Read about Joshua Hofer (MAAA ’14)!

josh hofer

Joshua Hofer (MAAA ’14)

Congratulations to Joshua Hofer (MAAA ’14), who has recently received an award and continuing PR for the work he is doing in the creative economy in the Northern Plains!!

OTA, a group that is catalyzing creative networks in South DakOTA, North DakOTA, and MinnesOTA regions, has named Hofer an OTA Builder for 2016. The organization describes OTA Builders as “20 diverse voices from the OTA region – South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota – who are preparing to take a personal or professional leap that will have direct benefit to their community and the broader region. They are architects, photographers, entrepreneurs, coffee roasters, nonprofit founders, educators, artists, retailers, community activists, creatives and many, many other fantastic things!” The OTA Builders program is funded through the Bush Foundation. Read more about the program here.

Hofer has received this honor due to his work building creative infrastructure/community in his small town in South Dakota. Read a full interview done with him, and listen to a radio story about the OTA Builders program !

Below is an excerpt from the interview with Hofer:

“Name: Joshua Hofer 
City/Town: Freeman, South Dakota 
Who is your community? 
My community is the rural, the people of the Freeman, South Dakota, area, my home area that I have returned to after around 6 years out of the region, and those that cleave to the same values I do in this world. I am a peacemaker, an artist, a connector, and an instrument for social change.
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
I spend the first eight hours of my day filling the role of Grants Coordinator for the Development Department of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Washington Pavilion is a 501(c)3 organization that is one of the only facilities in the world to unite the sciences, arts, and education under one roof. 
When I’m finished there, I spend the rest of my waking effort and time working on a project that I co-founded in 2014 around a proposal for common brand and idea creation in Freeman, focused on the arts and agriculture. In 2014, we secured a $150,000 OurTown Grant for the hub of our venture that we call the Freeman Arts/Earth Center. After some necessary administrative delay in 2015, we are back up and building toward solutions for the future we believe we have in sight. 
I’m tired, but I embrace the challenge.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
Rural decay and dwindling cultural and economic vitality. We just emerged from one of four “boom times” in agriculture in America in the past 100 years, taking place in the 1910s, 1940s, 1970s, and the last one spanning 5-7 years. Ask a farmer if that felt like a “boom time.” The situation was not good even then, and it just got a lot worse.
Young people are not returning to rural environments. I know I have seen statistics saying otherwise, but it’s not true in rural South Dakota. If rural towns are lucky enough to have just stagnated, the outlying rural populations have almost certainly dwindled. A way of life is being decimated by policy, efficiency and basic economics. Bottom line, it takes fewer people to work less land than it did in decades previous, and without economic solutions and innovative thinkers leading the way, the rural as we know it will die.
We propose a scene-change. We seek nothing less than economic solutions for an environment with the deck, public policy, and popular culture stacked against us.” (

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