Every state has areas with rural characteristics. Rural areas are often noted for providing an enhanced quality of life and some of the highly distinctive and treasured dimensions of a state's culture and character. However, these regions also may face economic development challenges such as geographic isolation from metropolitan areas, infrastructure deficiencies, poor links with metropolitan and global markets, and the flight of skilled human resources to metropolitan regions. States have successfully addressed these challenges through the arts.

An arts-based economy can enhance state efforts to diversify rural economies, generate revenue, improve the quality of life, and attract visitors and investment. Rural areas often feature various arts and cultural industries, which, with some assistance, can become productive economic sectors. In addition to stimulating substantial employment and tax revenues, arts enterprises are highly entrepreneurial, readily available in many communities, and attractive to tourists. The arts also create a highly desirable quality of life that draws businesses and knowledge workers to further stimulate the economy.

Many state initiatives are harnessing these creative assets to help revitalize rural regions while improving their ability to compete in the new economy. State arts agencies are positioned to assist in economic development efforts; many already initiate, support, and grow arts programs that contribute to rural economies. States have adopted a wide array of arts-based economic development strategies, including the following.

  • Integrate the arts as a formally recognized and quantified industry into state economic-development planning as a part of overall investment strategies and programs.
  • Use traditional entrepreneurship and economic-development tools, including incubators, start-up capital, and training.
  • Attract the arts community by offering incentives, supporting business collaboration, and improving physical infrastructure.
  • Use higher-education systems in training and business assistance efforts.
  • Integrate the arts into planning and marketing to build sustainable tourism.
  • Invest in cultural resources for rural areas by helping fund rural programming and providing incentives for other entities to invest in rural communities.
  • Identify, obtain, and creatively use the wide variety of federal resources available from sources including the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and Commerce.