Rural Areas Embrace the Arts for Economic Development

A burgeoning revitalization model uses the arts as an opportunity to bring in outside money while hiring local.

2 minute read

September 12, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By Elana Eden


Small Town Art

huffstutterrobertl / Flickr

In the search for new models to drive rural economic development, Minnesota nonprofit Springboard for the Arts is seeding creative economies in small cities. It's a model that the organization hopes to take national with a workbook currently in development, Star Tribune reports.

Based in St. Paul, Springboard uses federal grant money to promote the arts and train local artists. Star Tribune covers the organization's outpost in Fergus Falls, a city of 13,400 reeling from the closure of the state's largest mental hospital, a major local employer and resource. Now, the facility's former campus has become an arts hub with galleries, youth classes, and creative development programs. "Newly renovated apartments" also host 20-30 artists-in-residence a year.

Even when the arts don't directly create jobs, the organization argues, they contribute to quality of life and attract new residents to fill jobs—including young people who had previously moved away to larger cities.

2017 report shows that Fergus Falls has an outsized arts scene. While the city's population ranked 13th among participating Minnesota cities, the size of its arts economy ranked ninth — ahead of St. Louis Park, Northfield and Red Wing, according to a statewide report from the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. That report, which counted spending by arts organizations and audiences, tallied the economic impact of Fergus Falls’ arts scene at $2.96 million, with state and local money contributing $271,000 toward that total.

Sunday, September 3, 2017 in Star Tribune

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