Rural Resilience: Some thoughts on Rural Talks to Rural 2018

by Eric Goudie, SPARC Network Steering Committee Member


Blyth Ontario’s Centre for Rural Creativity is a lot like SPARC. It’s focused on rural communities, it’s arts-based, and when I walked into the Blyth Memorial Community Hall for the first day of their biennial Rural Talks to Rural Conference, I felt like I was in the company of a great many like-minded individuals.

What makes R2R unique is the way its focus extends beyond the performing arts in small towns; R2R positions the arts alongside other sectors in the community. Over the course of the conference I rubbed shoulders with people working in areas like community organization, poverty reduction, and sustainable development, as well as leaders in agri-business, financial services, and municipal planning, among many others.

I thought it a rare treat to sit down to dinner one night with a grain farmer, a retired globe-trotting road-grader salesman, a venture capitalist, and an adviser to the European Union on the economic impacts of climate change. But I was a little worried – what did I, a small-town theatre manager representing a performing arts network, have to offer that would be of interest to these wealthy, successful, influential people?

As it turns out, quite a bit. They were every bit as fascinated about what we are doing here at the SPARC network as I was fascinated by their stories of scuba diving in the Philippines, or the challenges of selling heavy construction equipment in the Middle East.

It was a sobering lesson that we shouldn’t sell our efforts short, especially when it comes to our art. What we do as creators, producers, and presenters requires great skill, and when we do it effectively our success is every bit as legitimate as success in business, or in any of the many other environmental, community organization and social justice causes that had representatives sprinkled throughout the conference. The function we serve as drivers of the arts in our respective communities is every bit as important as the functions other leaders in other areas, and we can (and perhaps we must) talk to those other leaders as their equals.

If you are interested in learning more about R2R, the conference program, speaker bios, and conference proceedings can all be found here. There are also a number of links to conference materials and articles written about conference proceedings on their Facebook page!


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