Experimental Contemporary Art Practice in Rural Place: A Sturdy of Rural Artist Residencies and Collectives
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A perceived dissociation exists between contemporary art and rural space, and there is little supportive framework for experimental work to be developed and sustained. Rural America faces challenges fueled by major transformations of recent decades. Experimental contemporary art and socially-based practices mobilize art for critical inquiry and innovative thinking around complex contemporary issues, while connecting artists, organizations, and communities in a rural context. Artist collectives and residencies are naturally suited to provide structure and support for creative collaboration and experimentation in an isolated environment. The purpose of this study is to better understand what characterizes the field of rural artist residencies and collectives across the United States, and how such organizations support experimental contemporary art practice in a rural context. More broadly, this research begins to investigate how experimental practice, social engagement and critical inquiry are situated within the field of rural arts and culture. An initial “field mapping” process generated an overview of rural U.S. artist residencies and collectives from which six case studies were selected for deeper analysis. Utilizing a triangulation of methods that include interviews, document and media analysis, the case studies offer illustrative examples of how such organizations support contemporary art and experimentation in a rural context through a social approach. This research builds on existing inquiries into contemporary art in the rural. It serves to advance the emerging genre and encourage others to explore relationships between experimental contemporary art and rural space, further diminishing boundaries between presumed “urban” and “rural” art concepts and conventional ways of engaging with contemporary art.