The Year of the Rural Arts In Review

  • * 12 feature articles supporting some of the 140 events mapped for the Year of the Rural Arts Calendar of Events *
  • * 25 Community Events in 15 states *
  • * 5 Year of the Rural Arts Residencies around the nation *
  • 29 states impacted through advisors, features, and programs

The Year on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture

     7 new projects/ 3 internships            

The Year on the Art of the Rural Blog

     36 feature articles/ 8 contributing writers

Year of the Rural Arts Programs

Art of the Rural Residencies: Our residencies across the country aim to build collaborative relationships with organizations and the communities that sustain them. During these residencies we immerse ourselves in the work of our partner organizationsto get a sense of the context unique to their part of the world. We enter these collaborations ready to listen, to foster reciprocal exchange and mutuality, but also ready to talk with middle school students at a barbecue, help a rancher fix an irrigation pump, or join a few dozen new friends in dancing all night to soul music. We take great joy from learning about the larger patchwork of a community. We completed 5 residencies in 2014.


The Kentucky Rural Urban Exchange assembled next generation leaders from Eastern Kentucky and Louisville to activate new models of community-driven development, and initiated a dozen cross-sector projects across arts and culture, agriculture and food systems, and small business. As we expand to all five regions of Kentucky, these pairings will grow into discipline-specific working groups to build a constellation of local & regional networks across Kentucky, integrating key sectors in strategies that address our shared social and economic future, while also building state level partnerships to support this work in perpetuity.


Middle Landscape projects

These long-term collaborations with a range of partners and communities co-create recordings, publications, and multimedia storytelling. These projects combine releases of cultural material with digital work and on-the-ground action to facilitate a collaborative space that creates relationships between ideas, individuals, and communities — and illuminates the interconnectedness of rural and urban places and their diverse cultural contexts:

The American Bottom Project seeks to tell a political, spatial, social, and ecological history of the flood plain region across the river from St. Louis. This long-term project seeks to establish new connections between artists, communities, organizations and their shared cultural landscape. Partners include the Institute of Marking and Measuring, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Preservation Research Office, and Husbandmen design group. This project recently received a Divided City grant from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

American Bottom

The Mary Celestia Parler Project works to share the recordings, writings, and research of this groundbreaking folklorist by creating opportunities for multidisciplinary engagement, expanding public awareness of her contributions to Arkansas and the Ozark region, and facilitating connections between her archival work and the contemporary cultural life of the communities with which she worked. This project was launched at the Fayetteville Roots Festival, and includes collaboration with the Festival, The Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies, and the University of Arkansas Special Collections.


T       THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS 2014 was a program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and humanities contribute to American life. This inaugural effort connected citizens, artists, scholars, designers, and entrepreneurs and meet with audiences on the grounds of universities, museums and galleries, cultural organizations, and across rural and urban communities.

Coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation, the inaugural Year was a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014.

As a foundation for future work, we were motivated by two goals:

  • Build an inclusive and engaged rural arts and culture network During the Year of the Rural Arts 2014, we sought to expand participation in the national rural arts conversation by identifying rural arts and culture stakeholders and documenting their presence on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture digital project. Together, with this online resource as a road map, we built regional face-to-face relationships that contributed resources and support to our local places and also help establish a vibrant national network.
  • Expand artistic, cultural, and historical understanding We have yet to encounter a connective vision of American rural experience. The inaugural Year began the work of presenting these narratives and critical perspectives through partnerships with universities, academic and cultural organizations, and communities across rural and urban America.

Year of the Rural Arts Featured Events

Charro Days Fiesta in Brownsville, Texas

The Year of the Rural Arts NATIONAL CALENDAR OF EVENTS was created in collaboration with pre-existing activities across the landscape of the American rural arts field, and visualized as a project within the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture. While the calendar provides a comprehensive listing of 130 major rural arts events across the nation, thirteen of these events were selected as featured Year of the Rural Arts events. These features were showcased both this Year of the Rural Arts page and on the Art of the Rural blog and social media platforms.

  1. National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Elko, NV
  2. Charro Days Fiesta, Brownsville, TX
  3. Tri-National Sonoran Desert Symposium, Ajo, AZ
  4. Artfields: Southern Artfest Competition and Celebration, Lake City, SC
  5. ArtSpring High Mountain Arts Festival, Tucker County, WV
  6. Seedtime on the Cumberland, Whitesburg, KY
  7. Summer Spectacle, Ashfield, MA
  8. Angola Prison Rodeo, Angola, LA
  9. Red Ants Pants Music Festival, White Sulphur Springs, MT
  10. Otha Turner Memorial Picnic & Goat Roast, Senatobia (Gravel Springs), MS
  11. National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough, TN
  12. Reedsburg Fermentation Festival, Reedsburg, WI
  13. Le Feu et L’Eau Rural Arts Celebration, Arnadville, LA

art rodeo 6

Angola Prison Rodeo, Angola, Louisianna

The View From January 1, 2015 

  • Together, we have developed a network of previously unconnected local, regional, and national stakeholders while also providing an opportunity for an expanding culture of learning and collaboration.
  • Together, we have created a model of collaboration between universities, organizations, and individuals that can be clarified and expanded in future years.
  • These partnerships have led to publications, consortia, and organized efforts to expand the cultural and critical conversation.

Our Founding PARTNERS

We are grateful for the perspectives of our Founding Partners who helped to conceptualize and idea-test the 2014 Year of the Rural Arts: Appalshop, The Association for Cultural Equity, The Center for Rural Strategies, Double Edge Theatre, Feral Arts, Imagining America, M12 art collective, Roadside Theater, Rural Policy Research Institute, Springboard for the Arts, and The Wormfarm Institute. With deep thanks, we recognize support provided by the Center for Rural Strategies and Springboard for the Arts that allowed for the design and implementation of the Year of the Rural Arts 2014.

How To Support This Work

The Year of the Rural Arts is guided by a passion for the people and culture of rural America. Donations to this effort will allow us to expand the ways in which we share this range of work with a national audience.

To Learn More

Please contact or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

We invite folks to use the Year of the Rural Arts hashtag #ruralarts to share social media posts on rural culture in 2014 and beyond.

YEAR stamp