Creativity grows in rural Kansas
June 5, 2007 6:18 AM   Subscribe

The Harveyville Project, located in Harveyville, Kansas, is a small town and getting smaller: There are only about 250 residents, and most are elderly. But after an artist bought an abandoned school to live in two years ago, there are some colorful new faces in town.
Conveniently located at the corner of No and Where. Nary a McDonalds nor Starbucks as far as the eye can see, but still a comfy drive from civilization. Housed in two mid-century school buildings on nine acres on the edge of a tiny rural town, the Harveyville Project offers a quiet, secluded, distraction-free environment to jumpstart your creative work.
Such a cool idea. If I was still single I'd move there in a second to soak up the creative vibe.
posted by Hugh2d2 (71 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting, I wonder what it says about the artists that the featured photo on the front page is of a faux-prom night.
posted by oddman at 6:30 AM on June 5, 2007

the featured photo on the front page is of a faux-prom night.

A million laughs!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:32 AM on June 5, 2007

Okay, now i want to go to that yarn weekend thing.
posted by Lucinda at 6:34 AM on June 5, 2007

Nary a McDonalds nor Starbucks as far as the eye can see, but still a comfy drive from civilization. 50 minutes to Lawrence, 35 to Topeka, and less than two hours to Kansas City.

This sounds just like my dad's town, if you substitute Lafayette, Indianapolis, and Chicago for those places. (He lives on the IN/IL state line due west of Lafayette). 200 residents, although there might be more former migrant farmers who settled than elderly now. The only place you can spend money in the town is the post office.

If I lived in the midwest I think I'd find it a pleasant retreat.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:36 AM on June 5, 2007

If you find nothing offers a creative vibe, perhaps you should check out a coal cellar at midnight. (Beware of black cats).

I spent 6 years living about 6 miles from the middle of nowhere. There was very little "creative vibe". Maybe that's why so many artists live in cities, but I'm just guessing.
posted by Goofyy at 6:39 AM on June 5, 2007

But Goofyy, surrounding yourself with like-minded artistic types would help. That's the core of this project.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 6:45 AM on June 5, 2007

They bought four BIIIGGGG buildings apparently. And they're just now getting started & renovating them. It's a big idea, really... to charge creative people less than $15 a day to live there & somehow survive as a for-profit business... my world-weary mind is just not sure how that's going work out for the long term. I'm wondering who is behind the idea & the funding of it. If there is some benefactor making it possible.

If it works and the idea catches on and the creative energy grows, it could be a really great thing. My fingers are crossed, I really admire people who try to make great creative things happen. Especially in the middle of nowhere.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2007

If they get end up having a hundred or so artists living there how long do you think before a starbucks opens up right across the street?
posted by outsider at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2007

Anyone know how many people have taken them up on renting a space out the corner of No and Where?
posted by yohko at 7:05 AM on June 5, 2007

If you read the article in ReadyMade, they used money from selling a house in a more urban area to buy the buildings for super cheap. I think it's a good idea, but hipsters can and will ruin anything, and I honestly think it's only a matter of time before they get bored and move back to wherevere they came from. Just a hunch.
posted by petri at 7:27 AM on June 5, 2007

I seem to recall that there was a cartoonist who recently did the same thing, only to South Dakota, not far from my wife's family farm.

Darned if I can find anything about it though.
posted by unixrat at 7:27 AM on June 5, 2007

Darn. I could have bought a middle-school for $7,000, back where I lived then, in the early 90's. I wanted to buy it, but wasn't sure what to do with it.
posted by Goofyy at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2007

I hate to sound like an old guy, but....

Having grown up in the country ( small town, just a few hundred more in population than the one in the story) I would hate to see this happen to my community.

I love artists as much as the next guy, but they can be a testy little group. I'm not sure if I could put up with them running around in their little VW buses, complaining about the terrible coffee at the diner, and whining about all the horse poop in the road.

That and their darn "No one understands me, I am so much smarter than all of you" attitude.

