Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America

Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America, engages artists, organizations and communities across public and private sectors to advance collaboration, innovative strategies, and “Next Generation” leadership in rural creative placemaking. Through the expertise and networks of the Rural Policy Research Institute and Art of the Rural and the program’s regional and national partners, Next Generation operates through three interlinked activities: Regional Networks; a Digital Learning Commons; and a Next Generation Conference.

Regional Networks

Next Generation Regional Networks are designed to spark exchange, collaboration, and public policy interests. Participants in these networks will include anchoring arts and culture organizations, state arts and humanities councils, universities, regional and state governments, communities and the private sector. Next Generation will also meaningfully engage with federal and state partners, philanthropy, and agencies and organizations not traditionally aligned in this work. Through these diverse networks, Next Generation will facilitate the deepening of relationships to acknowledge shared interests across generational, sector, and urban and rural communities and enhance common mission collaboration across Regional Networks.

Next Generation’s initial regional networks will be formed in Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota. Each of these regions possess significant momentum in development of arts and culture networks, and also offer unique labs for comparative assessment and the sharing of best practices across space.

In Iowa, the work of social entrepreneurs, universities and public agencies, and urban arts exemplars set the stage for meaningful strategic planning with communities, artists, academics, farmers, and entrepreneurs towards revitalization, wealth creation and community health across rural and urban Iowa. In Kentucky, Next Generation collaborates with Appalshop and a cohort of artists, organizers, farmers, and business owners to expand the work of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, which assembles rural and urban next generation leaders to actualize new models of community-driven development across Kentucky. In Minnesota, Next Generation will amplify cross-sector involvement in the Rural Arts and Culture Summit and intensify collaboration with Springboard for the Arts alongside an evolving rural and urban network for this work.

We believe that though cultural context varies in each region, commonalities and deep pools of knowledge can serve to advance this work. To sharpen this exchange, add new perspectives, and promote knowledge-building across regions, Regional Networks will engage in Residency Learning Exchanges. In these exchanges, rural leaders will engage with exemplary rural program models and the seasoned arts, economic, and community development practitioners of other Regional Networks. These exchanges will sharpen Regional Networks, amplify the diversity of the national conversation, and build a solid set of relationships ahead of the National Conference.

National Conference

The Next Generation conference is designed to unite and catalyze the field, enhance the commitment of a diverse stakeholder community, and build policy presence for deeper consideration of rural creative placemaking. The ‘elevating “next generation” strategies and communities across rural America’ theme of this initiative will guide these proceedings.
The Next Generation Conference will transpire as Regional Networks have created initial case studies, and Network representatives will share lessons learned through breakout sessions with in-depth presentations and reflections from Residency Learning Exchanges.

Keynote addresses and plenary sessions will highlight the changing face of rural America and the work of the next generation of rural leaders of color, connect lessons across geographies, and present a sustained argument for the centrality of rural creative placemaking – as a field, and as a strategy for development and community sustainability. 

Knowledge Building and Learning Commons

To assert the essential role of arts and cultural organizations in economic and community development, the metrics built by Next Generation will inform and validate program and policy exemplars as an essential component of knowledge building in this field. Representing the experiences of the Regional Networks and National Advisors, Next Generation’s research agenda will produce Regional Network case studies, short-form videos and podcasts, a detailed project report, a Next Generation Conference, and a “Creative Placemaking in Rural America” publication. These resources will be developed throughout the project timeline and will be accessible on the digital Learning Commons.

The Next Generation digital Learning Commons will offer an accessible and inclusive platform for features, commentary, and best practices from across the rural arts and culture field. The Learning Commons will address two of the major challenges facing rural practitioners – geographic distance, access to information and networks – and establish a digital intermediary through which deeper collaboration can develop within and beyond Next Generation activities. The Learning Commons will be developed by Arts and Ideas founder Patrick Phillips whose socially conscious web platform designs combine social giving, civic engagement, and dynamic, concise storytelling into a single platform.