University Economic Development Association


Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement – Indiana University Rural Arts Program

Award Category: Place
Project Site: Indiana University Rural Arts Program
Submitted By: Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement
Contact: Joe Carley, Director for Strategic Partnerships, 812.369.8687


Recent reports from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Governors Association have highlighted the potential for rural communities to establish a unique and compelling value proposition by embracing arts and culture initiatives. These documents include noteworthy findings such as the fact that “rural counties that are home to performing arts organizations experienced population growth three times higher than rural counties that lack performing arts institutions (NEA, 2017).” Despite persuasive evidence like this, and a growing number of examples of rural communities that are redefining their future by embracing the arts, there still exists a need to build a model for arts-based community and economic development that can be replicated nationally. The Center for Rural Engagement (CRE) at Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) is developing such a model in three rural Indiana communities, by co-creating a series of arts- and culture-building initiatives with steering committees of volunteers and community leaders in each town. By leveraging IU Bloomington’s celebrated programs in the arts and humanities, the CRE is creating vitality in the downtowns and schools of the rural communities that it serves, promoting community self-reflection and identity, creating authentic placemaking opportunities, and cultivating a new set of partners on campus who have infrequently participated in community development efforts in the past.