University of Missouri Extension’s “Passport to the Arts” is a community development process designed to connect local stakeholders in order to build and strengthen arts-based community and economic development. It will help communities to identify local arts assets and needs; develop a plan to act on their top priorities; and make lasting changes to transform their communities through arts-based strategies. “Passport to the Arts” provides a platform for engaging in deeper conversations, strengthening community partnerships, and implementing targeted action.

Among the desired outcomes of this curriculum are:

To define what the “arts” are and how they manifest in community life

  • To develop an understanding of the value of the arts in terms of:
    1. Economic impact
    2. Attitudes towards arts in schools, government, and other institutions
    3. Connectedness to various community capitals (human, social, cultural, etc.)
    4. Integration of the arts in communities
  • To effect community change through the adoption of an action plan, adoption of policies, or the initiation of new programming

“Passport to the Arts” is a multi-step process. Communities should plan on an approximate 1-1/2 to 2 year timeline to see the process through from beginning to end. The basic process is comprised of the following steps: Community Planning, Community Organizing and Event Engagement, and Long-Term Community Development.

The process begins with an assessment of the community’s interest and readiness to engage in this curriculum. An initial informal consultation between MU Extension Community Arts Staff and interested community leaders serves as an opportunity to learn more about “Passport to the Arts”, and the general process and timeline. If there is enough interest, then a small initial exploratory group of community leaders can fill out the Passport to the Arts Pre-Application and Community Readiness Survey (Appendix A). This is a more detailed assessment to determine the level of readiness by the community in utilizing arts-based strategies to address a need/issue (or needs/issues). Based loosely on the “Community Readiness Model”, the survey assesses readiness in several different stages, ranging from a complete lack of readiness to community ownership.

After determining that a community is ready to move forward, it is advisable for the community to assemble a Community Leadership Team (ideally no more than 8-10 individuals), with whom the MU Extension Community Arts Staff can work to plan a Participatory Arts Forum. This is a day of engagement with and in the community to bring people together around the topic of arts-based development. While the Participatory Arts Forum could manifest as a half-day or a full-day event, the basic constituent activities remain the same, and should include:

  • A summary of the local arts landscape through presentations and discussions
  • A description and discussion of arts-based community & economic development practices, language, and tools, including community arts assessment, creative entrepreneurship, and so on
  • Arts-based community priorities are listed through brainstorming and visioning
  • Participatory arts activity
  • Participants engage in small working groups to better define priorities
  • An Arts-Based Action Plan is created to address the priorities

The Sustainable Arts-Based Action Plan is a tool used to keep communities engaged after the Forum event and to guide their ongoing effort in actualizing their identified priorities. Communities may choose to hold a combination of small working group meetings, arts activities, or quarterly meetings to keep things moving in a positive direction toward their desired goal. Annual meetings between the local leadership team and MU Community Arts Personnel are encouraged to provide updates and reengage community members. Additionally, depending on the specific Action Plans, MU Extension Specialists and Faculty from a variety of areas, including 4-H Youth Development, Workforce Development, Neighborhood Leadership, etc. would be accessible as needed.