The word infrastructure can take on many different meanings depending on the context in which it’s used. Most often the term refers to roads, bridges, utilities, and other tangible systems and structures critical to the operation of a city, state, or region. But there’s also “civic infrastructure,” a term used to describe anything from libraries and public spaces to the civil society groups, clubs, and local nonprofits that facilitate community life. A town or region’s arts and culture scene would be another important piece of that civic and social infrastructure.
When it comes to government funding and public investment, traditional infrastructure usually takes precedence, understandably. The arts and other civic infrastructure can be seen as less essential when it comes to deciding budget priorities. But a number of places across rural America are showing how investments in the arts can pay dividends. In their cases, rural arts funding created not only social and cultural benefits but also made a positive impact on economic development and municipal governance.
Graphic journalist Nhatt Nichols has more on these creative approaches to rural arts funding and the projects they made possible, below.