An interview document to accompany Savannah Barrett's piece Rebuilding The Front Porch: An Interview with Patrick Overton. Her introduction to the piece begins below:
As a native of rural Kentucky, I have been witness to both the blessing of belonging to a country community alongside the entirety of my extended family; and to troubling and significant changes in this community and our distinct cultural traditions. These changes have taken place amidst a mass exodus of industrious young people who have left in search of quality education, employment, and social resources; and in response to a lack of investment in those fundamental needs in their home community. These experiences have led me to pursue a career in the rural community arts field. As a graduate student, I have struggled to piece together the history and dimensions of this domain, and found that history difficult to unravel and my field difficult to locate. There are few signposts in this work, yet I have been fortunate to find “my tribe” and my discourse among members of the Rural Arts and Culture Working Group. It was while there, while we collectively struggled to name our movement and identify our narrative, that I was connected with Patrick Overton.
I had discovered Patrick’s book Rebuilding the Front Porch of America while searching library databases for information related to Robert Gard and to the history of rural arts programs in the Cooperative Extension Service. I knew his work to be concerned with both the dynamic history of rural community arts development and with contemporary rural cultural policy. Patrick Overton is the Director of the Front Porch Institute in Astoria, Oregon, and has pursued community cultural development as practitioner and scholar for 35 years throughout the United States. In 1990, he defended the rural arts when called to Washington D.C. to testify in front of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on the Interior on behalf of continued Federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts. There he conveyed that Rural Genius was one of the most important natural resources in our country, that it is one of our greatest sources of innovation, and that this resource was at risk. Twenty-three years later, I set out to ask Patrick about the current state of the rural arts, about rural genius, and about how those of us who are advocates and practitioners for rural arts and culture should move forward.