Monday, October 1, 2012

Introducing The Rural Arts And Culture Map

By Matthew Fluharty and Rachel Rudi

Today we are excited to launch The Rural Arts and Culture Map.

As readers may be familiar, we shared news of the Map this summer as -- with all of your help -- the project won the crowd-source vote for a Rural Digital Advocacy Grant, an opportunity provided by the Rural Policy Action Partnership with funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. We are deeply grateful for your support.

Building A Map, Expressing A Movement

Your efforts on behalf of this project speaks to what excites us so much about The Rural Arts and Culture Map: it's a space for collaboration, conversation, a platform where individuals from across the country (and the world) can share their artistic and cultural life. Unlike many other digital mapping projects, there are no gatekeepers here. This Map is generously hosted by PlaceStories, a platform designed by Feral Arts; these artists are led by a mission to create a space for inclusive and boundary-crossing storytelling. Our mission, and its outreach and interdisciplinary collaboration, is further coordinated and advised by Appalshop and the M12 art collective.

This is the first digital map of such a scope and with such a vision of wide public participation. Together, we can break new ground. 

Together we can not only tell our stories, but witness how they connect across disciplines, cultures, and geographies. While artists have a particular (and in some cases, necessary) relationship with isolation, rural artists and communities are intimately connected with this condition. Rural America is often given a marginal place in many national conversations, and this sense of separation can often be compounded by the accumulation of mile markers that represent the gap in these perspectives.

The Rural Arts and Culture Map can bridge those distances and put folks in contact with each other. This Map is both a resource and a metaphor for what we believe is happening across the country -- a new rural arts movement.

How Can We Use PlaceStories?

As collaborators in this mission we have some help: PlaceStories is fun and easy to use. Folks can click on "The Rural Arts and Culture Map" in the embedded box at the top of the page, which will lead you to the project page, where you can click to "Join Us." All the various options for telling your story (video, audio, postcard, documents, etc) are very intuitive, though if you have any questions, the designers offer this page with more information. Folks can also direct questions to ruralartsmap@gmail. We're glad to help in any way we can.

Here's a few ideas on ways to begin contributing:

• We can create picture postcards of landscapes, local objects, and people that help define our experience of place and the arts. On the opposite side of these digital postcards we can provide explanation and links to other sites.

• We can share videos and Soundcloud audio pieces. Have some favorite YouTube and Vimeo clips? Heard a podcast, an interview, a radio piece, or a great new musician on Soundcloud? 

• We can create our own videos and our own audio stories using the Webcam feature.

• Want to share recipes, reflections, quotes, and writing without accompanying video or images? The Notebook storytelling feature is perfect.

• Have a document that adds information and perspective? We can upload pdfs as well to the Map.

All it takes to begin contributing is an account. As PlaceStories members for over a year, we can assure you that your Inbox will be safe from unwanted and unsolicted emails.

Our Weekly Feed posts will highlight contributions to the Map, with additional links and information.

Collaborating With Organizations and Communities:

We are committed to helping communities and organizations tell their story through individual PlaceStories projects within The Rural Arts and Culture Map. This platform offers a fantastic opportunity for organizations to share their work and reach new audiences, while also adding their perspective to the wider dialogue across disciplines and regions. To boot, your website can also present a gorgeous embedded widget (as can your readers) that helps to tell a new facet of your work, and engages your audience in an innovative way. Whether you are working in an established organization, or seeking to gather folks around a common point of interest, PlaceStories can serve as a catalyst.

Please email us at ruralartsmap@gmail; our Digital Contributor Rachel Beth Rudi can provide assistance in setting up a PlaceStories project within the Map community settings.

Stay Tuned, And Thanks Again:

We are excited to begin this project, and we are grateful for your support of the crowd-source campaign that led to this opportunity. Much more soon!