Looking back to the Rural Arts & Culture Summit

The 2019 Rural Arts & Culture Summit was held in Grand Rapids, MN, October 3-5, 2019. With over 350 attendees coming together to share ideas and opportunities around rural-based creative and community practice, the conversations were critical, collaborative, and hopeful. After the passing of a year that has brought so many unexpected changes and challenges, we wanted to mark the anniversary by releasing the videos from each of the main plenary sessions, as an opportunity to tend those connections and tend the sparks from the gathering. We’re grateful to Itasca Community Television for their support in recording and editing these plenary sessions, and hope you take some time to refresh, connect, and get inspired.

Plenary One – Creative People Power in the Northwoods
The overall theme of the Rural Arts and Culture Summit was “Creative People Power,” inspired by Springboard for the Arts’ recently released report and framework for combining creativity-centered and people-centered development to build strong, healthy, and resilient communities. In this opening session, moderator Whitney Kimball Coe (Center for Rural Strategies) was joined by panelists Moira Villiard (American Community Indian Housing Organization), Delina White (Anishinaabe fashion designer and bead work artist), Annie Humphrey (Native American Music Awards 2018 Artist of the Year), Sonja Merrild (Grand Rapids Arts & Culture Commission/Blandin Foundation), and Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux (Mayor of Grand Marais) to learn about what creative people power looks like in the context of the Northwoods region in Minnesota which, like many rural regions across the country, is experiencing dramatic shifts in economic, social, cultural and environmental identity.

Plenary Two – Rural Prosperity through the Arts and Creative Sector
With an opening performance by DanceBARN Rural Collective, this panel featured a keynote from Pam Breaux (President and CEO for National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) on their research into and action guide for Rural Prosperity. Breux was then joined by panelists Susan DuPlessis (Community Arts Development Director for South Carolina Arts Commission), Em Johnson (Executive Director of Blue Sky Center), and Michele Anderson (Rural Program Director of Springboard for the Arts) for a lively conversation about place-based rural economic and community development work.

Plenary Three – New Voices/New Futures: Arts Based Rural Youth Development
From hip hop to community media, this closing plenary featured artists sharing about their approaches to rural youth development, what they’re hearing from young people about the future of rural places, and their hopes and fears for the next generation of rural youth. Speakers and performers included Nevada Littlewolf, Thomas X (Hip Hop Artist, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe), Jamie Horter (Artist and Rural Advocate), Shel Neymark (Artist, Embudo, New Mexico, and author of the Mural Map & Community History Toolkit), Erin Dorbin (Multimedia Historian, Houston County, Minnesota), and Joseph Claunch (Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, Zuni, New Mexico). Hear about the successes and challenges they’ve faced in their work with rural youth, as well as the opportunities and hopes for the future.

Cover photo of The Tiny School of Art & Design by artist Heidi Jeub, photo by Holly Diestler.