Maybe I'm being a bit critical.
posted by bradth27 at 7:55 AM on June 5, 2007

90 miles from Madison, Wisconsin is Dreamtime Village. They've been doing the crazy fluxus/artsy thing since 1991.
posted by Floydd at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2007

posted by quonsar at 8:09 AM on June 5, 2007

posted by melissa may at 8:21 AM on June 5, 2007 [5 favorites]

If it works and the idea catches on and the creative energy grows, it could be a really great thing. My fingers are crossed, I really admire people who try to make great creative things happen. Especially in the middle of nowhere.
posted by miss lynnster

miss lynnster, that's pretty much the patern that gentrification took throughout the '70's,'80's and '90's (previously c. 2006), though its a new idea to move those efforts out to the exurban midwest.

I suppose though, that urban dispacement isn't as big an issue in bufu Kansas, though. I remember Boston (and D.C.) in the early '70's and how an infusion of artsy and upwardly-mobile minorities and G/L/Bi couples revitalized a community that had been blighted by the riots of the late '60's.

On Preview, bradth27 has a point – the locals might not appreciate the new diversity.
posted by vhsiv at 8:22 AM on June 5, 2007

Or perhaps you've just misunderstood them because they're so much smarter than you.

I keeeeeeeed.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2007

amberglow's the person who alerted me to this project a few months ago, strangely enough (thanks, hon). I've been following the project on flickr ever since. These seem like very cool people with a shit ton of energy and I wish them nothing but success.

As far as the locals go, remember that these are people who had to sell off many of their public buildings -- including the heart of any rural community, their schools. Like most of rural Kansas, they're barely hanging on. A project like this that brings new money and energy and life into the town is better than nothing. At the very least, it'll certainly give everyone something to talk about.
posted by melissa may at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since I live in Kansas, (born and raised in rural KS, now live in KC area) I can attest to what melissa is saying.

There are a hundreds of towns just in Kansas who would love to have people (even what some consider "fringe" people) to eat in their restaurants and frequent their shops.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 8:46 AM on June 5, 2007

The level of pessimism in this thread makes me wonder if the internet is just for the chronically depressed.

This sounds like a cool project, I know there're a lot of people who've had similar dreams.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:51 AM on June 5, 2007

Also, I'm teaching there in October. (Felt School)

It's going to rock. I don't quite get all the negativity in this thread, though. I mean yeah, it's MetaFilter and apparently our job is to hate everything, but dang. Give Nikol & co some credit, they're doing a kickass job and having fun while they do it.
posted by at 8:54 AM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

This sounds like a good idea to me - kind of an artists way vibe about it, which can't be a bad thing.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:19 AM on June 5, 2007

bradth27 has a point, but is also presumptuous. there will undoubtedly be some people drawn in by the bullshit irony akin to those hip kids that run around wearing trucker caps or mocking "rednecks". which to me isn't any different then blackface. but i bet the majority have an honest appreciation of small town living, they may look out of step, tattoos and such. but share the same values of community, etc. that the people in the town have. i've got several friends in the late 20's to early 30's, with tattoos, from the city, that bought farms and make art. some make a living on it, go to craft fairs with the art, sell it online, etc. but the fact of the matter is that some of the folks that live in the community will embrace it completely, some won't. those that won't are just the same as the "smarter then you" hip kids that bradth27 mentions, close minded brats that don't appreciate people for being people, we're all better off just ignoring them and most people do.

from looking at the pictures briefly it seems like some of the people taking part, in the yarn class for example, are probably from the surrounding area. maybe it's a midwest thing, most of the people that end up in cities as artists have a background in towns like the one in the link. if they didn't grow up there, they had family there or had a grandma they visited that lived on a farm.
posted by andywolf at 9:26 AM on June 5, 2007

man, that's some of the ugliest writing i've ever done.
posted by andywolf at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2007

They aren't very clear, do you have to do artsy things to do their residency programme for a week? I'd kinda like to just go and work on my laptop for a week.
posted by cmonkey at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2007

I currently reside in small-town Kansas, and the people I've come to know would rather see their towns whither and die than to have a bunch of "big city know-it-alls" come into their close-knit community.

I love what they're doing with Harveyville, but I don't share the optimism.
posted by drstrangelove at 9:31 AM on June 5, 2007

It looks like you could offer to work off the fee, cmonkey.

