Academic journal article Rural Society

Arts-Based Community Development: Rural Remote Realities and Challenges

Academic journal article Rural Society

Arts-Based Community Development: Rural Remote Realities and Challenges

Article excerpt

Introduction

The rural/urban divide fissures ever more deeply as contemporary economic and technological pressures challenge communities, often to the very precipice of existence. Rural and remote communities are increasingly challenged to move from primary industries and manufacturing to knowledge-based services (Ryser & Halseth, 2010). Pressured to respond in new ways to the globalization of national economies and emergence of complex and competitive economic environments, they confront information and communication technologies transcending distance and place, requiring communities to embrace communities of interest rather than communities of place (Rideout & Reddick, 2005). In this rapidly changing context, rural and remote communities struggle to maintain identity, preserve historical, cultural and environmental distinctiveness, and achieve genuine economic competitiveness, existing in survival mode. Changes include economic and technological transformation, mounting ecological concerns and evolving social attitudes. Environmentally responsible citizens now question the farming and grazing practices of rural communities, raising issues about agricultural sustainability, land degradation and waterway destruction (Cocklin & Dibden, 2009). Furthermore, metamorphosing social mind-sets prompt closer scrutiny relationships between communities and indigenous peoples, poverty and inequity. Rising ecological and social awareness, and increasingly dominant urbanism, feeds perceptions of rural living's functional insularity, parochialism, circumscribed viewpoints and reluctance to change, accompanied by a fettering unwillingness to innovate. Extant abilities, attitudes, skills and resources in rural and remote communities remain key to socio-economic improvement and provide the platform for growth and community renewal. This article examines to what extent arts are integrated in community development programmes, their perceived importance and potential for community creativity and innovation.

Literature review and theory

Rural populations tend to have more children and fewer young adults than urban areas (Argent & Walmsley, 2008), lower education levels due to limited opportunities and restricted access to resources/higher education (Hossain, Burton, Lawrence, & Gorman, 2010) and lower household incomes than metropolitan areas (Athanasopoulos & Hahid, 2003). Geographic isolation and distance from services are compounded by ecological threats and economic downturns. Droughts, flooding, salinity and fire place significant financial stress on rural/remote communities and public infrastructure, service closures and restructuring of farming businesses have resulted in economic uncertainty and social insecurity (Anwar McHenry, 2011), contributing to population decline and rendering the maintenance of services and businesses difficult. The inevitable "cycle of decline" results in unemployment and out-migration, particularly among youth (Cavaye, 2001). Limited entertainment, employment and/or educational opportunities exacerbate trends while socio-economic difficulties erode a sense of community (Anwar McHenry, 2011).

Although areas affected by socio-economic decline are commonly inland agricultural and pastoral regions, mainly because farming and grazing are no longer sole pillars of rural economies, some have successfully accessed or grown natural amenities for tourism and recreation, cultural and historical heritage, or natural resources for farming, forestry and mining (Macadam, Drinan, Inall, & McKenzie, 2004). Diversification renders traditional economic development strategies less relevant and meets changing market conditions (Chaston, 2008; Haggblade, Hazell, & Reardon, 2010). Such communities engage in innovative marketing of natural amenities, cultural heritage and other income-generating strategies attracting people and jobs (Woodhouse, 2006), not only building natural resources, but also community capital such as historical heritage, cultural uniqueness, geographic distinctiveness and human talent (Daskon, 2010; MacDonald &Jolliffe, 2003) to enhance rural communities as places to live, retire and/or holiday (Lee, 2010). …

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