Cynthia Spencer


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Storefront with art.

A vacant storefront in Scio, Oregon, is repurposed as a art exhibit by Adam and Roslyn Rothstein. Photo courtesy of artists

The Art in Rural Storefronts project transforms vacant storefronts, signs of economic failure, into celebrations of community through the arts. This placemaking project strengthens connections between people in rural towns and the place they live through engagement with art.

Vacant building.

The vacant storefront before repurposing. Photo courtesy of the Arts Center

The project received start-up support from the NEA in 2012 and 2013. In three years, five rural Oregon towns (with populations 400-9,000) have been served, thanks to additional support from the Oregon Arts Commission. The greatest impact from the Art in Rural Storefronts project is the sense of community pride and inclusion that towns experience while participating in an arts project.

Rural communities have little access to contemporary art, especially art designed for accessibility and availability free to the public. The Arts Center (Corvallis, Oregon) facilitates ongoing collaboration between local townspeople and artists through all phases of the project. Key project partners are the keepers of historical information and artifacts at the local museum, and disseminators of information at the community library and schools.

Artists who work outside traditional, commercial modes are served by providing exhibition space for them to experiment and grow. Artists are chosen by the people in each town, to create contemporary art installations based on concepts from local cultural or natural history and community input. Local residents and artists are served by facilitating a communication process for deeper engagement with art.

Former project partners have expressed great interest in the revitalization aspects of public art, and go from asking, “Why contemporary art in our town?” to “Why not more contemporary art?”