If a paint brush or some server work is your thing, I bet they'd love to have your expertise.

(Disclaimer: I don't know anybody involved in this project, I just really like the concept.)
posted by Hugh2d2 at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2007

As a person who grew up in a place like this, I'll never understand how people who grew up in cities romanticize it. I suppose it's a little like the myth of the "noble savage," one sees a solution to the perceived problems of society by trying to escape from it. It'll take a few years, but I predict that everyone who doesn't leave out of boredom will pick up the local habits of heavy alcoholism and meth.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2007

here's how i would title this:

rural depopulation creates real eastate investment opportunities!

you don't even have to go to Kansas, MassMOCA turned the dead milltown of North Adams, MA into Condo-city. now, everyone can make a living buying and selling speculative objects: it's the creative economy. oh wait...

I hate artists.
posted by geos at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

bradth27 has a point, but is also presumptuous.

From the website -

What we think we know becomes a bridge to the familiar, a way in - but the answers can be elusive. Many of my materials and direct references come from things that can be thought of as lush. I try to use the sensuous appeal of surfaces, colors and objects to hint at things that are attractive, yet there is a certain awkwardness, a self-conscious awareness of discomfort, uncertainty, longing, desire, disillusionment, and possibly confusion. I want my objects to be relentless, yet so very quiet, even timid. I would like the pieces to act as a type of reflecting pool, and each viewer can see themselves among those mirrored.

or perhaps

My sculptures deal with questions rather than statements, answers, or facts. They are indicative of a process of investigation, where composed, forced relationships are the focus. Examination becomes the key to understanding, if not of the answers, perhaps of the questions. The relationships within each sculpture are established to ask the questions, it is up to the artist and the viewer to descry answers unique to each individual. Investigation and examination become links in common human experiences, although the results of such may be very different.

or perhaps

Formally, the shapes and textures inspired by nature ( or sometimes directly quoted from nature) are forced into interaction with forms that are derived from the artificial world of industry. Sometimes the relationships between these forms is easy, alluding to a possible happy medium between these two forces; often however, they are uneasy or disquieting, just as the life we face often is. The meanings of my works are not always obvious; this is intended to permit the viewer to use the works much like ink blot tests. These works allow the viewer to read into the forms what they bring to them.

No, I don't think so at all.
posted by bradth27 at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2007

Anyone know how many people have taken them up on renting a space out the corner of No and Where?

Quoting myself ... I didn't intend any negativity with this question. I intended it as a serious question, I know a lot of artists where I live, and I am genuinely curious as to how this project is taking off. I can see that it could have been taken as snarky negativity, but the "corner of No and Where" is on the front page of their website., I think a link to info on your felting workshop would be a worthwhile addition to this thread
posted by yohko at 10:15 AM on June 5, 2007

A note on Arty Types:

I remember going to a club at the local art school to see what the people were like, they were all very sniffy and arrogant - then i found out none of them actually went to the art school.
They were people that had shoved on some caricature, rather like the bridge and tunnel people in NY try to behave like they heard a new yorker behaves - then you find out NY'ers are pretty decent people when you meet a real one.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:18 AM on June 5, 2007

bradth27, I think you might be confusing marketing materials with what people act like in real life, and "artists" with "city people". Not that most artists aren't city people, but I'm sure there are exceptions.
posted by yohko at 10:22 AM on June 5, 2007

I'm from Kansas. This is a great idea. Just great. Nothing but good things to say. Totally cool. I wish these people the best of luck.
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2007

melissa may said: Like most of rural Kansas, they're barely hanging on. A project like this that brings new money and energy and life into the town is better than nothing.

I agree. While it would be ideal if our little towns could survive and thrive without outside "projects," something like this is better than letting the community die. Sometimes new money and energy is just the jumpstart a little town needs to motivate the citizenry into becoming vital again.

drstrangelove said: I currently reside in small-town Kansas, and the people I've come to know would rather see their towns whither and die than to have a bunch of "big city know-it-alls" come into their close-knit community.

I'm in small-town Kansas too. We've experienced a little bit of "gentrification" but not too much as to be overwhelming. For the most part, it's a good thing when new people come in (sure, there are a few old-timer's who would consider them "big city know-it-alls," but that's the minority), and I don't know anyone who would prefer to have our town "wither and die."

