Art Inspires Communities To Ask ‘What Else Is Possible?’

Posted on May 7, 2019

Carey Grosdidier
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Laura Zabel believes in the power of creativity.

In her role as Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts, based out of St. Paul, Minnesota, she has seen art directly transform the lives of over 25,000 residents living in Minnesota alone, with ripple effects extending to communities all across the nation.

“I think art and creativity are necessary for healthy, sustainable community development,” she explains. “The narrative of a place and our sense of belonging and connection are key pieces of economic development that are often ignored. These are things art can do. Art can and does play an important role in entrepreneurship, talent attraction and innovation in rural places.”

The work being done at Springboard revolves around meaning-making and building connections between people, even across differences. For rural communities confused about how to use art to make a difference, Laura sites a wonderful example from a project facilitated by Springboard for the Arts in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

“The project was called Year of Play and it was led by a group of artists that call themselves “The Department of Public Perks,” she says. “Like many rural places, Fergus Falls is challenged  by people claiming there is nothing to do there. The Year of Play offered an antidote to this negative perception by organizing dozens of projects including The People’s Park—which activated parking spaces, welcoming seating and games near the river. Another event transformed a local wine bar into a safe and supportive place for the LGBTQ community, which is so popular it is now a regularly sold out occurrence.”

By supporting artists in a rural community, you have access to natural shapers who have amazing ideas and fun, creative solutions to ordinary problems. Who doesn’t love a Sidewalk Chalk Kindness day to help boost community morale? Who wouldn’t want to be part of a giant carved pumpkin palooza fundraiser?  In South Dakota, there are hundreds of amazing events and destinations inspired by art—from the Burning Beetle Festival in Custer to the Plein Air Paint Out in De Smet to the internationally famous carvings of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

“For communities, think of artists and creativity as a natural resource that needs tending. Creativity is an asset that exists in your place already, so take care of it and find new ways to tap into it,” says Laura. “I challenge artists to bring their creativity and their creative process to their community in new ways. Get involved in civic issues and bring your artistic self to those challenges and opportunities.” If you’re looking for more ways to be inspired by the power of art, you won’t want to miss keynote speaker Laura Zabel at this year’s ruralX. Register now at

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