train artists with the tools and knowledge required to successfully sell their work at farmers markets and potentially expand their sales outside the local community. SAAs in Kentucky and South Carolina now hold the distinction of being part of America’s only two rurally based Promise Zones. (See more about South Carolina’s program in this month’s State to State.) They’re partnering to share the thinking and learning happening in each state. As a result of their work, arts strategies will be incorporated within broader, holistic efforts to expand economic opportunities in distressed areas.
Creative economy strategies in rural development will be showcased during a briefing session at this year’s Assembly in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Programs from Montana and Kentucky will be presented alongside an artist-driven initiative from Colorado. If this is of particular interest to you, check out the agenda and Rural Economies and the Arts on Thursday, September 15. This and all learning sessions are designed to equip you with skills and insights to strengthen your work at home. I hope to see you in Grand Rapids.
Beyond the Assembly, NASAA is beginning some new research in the field of arts and rural development. We’ll keep you posted as it moves forward.
In this Issue
State to State
- Vermont: Vermonter Poll
- Wyoming: Art in Unlikely Places
- South Carolina: The Art of Community: Rural S.C.
More Notes from NASAA
From the CEO
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