P.S. This is a very cool post, Hugh2d2. This must be Kansas Week at Metafilter. All the Kansans, and former Kansans, are coming out of the woodwork. :)

*waves to all the people of the south wind*
posted by amyms at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2007

Actually, now I think I was probably right.

Lordy, the hypocrisy of Mefites bitching about creative overthinkers is killing me. What is the deal with this need to act superior over young people who overanalyze the world and their contribution to it? Isn't that what makes the world go around? Would you rather the world was entirely filled with brain-dead slackers who don't try? Not to mention that throughout history many of the greatest things that humanity has brought us were created by eccentric and often annoying people who took themselves too seriously.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Awesome to find this here.
A friend of mine and his wife were the first two residents of this project.

He's got a blog entry mentioning it -

Always sounded very interesting.
posted by fnord at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2007

And sgt.serenity has nailed it, by the way. I was invited to a party in San Diego once, supposed to be an "artist's" event. Well, I had gone to art school & was a designer so I thought "Okay." Everyone there was a pretentious little snit & so I started asking around. Turned out that I was the ONLY person in the room who actually MADE art. Especially for a living.

My biggest problem with artists is that so many people think it'll make them look uber cool to pretend to be one. Those people flaunt it like there's no tomorrow. But if you're really an artist in your heart, much of your creative struggle is a lonely & internal one. It's VERY tough sometimes, trying to always create new things that don't exist. I mean, if you're an accountant you have numbers in front of you and have to add them up -- poof. Job done. But if you're in a creative field, you have to make things that didn't exist and they have to be things that are unique and that PEOPLE LIKE. That's freaking hard sometimes, especially when your brain isn't cooperating. You HAVE to overthink, that's your job. And you're not doing it to rub other people's face in their stupidity. You're doing it because that's what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

Some of us would make really shitty accountants. We were born to sit in an old school in Kansas and make yarn or something. And we aren't doing it to make you feel stupid. Ain't about you, my friend.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2007 [6 favorites]

A land without people for a people without land?

There are ways to do this well. Claiming that this town is at "the corner of No and Where" is not a great way to start. It's the same desire that drives people to Burning Man: let's lose all context, all history, all politics, all burdens and just Make Art. Well, sorry to break the news to you, but your art is going to suck. Without context it will be meaningless.

It hurts that this is young people, too. Artist retreats to overcome creative blocks? Might as well give crystals out at the door and set up a sweat lodge. We've seen this before, people, and it wasn't particularly radical then, either.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2007

Marfa Texas is an example of art moving into a small rural town and coexisting well with the community. Anderson Ranch is another one. This is a great idea. Cynicism is really boring.
posted by dog food sugar at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2007

*Looks at 5 x 10 ft "workspace"*
posted by Wonderwoman at 11:04 AM on June 5, 2007

Let's try that again with a link to the aforementioned blog entry.
posted by fnord at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2007

I suck at this linking thing
posted by fnord at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2007

I'm surprised at the crankiness toward the "artsy types"... The "artsy types" who have moved to my little community have one thing over the rest of us who live here: They moved here because they wanted to be here, not because they were stuck here by generations of family ties and economic instability (like the vast majority of us "natives")...

My small town has many wonderful qualities, and I am here by choice, but I'm also stuck here to a great extent (if it makes sense for those two realities to exist together)... As I said upthread, for the most part it's been a good thing to have new people with new ideas and new visions move in. And, since they chose to come here, they are usually very civic-minded. They care about the town and its future and they're doing something productive, which is more than I can say for the majority of the old-timers who sit around at the coffee shop bitching about things.
posted by amyms at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2007

This must be Kansas Week at Metafilter.

Theme song?
posted by sparkletone at 11:16 AM on June 5, 2007

This is pretty neat. It may work out, it may least they're giving it a shot.

