HARRISBURG – A reception for the Creative Makers of the Pennsylvania Wilds Exhibit on March 27 provided an opportunity for state officials to celebrate rural creative makers and their impact on the Commonwealth’s culture and economy.
It was also a time to recognize the inclusion of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania as a model in the National Governors Association’s 2019 “Rural Prosperity through the Arts & Creative Sector” report.
Displayed in the Pennsylvania Capitol East Wing Gallery, the exhibit featured members of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, a network of artisans and businesses from the region known as the Pennsylvania Wilds.
A project of the Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Inc. (PA Wilds Center), the exhibit was supported financially by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA).
Karl Blischke, PCA executive director, said the exhibit “highlights numerous artisans and their skill and craft in making their authentic and genuine crafts.”
He applauded the PA Wilds Center’s foresight in “recognizing the cultural and economic impact of Pennsylvania Wilds creative makers.”
Blischke read a number of statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s 2016 Arts and Cultural Production report to illustrate his point: the arts add $23 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy, 175,000 jobs and $11.2 billion in earned income.
Blischke pointed to the achievement of the Pennsylvania Wilds being cited in the National Governors Association’s report, which is described as a new action guide that “offers research insights and lessons learned from states that are harnessing the power of the arts to drive rural prosperity.”
This was the second time in 2019 that the work of the PA Wilds Center was highlighted in a national study. In February, the Appalachian Regional Commission released its “Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachia” report, which looked at McKean County and the Pennsylvania Wilds as a case study “to understand how coal-impacted communities can transform and diversify their economies and build resilience against future economic shocks.”
The PA Wilds Center is a non-profit, which has a mission to marry conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the region’s rural communities.
Many local partners are involved in the effort, including the Pennsylvania Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development. Representatives from each agency spoke at the reception.
The Pennsylvania Wilds includes Cameron, northern Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties.