An Arts and Nature Approach to Rural Development

Start by not taking arts-based enterprises or lush natural surroundings for granted

How have some rural regions managed to leverage the arts, culture, and nature for both tourist attraction and sustained economic development?

In this working paper produced for The Monieson Centre, Betsy Donald and Heather Hall of Queen’s Department of Geography say that a desirable arts‐based and natural setting is not enough. Success comes to those rural regions that have actually made an explicit investment in their physical arts‐based infrastructure and natural surroundings, whether by preserving and protecting natural beauty or restoring it. The examples in this paper also highlight the importance of a shared vision realized by risk‐takers and civic entrepreneurs in these communities.

The researchers argue that arts organizations and artists are not simply a frill consumed by the local market, but that the presence of artists and arts‐related organizations add an “artistic dividend” to a community that otherwise would not exist. Furthermore, artists — especially in rural areas — are deeply inspired and connected to the natural landscapes and have much in common with businesses that draw on the land for their livelihood, such as artisanal craft makers, food producers, ecotourist operators, and other tourist and retail businesses. Protected natural landscapes add a “nature dividend” to a community that otherwise would not exist. 

The researchers use the Frontenac Arch Biosphere in southeastern Ontario as a case study of a rural region that, despite its natural and cultural assets, has not yet capitalized on its potential to become a well-known “artful place” in Canada.

Smith School of Business
Goodes Hall, Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 3N6

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