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Center for Rural Engagement’s emerging model for arts and cultural partnerships earns national award

For Immediate Release Oct 16, 2019
IU Symphonic Band members work with Southridge High School Band students
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Symphonic Band member Grace Adduci, center, works with a member of the Southridge High School Band in Huntingburg, Indiana, on Oct. 8, 2019.Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement received the Award of Excellence in the category of Place from the University Economic Development Association during its annual summit in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, this month. This is the first year IU Bloomington has won this award.

Recognized for outstanding work in quality-of-place initiatives, the Center for Rural Engagement is developing a model for arts-based community and economic development that pairs university resources with rural communities’ local assets to co-create arts- and culture-building initiatives. The center, the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council and community partners in Huntingburg, Nashville and Salem, Indiana, launched a pop-up cinema series, creative writing workshops and readings, theater performances and talk-backs, artists-in-residence visits, professional development for educators, and music masterclasses and performances in local schools and community venues.

“We are thankful for this recognition of the center’s emerging model for arts and cultural engagement, which generates community self-reflection and authentic creative placemaking,” said the center’s executive director, Kerry Thomson. “This acknowledges the hard work of our campus and community partners to build creative capacity in communities and establish a framework for robust arts and cultural engagement in rural communities across the nation.”

In addition to rural arts programming, IU is connecting the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Arts Administration Program with community committees to create strategic plans that expand local capacity and establish long-term plans for creative placemaking to increase artistic, educational and economic opportunities in rural communities.

“Our faculty and students have been mobilizing their creativity to have a direct and measurable impact on the quality of life in small towns throughout the region, and this work is now drawing the attention of city governments and business leaders,” said Ed Comentale, associate vice provost and director of the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council. “These quality-of-place initiatives affirm the public value and utility of the arts and humanities in new and exciting ways.”

The Awards of Excellence Program recognizes organizations that are transforming their campuses into engines of economic prosperity through leading-edge initiatives in one of six categories: Innovation, Talent, Place, Innovation and Talent, Talent and Place, and Place and Innovation. Leading initiatives from across North America competed in a six-month process for the awards, including application, peer review, live presentations and selection by attendees of the association’s Annual Summit category leaders.

About the Center for Rural Engagement

The IU Center for Rural Engagement improves the lives of Hoosiers through collaborative initiatives that discover and deploy scalable and flexible solutions to common challenges facing rural communities. Working in full-spectrum community innovation through research, community-engaged teaching and student service, the center builds vision, harnesses assets and cultivates sustainable leadership structures within the communities with which it engages to ensure long-term success.

About the University Economic Development Association

Established in 1976, the University Economic Development Association brings together public and private higher education, private sector, public agencies, and community economic development stakeholders in economic development. Members work to expand economic opportunity and prosperity in communities and regions by leveraging education and talent development, research and technology development, and community-building and place-making strategies. The association’s mission is to serve its members by advancing knowledge and practice in economic engagement by institutions of higher education.

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