City Mouse vs Country Mouse: 4 Advantages to Being a Rural Artist

By Angela Fehr in Misc > Art Opinion

Few of us have the opportunity to live in (or near) an artistic mecca like Paris or New York City, and as working artists it’s easy to see the disadvantages to that.

For myself, an artist living in a rural region of Canada, seeking out galleries for exhibitions almost always requires travel time and expense. Sending art to competitions is often just as expensive, and doesn’t even include the travel.

But while living rurally does pose some obstacles for the ambitious artist, there can actually be great advantages to setting up your studio off the interstate.

Here are four that I’ve come up with:

1. A sense of place.

Think of Georgia O’Keefe and her love affair with New Mexico, the Group of Seven painters and windswept northern Ontario, or Emily Carr and the British Columbia rainforest. All of these were artists who fell in love with a place, or the essence of that place, and successfully communicated that in their art.

Artists are known for taking the commonplace and show it in a new light, so even if your region is considered dull and uninteresting, YOU the artist can make the commonplace extraordinary and the bland vibrant. . . you just have to look for those opportunities and embrace them.

2. A stronger artistic voice.

After a year of college art classes, I found myself struggling to paint something that was truly “me.” It seemed that among the babble of art education and fellow students’ opinions I had lost my voice.

Isolating myself helped me to filter out the clamor and reaffirm what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

From that experience, I now believe that artists in remote locations have an easier time avoiding fads in art and being true to their own self-expression.

3. Fewer day-to-day distractions.

While distractions always exist for the practicing artist, outside of larger cities there seem to be fewer “networking opportunities” to pull us away from the studio.

With gallery openings, competitions, workshops and seminars continually taking place, I sometimes wonder how the metropolitan artist ever finds enough time to paint!

4. A smaller pond to start out in.

As some of you may remember, I’ve written before about the financial and professional benefits to beginning your artistic career in a small community.

Approaching galleries can be intimidating but the good news for rural artists is that (generally speaking) art venues found in smaller communities are very welcoming and supportive of local artists, even those just starting out.

Then, as you begin to gain some real-world experience marketing and exhibiting your art in a “smaller pond,” you’ll find that there’s a natural upward progression to larger, more prestigious galleries elsewhere.

So if you’re ever feeling down about living a long ways away from the big-city art scene, remember to focus on the positives in your situation.

No matter how small or large the region is that you call home, there will always be a path to success for the ambitious artist who perseveres.


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