Establishment of Pratt (Kansas) Music Theatre, Inc.: Arts administration in a rural setting



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Texas Tech University


Cultural opportunities in mral communities have been, and continue to be, few and sporadic. Communities without cultural opportunities not only lack arts activities for their citizens but they also suffer disadvantages in economic development. They lack an important advantage to attract business in the competitive market. Businesses often look for "quality of life" opportunities for their employees when choosing a town in which to locate. "Cultural" can imply many things including history, the humanities, and education. Nevertheless, to most mral citizens, cultural opportunities mean arts opportunities. Furthermore, arts opportunities often mean specifically performing arts opportunities.

More and more mral citizens are taking the initiative and founding their own grassroots organizations to provide arts activities for themselves and their community. These organizations take many forms. An arts council designed primarily to present artists from outside the community and community-based groups intent upon local productions are just two examples. Unfortunately, resources for the development of arts organizations in mral areas are limited. Many mral areas are poor and few enjoy a strong philanthropic base. Furthermore, the tax base of most mral areas is quite low, which limits the capacity of local pubhc funding for the arts. Rural communities also usually lack concentrated groups of artists and audiences. Nonetheless, rural communities are initiating arts organizations in ever-increasing numbers. The National Endowment ofthe Arts has created an "Expansion Arts" funding program that singles out mral communities. One example is the Chamber Music Rural Residences that places an emerging chamber music ensemble in a mral community for nine months. Dodge City, Kansas was one of three initial sites. Rural arts development workshops were held throughout the country to further help the cause. The first Rural Arts Fomm was the Central States Fomm held in Abilene, Kansas, March 27-29, 1992.

The main problem for mral communities that wish to create cultural arts opportunities is to decide what arts activities best suit the interests of their citizenry. The small mral arts organization can rarely draw upon a sufficiently large homogeneous group. Frequently, to obtain adequate support it must appeal to the desires of a public that is geographically, demographically, and attitudinally diverse. Informal discussions with community leaders, arts advocates, and influential community members can help identify the type of arts organization that garners the most interest. This group will likely have the best chance for success. A survey of present arts opportunities also helps limit the options and avoids duphcation.



Pratt Music Theatre, Community theater