I think sparkletone meant theme song.
posted by maxwelton at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2007

fnord, that seems to be a copy of the article in ReadyMade. Maybe this is what you meant to link to?
posted by yohko at 11:44 AM on June 5, 2007

As someone with small town Kansas roots too, I've always had conflicting feelings about it. Funny enough, thanks to the conservative politics so much of the area clings to, big agribusiness has muscled out a lot of small operators, so what was once the core of the local economy is in dire straits. It's hard to express just how tough things really are in many areas and how desolate. My town was larger than this and is doing better than most, but it's still short on young people, though the nursing home is full to capacity. I know exactly what TungstenChef means by "the local habits of heavy alcoholism and meth." In high school, it would have done me a world of good to have some cool people move in offering art classes and events: as the ReadyMade article that fnord linked to notes, 20 of the 70 people who participated in their prom were locals. That's a tremendous turnout in a town so small.

On their own site, these folks have taken pains to include a lot of links to local culture, from high art stuff like the Flint Hills Symphony to local businesses and sports and church feeds. "No and where" cracks aside (hell, depending on who I'm talking to, I'll sometimes call it Ruralania or Bumfuckia, myself) they are providing some much needed boosterism for the best of small town Kansas life. It's rather silly to presume that locals can't or won't appreciate this kind of thing in their backyard. The kind of self-serious, brusque people that anyone with a lick of sense dislikes would surely be unwelcome. There's no evidence that the Harveyville Project is run by such people, and plenty on the opposite side. Again, I wish them well.

waves back to amyms, makes like the southwind and blows out of the thread
posted by melissa may at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Craigmillar Festival Society an arts organisation in a previously rundown area of Edinburgh, which has made a positive contribution there, not quite the same as what's been posted here but interesting.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2007

I don't like going off to "the middle of nowhere" to do art. Yes, I get things done, but after a week or two I start getting horribly depressed and stop writing or arting. I need life's little distractions to function. That said, if that's your thing, I'm very glad that people are moving to small towns. Across the world people are leaving rural areas to become urban dwellers. While I personally am happiest living in cities, I nevertheless find dying towns to be sad. I'm glad that some of them are getting life injections.

As to the snarking... don't you realize that whining about artsy types and hipsters and snobs is way more annoying than aforementioned social groups? Yeah, fauxhemians are a great, big bore, but not more so than anybody else.
posted by Kattullus at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2007

But if you're in a creative field, you have to make things that didn't exist and they have to be things that are unique and that PEOPLE LIKE.

Only true if you are a commercial artist. I don't know for that sort that cutting off contact with the world at large and hanging out in an old school is going to be a good thing or not. Arguably a good commercial artist is going to create things that resonate with themselves first and that strike a common chord and are therefore saleable. I can't imagine stepping foot in the creative process pre-bound by "I wonder if this will sell." I mean, really, I have enough problems.

Myself, I'm a recreational artist (and very much not an "arty type" -- I do it to stay sane, mostly) and I see the possibilities of waking up in a constrained space a rather lovely idea. Where am I? Nowhere. Why am I here? To make art, same as everyone else. No beer busts, BBQs, jangling phones or whatever to distract. Some interesting barns out in the countryside to capture, some interesting countryside and I'm sure a few interesting people. Good for the creative process overall, sounds like.

I myself cannot stand many so-called "art types". I believe that most of them are dilettantes and poseurs. Certainly those I've met have not impressed me with their artistry or vision. Its a well worn joke amongst artists that "ego kills art" and thats true, true, true.

I don't know if the Harveyville Project really attracts that sort. The whole "look at meeeeh" of prom seems kind of against the "get out of my fucking workshop and let me work" vibe. Also, B- for a lack of visible studio setup anywhere on the premises. What, I'm supposed to lug my goddamned easel there? Where are the working people? (*yarn excluded)
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:00 PM on June 5, 2007

Being another Kansan from a forty-years-slowly-dying small town (and someone who was hipped to this by melissa may/amberglow a few months ago) you can add me to the list of people who think this is fucking awesome. Rural communities hemmorhage young people, both artsy and non, so if these people want to actually go there and revitalize the area, good on them. If that means that Harold and Joe can't have their morning coffee at the one stop without seeing a bunch of crazy people dressed all crazy-like, fuck 'em. I'm never going back to small town KS because I did my time already, but if they can make a go of it, I support them wholeheartedly. And the prom looked way better than any I ever saw.

Gives secret southwind hand signal.

