MORRIS, MN — What role can the arts play in community and economic development?
This was the big question posed to attendees at the 2015 Rural Arts and Culture Summit held at the University of Minnesota, Morris this week. During the conference, attendees were encouraged to look at the connections between art, economic development and challenging current narratives about rural America.
This year’s biennial conference brought more than 360 people from 17 different states to Morris, representing three important groups — artists, arts organizations and leaders in community and economic development.
A consistent theme throughout the Summit was the importance of challenging the narratives about rural America as in decline.
Kelly Asche, program coordinator with the Center for Small Towns, shared some of the center’s most recent research looking at migration patterns across the state.
Asche showed that most counties in the state — rural and urban — show an out-migration of young people. The only counties that show growth are those that are home to a four-year university.
Instead, rural counties show growth for people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, who report that a slower pace of life, smaller school sizes and affordable housing are appealing features of rural communities.
“Our arts organizations, our arts advocates and our arts practitioners play an important role in people recruitment and retention because these are reasons driving people to our areas,” Asche said. “Quality of life has continued to be the trump card.”