Bio (hide this header in all alumni profiles)
Rachel (Melton) Leeds is an experienced graphic designer with a history of working for non-profits, organizations, and businesses on marketing, advertising design, and branding. She is currently a Multimedia Designer on the Marketing Team at World Relief, where she creates static and motion graphics for use by external audiences and across the organization. World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization working in disaster relief, poverty relief, and refugee resettlement, and is one of 9 refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. Rachel (Melton) Leeds earned an MFA in Graphic Design from Illinois in 2020.
From the Ground Up: Developing Creative Community through Rural Arts Engagement
Many rural places, defined as communities with less than 50,000 inhabitants, have a well-developed sense of place and identity and a strong sense of social connection, but simultaneously experience a lack of creative opportunities and programming. Involvement in the arts and in cultural and creative activities increases academic success and community engagement for individuals of all ages.
Research also shows that rural communities are nearly as likely as their urban counterparts to participate in artistic and creative initiatives when those initiatives are less formal than is traditionally expected. This study shows how rural communities can utilize connections with artists and designers to build a greater sense of social connection and place-based identity while capitalizing on the day-to-day benefits of arts involvement to develop stronger arts-based economies. Qualitative methods, including surveys, interviews, cultural probes, and case studies, yield data on the perception of identity, place, and the arts in Northwest Tennessee. By analyzing this data, themes are discovered surrounding perspectives, trends, and barriers to arts engagement in a rural context. Current examples are explored in which artists and designers in educational, professional and volunteer capacities engage with these themes and barriers to enhance support of the arts and creative industries in rural places.
This study shows how rural community engagement in the arts and design yields an increased sense of place and identity with mutually beneficial outcomes for individuals, organizations, and the community as a whole.
Rural Identity, Community Development, Arts Engagement