On preview: What mm just said. And sparkletone, I like that song, but being young and in small town KS can only be represented by "Sex Drive" by The Embarassment--from Wichita, by the way. Sorry.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2007

yohko -- she's going to post more about it after prom, but long story short: it'll be like Yarn School, except with felt. Knit-and-shrink felting, nuno felting (aka laminated felting), needlefelting, wet felting -- you name it. 2 days of utter fiber play.

Everyone's got their own way of doing things, especially artists. Some people need peace and quiet, some people need to be able to walk down to the local coffeeshop in the afternoons. Whatever. I know that *I* get a ton more done when I'm away from home and in a more isolated setting. I wrote my first book in one week after procrastinating for several months. The difference? I was at my aunt's house in the middle of the Maine woods, and I wasn't constantly looking up and thinking "gee, that mantel needs dusting" or walking the dog, or doing the laundry, or [insert boring yet essential task here].

When I taught at the Sewing & Quilt Expo in Kansas last year, I noticed that a *ton* of my students had driven for hours and hours from other parts of the state to attend. They were so nice -- the nicest students I've ever had, seriously. I bet quite a few of them would love to be close to something like this that's year-round instead of only once a year.
posted by at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2007

Also, thanks for the post, Hugh2d2.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2007

I agree that you definitely need to make things that YOU like. And I think I worded that wrong when I said "LIKE" referring to other people, although that is important in the commercial world. Some art can be for yourself and it doesn't matter if anyone else even sees it... it's for your soul. But if you are going to be a successful public artist of any kind, you need to reach people somehow. Whether you are reaching them by upsetting them, making them think, making them happy, whatever. If your art says nothing to anyone but you, the purpose and power of great public art is lost.

For me, design pays the bills and music I do for myself. I think most creative people have that kind of thing... there's one thing they do to survive financially and the other they do to survive emotionally. But it still makes a difference if other people like my music because otherwise I won't be able to make much of it. I can't afford to pay a band to hang out in my living room whenever I feel like it, unfortunately. Plus good audiences are hella fun. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 12:25 PM on June 5, 2007

Yeah, the artsy types where I live are generally pretty lovely people, with a minimum of snots. (Snotty behavior here gets comments along the lines of, "I love his work, but man, there was no need for him to act like a dick about that", behind the guy's back.) So, not all artists = assholes.

This sounds like a cool idea, and has cheap prices and a great work-study thing, but I am baffled as to why anyone would really, REALLY want to go out into the middle of nowhere to create art. As others have pointed out, that's not a selling point to a lot of people. Sounds like it's best designed to attract people who already live within driving distance of the place- I wonder how many people are going to fly out to the nearest airport and rent a car for however long just to get there and get around the sticks and whatnot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:06 PM on June 5, 2007

Actually, now I think I was probably right.

Lordy, the hypocrisy of Mefites bitching about creative overthinkers is killing me.

Look, why don't you go ahead and say it? SAY IT! TELL ME TO FUCK OFF!

Okay, back to work. Off you go.
posted by bradth27 at 2:44 PM on June 5, 2007

( prissy pants, poo-poo eater.)
posted by bradth27 at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2007


I've never seen such an even split of opinion among the Mefites.

I wish the artists, and the town, luck. I think they'll both need it.
posted by OrangeDrink at 3:10 PM on June 5, 2007

Poo poo eater?

Well, at least you were creative. ;)
posted by miss lynnster at 3:25 PM on June 5, 2007

sleepy pete, thanks for the Embarrassment mention. Saw them many times in my mid teens at the Cedar Lounge down by the tracks in Wichita. Changed my life. Still love'em.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:08 PM on June 5, 2007

I am baffled as to why anyone would really, REALLY want to go out into the middle of nowhere to create art.

At a really simple level, I think it's just the absence of distractions. But there's a lot of metaphors that hint at some interesting facets of this kind of isolation.

(1) There's so little around you, the environment is rarefied enough, that if there's really anything inside of you, it'll almost come out by the pressure-gradient alone.

