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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Inspirations from the Forest

Rural Communities

Art is found in every community. Musicians, dancers, poets, quilters, painters, storytellers, woodcarvers, potters, basketmakers—all contribute to a sense of local identity. Artists may also help to strengthen and diversify the economies of rural communities.

That is why the National Endowment for the Arts and the Forest Service created the Arts and Rural Community Assistance Initiative. Between 1996 and 2004, the Initiative supported more than two hundred projects that demonstrated the value of the arts in rural community development, including

  • a workshop on kachinas and santos in Alamosa, Colorado, which brought people of many cultures together;
  • a play, Weed, dramatizing differing viewpoints on public land management;
  • a workshop on Native American dance prior to a powwow on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming;
  • an exhibition of photographs and text portraying the wild horse in Nevada and its relationship to the region's landscape, cultural experience, and history;
  • artist-in-residence programs, public art, downtown revitalization efforts, regional tourism programs, and other activities that not only attract visitors, but also link together rural communities through their shared cultural resources.

The arts not only enhance rural communities but also give voice to how rural Americans may experience and draw inspiration from the landscape.

The National Endowment for the Arts-Forest Service Arts and Rural Community Assistance Initiative provided the funding for this exhibition.

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Honest Horses, an exhibition of original hand-painted photographs and narratives about wild horses in the Great Basin, toured regionally and nationally thanks to the Arts and Rural Community Assistance Initiative. All the photographs, including The Phantom & The Broomtail (above) were taken by Paula Morin.