RUPRI Convenes Artists and Researchers to Discuss Rural Arts & Cultural Wealth

March 2022

In a convening sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and USDA, RUPRI hosted Collaborations in Rural Arts & Cultural Wealth Practice & Scholarship, a two-day virtual gathering of rural artists, culture bearers, community thought leaders, and the research community. These leaders came together to engage in conversation about advancing our understanding of the impact of rural arts and culture on community development and quality of life, and innovation and entrepreneurship, through research partnerships. 

“These are two groups that don’t talk to each other enough, much less work together, but they are both critical to offering learning that improves the quality of life in rural communities and create opportunities for sustainable community development,” says John Davis, a RUPRI Fellow, and co-host of this event.  “I have worked with all these artists for a number of years and I know they are committed to their rural communities.  And they see the opportunity to spread their good work to other communities through collaborations with researchers.”

“Creating moments for conversation amongst groups of people who wouldn’t otherwise have opportunities to engage with each other is RUPRI’s bread and butter.  We see the value of arts and culture to rural community wealth, but we know that we don’t understand it well enough to tell that story to policymakers.  Providing experiences for rural researchers and rural artists to tell that story together is our long-term goal” says Jocelyn Richgels, RUPRI Director of National Policy Programs and event co-host.  “We thank the Kauffman Foundation and USDA for seeing the value of this work.”

Through these two days together, we learned that:

  • Arts & culture are alive and well in rural and were a source of strength for rural communities during COVID.
  • The environment and food play a role in rural unlike anything urban could experience.  The rural community garden and grocery store are anchor institutions in rural communities and when those are gone and the community has lost its gathering spot, a piece of rural culture dies.  And the environment provides the stage and supporting roles in rural festivities, but Mother Nature can sometimes take control of the show.  But the show must go on!
  • The lack of resources, community fatigue from being active artists and community culture bearers, and racial inequities all play their part in delaying community goals, but they have all been overcome.  We need to understand through collaborative participatory action research the magic sauce that has worked for some.