Can arts drive rural economic development? This is a question that I continue to ask myself as I expand Developing the Creative Economy (DCE) that will be presented next in Greenville, IL on February 2, 2017. As some of you are aware, the DCE program is based in part on the work done between 2010 and 2014 with creative entrepreneurs in Rockford, Illinois, a metropolitan statistical area of 350,000 located in Northern Illinois. There is no doubt that developing a creative culture in Rockford along with the opening of the Rockford City Market has had a positive impact on the economic revitalization of the downtown area, as well as, a substantial decline in the downtown's crime rate; however, can the same creative development plan work in rural areas?
According to Chris Beck and Tracy Taft it can "with committed open-minded leaders who embrace collaboration with new people, fresh ideas, and broad-based community input – not to mention who have a lot of patience…"
In their article they offer several suggestions for "rural" creative placemaking projects including: artist housing; artist residencies; pop-up businesses (also see BEC blog post - How Pop-Up Shops Assisted a Distressed Downtown, April 19, 2016); creative workforce development; quality lodging; performance & festivals; famous local people or movements; and connect local food to local art.
To find out more about how your community can benefit from creative placemaking projects go to Can Arts Drive Rural Economic Development? located on pages 61-73 in the National Endowment of the Arts' book How to Do Creative Placemaking. Find it in PDF form at: https://www.arts.gov/publications/how-do-creative-placemaking
Chris Beck was a senior projects advisor for USDA Rural Development through spring 2016 and Tracy Taft is executive advisor and previous executive director of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance.