Last week, the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange program was featured in The Daily Yonder, a multi-media source of news, commentary, research, and features published by the Center for Rural…
The Next Generation Regional Network in Kentucky supports the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange; above: Alex Udis, a square dance caller and community organizer from Louisville, joins Kim Owsley, a…
The Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Co-Op is a market and community center located in the Missouri Ozarks in the town of Alton, pop. 879. OCFPAC, which…
Winona, MN – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu has announced 64 awards totaling $4.3 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town program. Art of the Rural, in collaboration with The Rural Policy Research Institute, University of Iowa, is one of the recommended organizations for an award of $50,000 to continue the work of its Next Generation rural creative placemaking initiative. The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. The NEA received 240 applications for Our Town this year and will make awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.
“For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Projects such as Next Generation help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”
In collaboration with a host of local and national partners who have contributed insights to this initiative’s Theory of Change, Next Generation engages artists, organizations, and communities across the public and private sector to advance collaboration, share innovative strategies and research, and elevate emerging leaders in the rural creative placemaking field.
“We appreciate NEA’s continuing support of this initiative, premised upon our belief that rural arts and culture remain underappreciated as a foundational wealth in rural America, deserving of far greater public and philanthropic sector investment,” said Chuck Fluharty, RUPRI President and CEO. “These partnerships, and the Next Generation leadership they support, are a place-based movement to enhance both that awareness and that commitment.”
Next Generation links three activities: Regional Networks that spark exchange, collaboration, and dissemination of best practices; a Digital Learning Commons that shares this knowledge and contributes further perspectives from across the rural arts and culture field; and a Next Generation Conference that will merge the activities of the Networks and Commons, combine digital and face-to-face exchange, and expand the rural placemaking network.
“The Endowment’s support has been crucial in our efforts to facilitate a collaborative, open space for folks from across sectors, disciplines, and geographies,” said Matthew Fluharty, Executive Director of Art of the Rural. “We are grateful to work with these various communities to build deeper systems of learning and exchange.”
For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.
To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAOurTown16.
Donald Culross Peattie was the pre-eminent Naturalist of his day. After leaving University of Chicago and French Poetry for Harvard and Botany, he worked for the Department of Agriculture and produced several works of mostly scientific value—his A Natural History of North American Trees is indispensable, authoritative and exhaustive. Later, he married the novelist Louise Redfield, and turned to nature writing as a career, for which he is most remembered. Through the 30’s and 40’s he published a dozen or so books directed to the general reader which were, owing to his popularity, distributed through many book clubs; he also wrote for Reader’s Digestand produced columns for the Washington Post and Chicago Daily News.
The book to emerge from from these Northern Illinois fields was An Almanac for Moderns (1935) a breathtaking combination of naturalism and poetry, with a philosophical and observant eye that prefigures many of the agrarian writings that, a few decades later, would take a stand and argue for the validity and the necessity of rural culture. Remarkably, this book is currently out of print. (But can be found cheaply here.)
Here’s Robert Finch describing the Almanac in The Norton Book of Nature Writing:
The “moderns” that Donald Culross Peattie wrote for in his An Almanac for Moderns were a skeptical generation. They were the descendents of Darwin and Freud and the inheritors of World War I, who had seen “the trees blasted by the great guns and the birds feeding on men’s eyes.” … His deliberate choice of the archaic literary form of a daily almanac contrasted the stable natural order of the ancient philosophers and naturalists with the modern existential view of nature as soulless and purposeless. Its short 365 chapters not only pose many of the philosophical questions that have preoccupied contemporary nature writers, but also contain an informal survey of natural science and evocative observations of seasonal life.
In a technological and social moment when the “archaic literary form of a daily almanac” doesn’t really seem that archaic, we’re hoping to use this site (updated almost every day) to celebrate the work of Donald Culross Peattie–and to hopefully start a word-of-mouth campaign to give this author the new edition he richly deserves.
[Editor’s Note: A new edition of Almanac for Moderns was published by Trinity University Press in 2013.]
[We are pleased to share that the American Bottom project has recently received a Divided City grant from the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture, Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This generous grant will provide for an exhibition in the American Bottom in the fall of 2015 and for continued engagement and publications — along with a full interactive website on the American Bottom, which will launch in April of 2016.
We are also grateful to curator Nancy Zastudil and Bill Gilbert of the University of New Mexico Art and Ecology program for supporting an exhibition of photographs from the American Bottom Archive at the Central Features gallery.]
Art of the Rural recently launched Middle Landscape, a series of projects that combine releases of artistic and cultural material with digital work and on-the-ground action to facilitate a collaborative space that creates relationships between ideas, individuals, and communities. Today we are excited to share the American Bottom Project, one that will evolve over the course of many years and will connect across multiple fields and conversations.
Few regions in the United States exhibit a social and spatial fragmentation as extreme as that of the vast flood plains of the East St Louis region. As a coherent geographic interval stretching from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers down to the confluence with the Kaskaskia River, this flood plain–known to geographers and anthropologists as The American Bottom–is site to the social and spatial aspirations of pre-contact Native Americans, 19th century industrial expansion, 20th century infrastructural consolidation, and 21st century ecological precocity. Yet this is a region defined less by its inherent ecological and geographical continuities and more by the industrial patterns that have effectively fractured this region into closed communities of extraction, production, and displacement.
The American Bottom is a landscape of interruptions and strange adjacencies – but also a living landscape, where sites of the familiar and the extraordinary continue to shape the social and spatial processes of the present. This project — a collaboration facilitated by Middle Landscape and The Institute of Marking and Measuring, with The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Preservation Research Office, and the Husbandmen design group — seeks to tell a political, spatial, social, and ecological history of The American Bottom by focusing on the cultural landscapes of this region.
One only needs to a run a finger down the length of the Mississippi to begin to uncover the complexity and variousness of this story. Alton was a flashpoint in the abolitionist movement (when the eastern banks of the river meant the difference between freedom and enslavement), the site of the final Lincoln-Douglas debate, and also the birthplace of both Miles Davis and James Earl Ray. A long red line on the ConAgra grain silos mark the height of the 1993 flood that submerged blocks of the city.
Moving south, we find the highest cluster of industrial suburbs in the country: a few include Wood River (built by Standard Oil), Alorton (formerly named Alcoa), Granite City (US Steel), and Sauget (formerly named Monsanto). While these company towns occur in great number, this region also features a number of municipalities that were dis-incorporated and subsequently razed when industrial owners withdrew. This appears most forcefully in National City, the former home of the National Stockyards; at its peak, this was the site of the largest hog processing facility in the world. All that remains now of National City is the National Stockyards Building and an abandoned playground (another spatial theme across the bottomlands).
These social and economic legacies converge in East St. Louis, perhaps the most misunderstood area in the midwest. Much of the political and economic challenges to the growth of East St. Louis are decades old, historically embodied in the most violent labor- and race-related riot of the twentieth century, in 1917, when white mobs infiltrated the city and murdered hundreds of its African American citizens. While the structural causes of the issues facing East St. Louis often go unexamined in the region, the city holds a rich cultural heritage stretching from the emergence of ragtime and jazz, through to modern architecture and innovative community projects sparking new forms of engagement.
As our finger might progress south, we find a transition from rural to urban already underscored by the rural diaspora who populated, and built, the industries and municipalities of places like East St. Louis. These connections stretch across cultures, geographies, and centuries. For instance, our finger might trace a line from Brooklyn, the first African American incorporated town in the U.S., to the Cahokia Mounds, once a city of 40,000 residents and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We might trace a line from the labyrinthine man-made cave system of the Rock City Business Complex (housing both the National Records and Archives Administration and, in the deeper cold storage facilities, the hops for Anheuser-Busch) to Valmeyer, a farming town submerged by the 1993 floods and subsequently rebuilt atop its neighboring bluffs.
Though these points of connection and divergence can be overwhelming, we find that a whole history of America can be told here—through the beliefs, hopes, aspirations, and failures of five centuries of civilizations. With the American Bottom project we will focus on the specificity of place and storytelling to access the what is at stake on a conceptual, historical, and local level.
Over the first twelve months of this project, we will reach out to new partners and audiences and deepen our engagement with the region, its people, and this cultural landscape. This autumn, in collaboration with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, we will create a project within their Land Use Database. Through this period we will welcome individuals and groups from the St. Louis area and beyond for guided tours and fieldwork excursions.
In concert with these collaborations, the project’s focus will turn to the production of publications, recordings, maps, and additional events to further connect disciplines, cultures, and forms of community practice. Along the way, we will regularly share online images from the American Bottom Archive alongside pertinent news, readings, and links from this river landscape.