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Spirit of the Northwest

Spirit of the Northwest

Web Version Introduction

"Spirit of the Northwest: Claiming Community Identity" was a two-year initiative among the states arts councils of Washington, Idaho and Oregon, 1998-2000. The initiative asked: What is community identity and what can be the role of the arts? Six widely scattered Northwest rural communities took part, creating projects driven locally by arts groups, public agencies, businesses, ethnic cultural groups and citizens.

"Spirit" published a 40-page report on the initiative, and when we received it at CAN, we asked permission to publish it on the Web. The stories of these projects are wonderfully touching and inspiring. The six communities were all under enormous stress, struggling with economic, racial and spiritual issues as well as severe isolation and natural disasters that had brought them to the brink of desperation. It is significant that they were able to marshal local partnerships that chose to turn to the arts for much-needed help.

As they examined their needs and resources, these partnerships took precious time — and very little grant funding — to look at their histories and assets as communities, and worked together to produce an amazing array of products. They accomplished a lot with a little:

  • local Web sites
  • original plays about local life and history
  • artist inclusion on a county bridge-design team
  • two community choruses
  • a community quilt
  • a community Legacy Box
  • a radio play
  • a performance series
  • a plan for two community murals about Lewis and Clark (from the white and Indian perspectives)
  • a literary anthology
  • a scholarship fund
  • a charitable foundation
  • an annual parade
  • a local mini-project grant initiative
  • festivals
  • music and art workshops and classes
  • new economic development plans and
  • a community-design charrette that incorporated everyday citizens into the planning of the growth of their own community.

Even more important than these products are the deepening relationships in each community, among all kind of people, agencies, businesses and ethnic groups.

We hope you enjoy reading about this work. The arts-council team went out of its way to come up with "lessons learned" during these cultural struggles, and this report can be used as a model by others who hope to carry out cultural and economic-development work through the arts, especially in rural areas.

Copies of the printed report and further information may be obtained by contacting the project coordinator, Bitsy Bidwell, Washington State Arts Council Community Arts Development Manager: bitsyb@arts.wa.gov.


This project report is also available as a PDF file you can download, read and print using Adobe's Acrobat Reader.

Download PDF file (3.8mb)

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The Spirit of the Northwest is a regional partnership project of the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the Oregon Arts Commission and the Washington State Arts Commission, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal Agency. It is made available on the Web as a courtesy by the Community Arts Network. Questions or comments regarding this project can be addressed to Bitsy Bidwell, Community Arts Development Manager, Washington State Arts Commission, P.O. Box 42675, Olympia, WA, 98504-2675, (360) 586-2421 or email bitsyb@arts.wa.gov.



Idaho Commission on the Arts Washington State Arts Commission National Endowment for the Arts Oregon Arts Commission

Original CAN/API publication: March 2001


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