An artist performs at the Oasis Cabin Resort in Maupin, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of the Oasis Cabin Resort)

When the owners of Oasis Cabin Resort in rural Maupin, Oregon – population around 450 – opened up, they were set on creating an inviting environment for artists in addition to space for visiting guests. 

Owners Michelle Taylor and Andy McFarlane offer artists cost-free lodging and a space to retreat, focus, observe and practice. In exchange, the resort asks that participants contribute a piece from their time to their permanent collection.

“We really launched it this year, with many applicants applying,” Taylor said in an interview with The Daily Yonder. “The first thing that came to mind: just the look of delight on some of our neighbors’ faces – like some of the City Hall folks we were up to having a chat with, and I just remember introducing some of our artists and talking about that, and everybody just getting so excited.”

Across the country, hotels, resorts, and even National Parks, are offering residencies for artists to help draw in inspiration. Along the way, these rural communities are feeling the effects – both culturally and economically – of new life coming into the community and energizing and offering a new perspective from people who may not otherwise have had the chance to meet locals. 

Call it rural arts tourism, and it’s catching on across the country. 

McFarlane said there is optimism in the air in their small community because they are connecting people who might not otherwise meet. 

“You have a very small rural town hovering around 450 people,” McFarlane said. “And you have folks coming in in droves from places like Portland and Tacoma, and places, far and wide, to see artists and be a part of something.”

He added that everyone who comes through the community patronizes the local establishments, like the restaurants and bars and other places. Plus, there is lodging tax, which helps the community. 

Meanwhile, Artists-in-Residence are available at National Parks across the U.S., from Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska or Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa. Depending on the location, residencies are open to writers, photographers, composers and other arts-based workers. 

In Colorado, the Carbondale Clay Center Residency Program has hosted over 40 artists since its inception in 2000. 

“The residents have a major impact on the economic vitality on the creative sector in Carbondale and the entire Roaring Fork Valley,” said Angela Bruno, executive director of the Carbondale Clay Center Residency Program. “Our residents bring the latest industry standards, skills, and technology in the ceramic field to our organization and as a result, benefits the entirety of the community. Our residents are paramount in the growth and development of our arts programming. Additionally, we know that there is a real economy in the arts, by collecting art, taking art classes, workshops and private lessons, art supply and material sales, etc. We live in a community that places great value on the arts and understand that the arts contribute to a healthy and happy society.”

In the small town of Paonia, Colorado, Elsewhere Studios, which began in 2010, will offer an Indigenous Poet Residency in June and Parent Residencies in July. 

On average, 98% of Elsewhere’s budget is spent locally, said Mitchell Oliver, executive director. 

Art by Welzie from Andaz Maui in Wailea, Hawaii. (Photo by Kristi Eaton) 

“Our artists in residence have reported spending approximately $200 per week at local establishments during their stay,” Oliver said. “Elsewhere hosts four residents at a time — that turns into roughly $3500 in local spending each month. Elsewhere’s presence draws folks to Paonia and its surroundings and many resident alumni have even made a permanent move to the area, starting small businesses and contributing to our local culture.”

At Andaz Maui in Wailea, Hawaii, artist Welzie not only offers classes for guests at the hotel resort but also showcases his work at an on-site studio.His artwork is also seen throughout the property. 

Welzie, who draws inspiration from surfboards, creates four pieces seasonally as the artist-in-residence. 

Welzie said that the peacefulness in Hawaii is special; – just like a flower in full bloom. 

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