The Importance of Art within Rural Communities// Kaydee Seematter

03/10/2018

Photo of the Volland Store during its rejuvenation in 2013 with surrounding community members celebrating the store’s 100th birthday

Abstract: Although all types of communities create art, direct exposure to the arts tends to be shown to a exclusive audience, typically societies that are considered urban rather than rural. Within rural communities the need for thought-provoking art is important because it can enhance interactions between the community members while educating them on critical topics.

Audience: All individuals engaged with their communities and designers alike

"The Importance of Art within Rural Communities"

 

Having grown up in Frankfort, Kansas, a town of roughly 700 people, I feel as if I have a true understanding as to what composes the sense of community within a rural setting. Living in a rural environment allows for people to have a strong presence of familiarity surrounding them.  The residents of small communities typically savor the fact that they are familiar with the other members that help to make up their community and the ways of life in which people who live there reside. Often rural people have little to no access to art within their surrounding community compared to their urban counterparts. This can be due to the fact of where the rural environments are located geographically. If a rural community member has to travel a long distance to experience art, they are typically less inclined to expose themselves to the art if they have no particular interest in what it represents. This is why it is critical for rural towns to have some sort of artistic presence within their realms. 

The community of Volland is important because it is a longtime rural community that diminished and then was revived to yet again bring people together.  Initially the community of Volland was created because of the railroad that runs through it and grew into a ranching community. The establishment of a general store built and ran by the Kratzer Brothers in the town not only brought accessible goods to the small community but it also served as a gathering place for Volland and its surrounding residents. Founder of the Volland Store, Otto Kratzer was notorious for never being without his classic Kodak camera, documenting the community members of Volland while at work and play throughout their daily lives.

L: Photo of The Volland Store following its original opening in 1913 taken by its founder, Otto Kratzer.  

R: Photo of the Volland Store during its rejuvenation in 2013 with surrounding community members celebrating the store’s 100th birthday which served also as a celebration of the completion of rubble removal after the stores gradual demise.

The Volland Store stood as a centerpiece of the community until the early 1970s when it closed after the death of its storekeeper, Otto Kratzer. Despite its gradual decline following its close, the shell of the Volland Store stood tall and was noticed by a couple relatively new to Wabaunsee county. Patty and Jerry Reece felt the sense of community the store once held and knew that they had to bring the store back to its former condition. Following its rehabilitation and reopening in 2015, the Volland store now serves as “A Place for Art and Community” with its ability to bring in artwork from varying artists.  There is a sense of community that is heightened during exhibitions in Volland that demonstrates how art and artists can impact rural communities.

Although all types of communities create art, direct exposure to the arts tends to be shown to a exclusive audience, typically societies that are considered urban rather than rural. There are critical differences between art communities in rural and urban settings. In urban settings, there are typically more mediums of art that people have access to and in rural environments, if there is an exhibition at all, there are typically only one type of art medium displayed.

Community art opening in the Volland Store

In urban environments, people have exhibitions and installations in varying spaces and environments that they can typically visit more regularly. However, in Volland, the flexible exhibition space allows for all types of mediums to be shown. Aside from the Volland community, rural communities have an overall lack of exposure to various forms of art. Community involvement is critical for the survival of all types of art programs within rural areas because typically there are less visitors to their exhibitions. Within communities of all sizes there is a need for people to be brought out of their comfort zone. The bringing in of different mediums of art into rural communities is important because it can educate people on things they might not otherwise have direct accessibility to.

Exhibitions such as Siren Call by artist Lily Brooks displayed at the Volland Store can teach people about critical things they might otherwise ignore, such as climate change. Thoughtfully shedding light onto critical issues like Lily does is important within rural communities because it allows for people to be educated on the issues without being too harsh.  The experiences and interactions that rural community members have with the art presented to them takes immense consideration.

 

Lily describes her exhibition at the Volland Store this way, as “Photographs function as evidence of the ways in which we comprehend, negotiate, and mediate our relationship to both daily weather and our changing climate. In looking closely at the marks that are made-in the prediction of weather, the tracking of meteorological data, as well as on the landscape and human body itself-the work presents visual remnants of often-invisible forces. The resulting pictures describe our desire to know, see and predict what we cannot. As personal as it is political, the work addresses my own wonder and fear as it points to the fragility and hubris inherent in this tenuous relationship.”

L: A photograph of a tornado siren in Eskridge, Kansas taken by artist Lily Brooks.

R: Artist Lily Brooks with some of her photographs of her installation Siren Call which is currently being displayed at the Volland Store.

With Lily’s installation being shown, it allows for further conversations to happen for the audiences and it also allows for more exploring of weather by the artists, poets, writers, and scientists behind the works. The art has a large impact on the experience that the viewers take away with them and the thoughts that are provoked.  Bringing the community members to installations can help to enrich their established cultural backgrounds by enhancing interactions between the community members.

Photographs by artist Lily Brook’s installation Siren Call currently displayed in the Volland Store

Bringing the creation of artwork to the community of Volland through an artist residency program will be able to enrich the community culture that is long standing one throughout Wabaunsee county and the Flint Hills. With the production of art taking place in Volland rather than just being brought in, it could help to supplement the community involvement and could help educate the audiences even further.  

The community of Volland stands as a prime example of conflicting topics such as climate change in Lily Brooks’ Siren Call exhibition being shown to an audience that may not be completely receptive of changing environments and situations. However, rural communities are the perfect places for relationships like these to happen because of their comfortable nature that mediates the known and unknown situations.

Written by Kaydee Seematter