If I were in charge of giving out awards at the Midwest Rural Assembly, I’d give Becky McCray the “Best Tweet” award. While listening to Deb Marquart speak about the role of artists in communities, Becky tweeted:
“Grow more artists, not just corn and athletes. Artists are the ones who reimagine a place, help create the future. Deb Marquart #mra10“
And if I were able to give out a “Most Insightful” award, I’d give it to Deb Marquart. I’ve been thinking about the role of the arts as an economic development strategy lately, but Marquart tuned me onto another potential impact artists can make. We need artists to help us solve the significant problems facing rural communities.
Marquart described artists as problem solvers, with a gift for looking at the world differently than the rest of us. We need artists to bring those problem solving skills and perspective to the table as we deal with the economic and social challenges confronting our rural communities. It’s key to helping us reimagine our futures.
There was a lot of wisdom in Marquart’s words, so I attempted to recapture some of it in a short interview following her presentation. You can watch that video below.
I think Marquart is right in her assessment of artists, especially if it includes a wide definition of the term. Sadly, our communities don’t include artists enough in our community work. Even worse, we make little effort to cultivate their development in our schools and communities.
Later in the day, I participated in a discussion about the importance of teaching entrepreneurship to young people. It was at that moment that I began to think about potential connections between artists and entrepreneurs.
Similar to the way Marquart views artists, I’ve always looked at entrepreneurs as problem solvers; they see an economic problem and attempt to find a business solution. It’s got me thinking there’s a connection between teaching art and teaching entrepreneurship. Perhaps programs and classes that cultivate artists could help grow more entrepreneurs, and vice-versa.
Whether it’s artists, entrepreneurs, or someone else, we need to harness the energy and skills of people who bring a different perspective to the table and are good at overcoming obstacles. Our reimagined future depends on it.
Originally posted on the Reimagine Rural blog by Mike Knutson, August 20, 2010.