Springboard for the Arts: “Imagining the Future of Artists as Economic Developers”


From the Field: Conversations on the future by rural artists.

On November 13th Springboard for the Arts hosted “From the Field”, the first segment in a virtual interview series from rural artists and rural community engagers.  Guest speakers were Jack Forinash and Em Johnson from Blue Sky Center, the interview was hosted by Drew Digby. The topic was  “Imagining the Future of Artists as Economic Developers”.

Blue Sky Center is building models for resilient, thriving, and inclusive rural economies in the Cuyama Valley in the inland Central Coast of California. In this conversation hosted by Drew Digby from Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (Duluth, MN) in mid-November, learn from co-executive directors Em Johnson and Jack Forinash about how they are manifesting the future for artists as economic developers through the creation of earned-revenue ventures in the arenas of hospitality and less extractive rural food systems, while also using federal grants to enact creative community engagement. As artists themselves, Em and Jack – and their team of creative professionals – co-direct this rural community development organization in a way that defines artists as our rural environments’ best resource for creative economic development.

Before watching the video, you might want to dig into some supplementary reading that Jack and Em have recommended:

“Social Mobility in Rural America” – report from the National 4-H Council and the Bridgespan Group

“Cuyama Valley Community Action Plan” – this is a report created by Blue Sky Center, funded by “Culture and Creativity” grant from Enterprise Community Partners/HUD Section 4 federal funds

“Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio” – film on artists/architects as community members first

View the interview here

“Imagining the Future of Artists as Economic Developers” is now available to view here:


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