Monday, March 4, 2013

Three Years of Art of the Rural

Photograph from the Morgan Cowles Archive (selection); The Center for Land Use Interpretation

By Matthew Fluharty, AOTR Director

Earlier this winter we marked the three year birthday of Art of the Rural. As folks may have noticed, our regular online features have slowed considerably during this period. This is for good reason, though, as we are planning to launch -- in little over a month -- a newly redesigned site, as well as a host of new programs. In perhaps the best present for a website's third birthday, we're happy to report that this will likely be the final post in this domain name until we finally move to our permanent home at

These new developments are partially due to the natural expansion of the AOTR mission, but they are also in response to feedback and lessons learned in the early months of the Rural Arts and Culture Map project; while the Map will still be accessible on the right hand column on this site in the interim, the new AOTR site will exponentially increase our ability to highlight the powerful work and connections that are beginning to percolate in that space. In essence, we will be re-launching the Map as well on the new site. We are grateful to the continued guidance from our collaborators at Appalshop, Feral Arts, and the M12 art collective, and to the Rural Policy Action Partnership and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the opportunity to create this resource.

In addition to this, we are very excited to share some large-scale Map projects after the site's re-launch. Some of our partners include a major national music archive, a leading arts and administration university program, an influential fiction writing review, and an emerging consortium of arts and cultural leaders from the American West.

Through our conversations with these Map collaborators, we've come to an evolving ethic that will guide our work from Year Three forward: while all of us can utilize the internet, social media, and its digital applications to collapse the distance between artists, their communities, and broader audiences, we cannot congratulate ourselves if our efforts end there. What we've learned from our map work, and from the privilege of helping to convene the Rural Arts and Culture Working Group, is that we must also bridge the distance between all of these constituents. Thus, the internet (and the AOTR site, more specifically) cannot be the terminal point for these projects. We must keep making connections and creating the kinds of one-on-one conversations that ultimately expand perspectives. 

Art of the Rural possesses ambitious ideas on how we might begin to bridge this distance, and we hope to learn and collaborate with all of you as these plans are announced in the coming months. For three years, you have put your faith (and your a portion of your daily reading time) in our pages; your support has given us the imperative to think big about these projects.

Lastly, if you've hung on for this long in this prospective birthday letter, I'd like to share with you just one of the projects that gives us great hope for 2013: later this year, Art of the Rural will announce the creation of its recording and publishing imprint. Too many times over these three years we've come across texts, songs, and portfolios that deserve a wider audience, a new context, or a daring format to match its content. One way we can bridge distance is by working to steward this material into new rural, urban, and international hands. I am deeply excited about the potential projects that are on the table for the imprint, and I cannot wait to share more about this work

In closing, thank you again for the feedback, collaboration, and friendship you've shown everyone at Art of the Rural over the last three years. On behalf of our writers and partners, please accept our deepest thanks for your support.