(2) You're able to avoid outside vectors that'd knock down fragile sets of ideas while you're still putting them together. I think of this passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
"He would use this route to get into the high country, then backpack in from the road for three or four or five days, then come back out for more food and head back in again, needing these mountains in an almost physio- logical way. The train of his abstractions became so long and so involved he had to have the surroundings of silence and space here to hold it straight. It was as though hours of constructions would have been shattered by the least distraction of other thought or other duty. It wasn't like other people's thinking, even then, before his insanity. It was at a level at which everything shifts and changes, at which institutional values and verities are gone and there is nothing but one's own spirit to keep one going."
(3) Parker Palmer, in his book To Know as We Are Known says that Christianity points at the idea of a living truth that isn't just an object waiting to be apprehended by a knower, but something that is out there looking to find us. The open spaces of the old desert are where the prophets came from and where some early christians went to become places where there's nothing keeping the truth from finding you.

I could go on, and I'm pretty sure lots of people have thought about this well into the past. It's probably belaboring the point. Personally, I think there's an advantage to cities for the arts as well, because even though I place significant stock in the value of each of those things I mentioned above, I think cities often facilitate chance encounters and personal networks and collaboration and all kinds of things that provide valuable input that becomes material for art. That's one reason, though, why I think people often try to create arts communities out in the middle of nowhere. Then you start to get some of the best of both worlds.
posted by weston at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

i just don't get why anyone thinks this is great for the town... what's the best case scenario, everyone at harveyville makes really cool art and then all the old people who own property can sell it to real estate speculators so their grandkids can buy more meth?

art does not create jobs for young people. it's basically a way to attract outside money, but is that money going to build business other than the occasional coffeeshop and a raft fo real estate brokerages? it's tourism which wants to be cool...

i just don't get why people get suckered into this, go make art, do what you feel, but don't pretend you are doing any dying old town a favor.
posted by geos at 7:41 PM on June 5, 2007

If there is going to be a new creative and artistic renaissance, it needs to begin in Kansas, because then it can spread outward in ripples.
posted by deusdiabolus at 10:57 PM on June 5, 2007

Oh, geos. You sound like the San Francisco-based SCORE teacher who told my friend to not have a business on the internet because "it's dangerous and it will never work."

In San Francisco!

I could introduce you to more young artists than I could count who are making a real living on their work and selling it online, particularly in my area of expertise. The fact that they can do it online means it doesn't matter where they actually are, so perhaps these so-called "dying old towns" will finally be repopulated by people who don't feel the need to live in some fauxhemian (thanks, Kattullus, for that great term) "art scene." Art scenes in the big cities are inevitably filled with posers because the investment bankers think it's all edgy and hip to go to loft parties in lofts no real artist could afford.

Look at what Wonderwoman said upthread, for example. Now imagine you're given a whole freaking BUILDING to work in, and for less money than your living space cost in NYC/SF/Austin/Chicago/wherever?

My aunt and her (now-ex) husband are really well known painters. They moved to the middle-o-nowhere Maine in the 1960s before they were known at all. And there they've stayed, raising three kids and producing a hell of a lot of art ever since. This life choice can work for the benefit of everyone, artists and natives alike.
posted by at 7:06 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think sparkletone meant theme song.

Some choices I am just not qualified to make, though I do the best I can.
posted by sparkletone at 7:48 AM on June 6, 2007

Misery loves company. You can get some houses for free in North Dakota, if you're willing to pick up the (minimal) property taxes.

Aren't there places you can go and be an artist for FREE? I'm with geos--seems like a real-estate business to me. Somewhere, there's a realtor behind it.

I'd be much more inclined to visit an artist's retreat if it were a: free; or b) in Hawaii. But then I'm not an artist. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:17 AM on June 6, 2007

Aren't there places you can go and be an artist for FREE? I'm with geos--seems like a real-estate business to me.

Of course the folks running the Harveyville project are acting as landlords and accepting rent in this. It costs money fix up a building, provide meals, and pay for utilities. Why would you expect to have this provided for free?
posted by yohko at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2007

Well, heck, for that matter, wasn't this the entire motive for Gauguin and van Gogh to take up residence in Arles? Frank Lloyd Wright built the Taliesin studio. Then there is Taos, NM.

Often if the artistic community is successful, the galleries and tourist industry follows.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2007

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