- Mina Para Matlon, JD, MA
- Erica Kohl-Arenas, PhD, MS
- Carlton Turner
Research Project Description
Rural communities across the United States face multiple challenges that threaten the economic and physical health of their populations. These challenges include industrial abandonment, consolidation of agricultural producers, declining and aging populations, high obesity rates and related health concerns, and inequitable access to financial resources. Simultaneously, local residents are confronted with narratives of decline that blame poor rural people for regional poverty and health problems often created by these outside structural forces. In the wake of the need to restructure, many regions continue to rely upon approaches to development that rely on outside industry and fail to build sustainable, culturally driven solutions. Standing outside the tide, however, a small but increasing number of rural communities are reclaiming their present and futures by expanding the ways in which they approach community development. In recent years, attention has turned towards creative placemaking, a growing interdisciplinary field that addresses the impact of incorporating arts and culture programming and methodologies into sectors ranging from public safety to public health as a key ingredient driving equitable community development. The proposed research project will investigate how creative approaches to community development may tackle the problem of access to healthy food in Utica, a low and moderate income, predominantly Black rural community in Mississippi. Our research project will consider how a more expansive imagination of future community wellbeing can change the narrative of what is possible and build collective community agency in the broader food access and healthy community development initiative.
Mina Para Matlon, JD, MA
Ms. Matlon is an arts organizer, researcher, attorney, artist, and cultural equity advocate. Inspired by the spatial and temporal bridge building work of traditional knowledge bearers, her research interests are in the intersecting areas between arts and community development, with her practice particularly focused on supporting local communities who seek to protect and leverage their cultural assets. Since 2017, she has served as the managing director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.
Erica Kohl-Arenas, PhD, MS
Dr. Kohl-Arenas is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of California, Davis and the faculty director of Imagining America. Her research and teaching focus on critical studies of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, participatory community development, grassroots social movements and cultural organizing
Mr. Turner works across the country as a performing artist, arts advocate, policy shaper, lecturer, consultant, and facilitator. He is also founder of the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (MCCP). The MCCP uses arts and agriculture to support rural community, cultural, and economic development in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi.