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by Emily Smith - August 30, 2019
For Rev. Arthur Hunt, a passion to serve others drives every task, every conversation,
and every pursuit. He can’t help it, it’s in his blood.
Now, a USDA technical assistance grant under the Rural Economic Development Innovation initiative is helping him achieve his desire to serve others.
A native Arkansan, Hunt grew up in Dumas where his family founded and ran the West
Dumas Community Life Center — a valuable place where community members frequently
gathered, met, played, and celebrated.
Hunt attended the University of Arkansas where he developed a passion for music and
the music industry. After graduation, this passion landed him Memphis, Atlanta, and
cities throughout California where he worked in marketing for both radio and television.
These transformative experiences opened up his eyes to the creative economy — a type
of economy rooted in the belief that people’s creativity and artistic expression adds
value to ideas, products, and experiences. Hunt grew so enthralled with the creative
economy that he developed his own entertainment company and headed back to Dumas to implement a version of the creative economy in his hometown.
Upon his return, Hunt partnered with Breakthrough Solutions and Dr. Mark Peterson,
Professor of Community and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas System
Division of Agriculture to imagine what the creative economy could look like in Dumas.
When Peterson learned about the USDA REDI grants, he knew Hunt’s vision would be a
perfect fit. He shared the grant application information with Hunt.
“Rural communities in Arkansas are facing challenges and require proactive and dynamic
leaders to address these challenges. Rev. Arthur Hunt is this leader and I knew the
REDI grant would take his work to the next level,” said Peterson.
On June 6, The West Dumas Community Life and Legacy Center, which Hunt rebranded as
The Legacy Center, was among 47 rural recipients granted the REDI grant. This funding
provides communities technical assistance to build their vision through partnering
with a rural development organization that specializes in strategic planning. The
Legacy Center will be paired with Communities Unlimited, a community development organization which will support initiatives in southern
“The REDI grant has catapulted us to a national level and given us opportunity to
perform and present our creative economy model on a national platform,” Hunt said.
“This is not only good for Dumas but for the nation,” Hunt said.
Hunt not only sees this center as the place where he can bring the creative economy
to Dumas but also as a chance to give back and further build upon his family’s legacy.
“A strong renovation, rebuild, and transformation work is now underway,” he said.
The campus sits on five acres and has a park and recreation area that features a full
court basketball arena, playground equipment and plenty of room for family, school,
and church reunions festivals and more.
This vibrant hub will be equipped with recording studios, internet, radio and television.
Through programing called Digital Arts and Technology Center Network (DAT-C), Hunt
aims to reach people in Dumas and beyond.
“The Digital Arts and Technology Center Network aims to educate young people through
emphasizing the creative economy,” Hunt said.
“The core mission is to provide and educate to students who are primarily low income
housing and instill in them the necessary tools to be successful business executives
or entrepreneurs inside the creative economy workforce,” he said.
With this emphasis on e-connectivity, Hunt’s programing not only aims to offer a physical
space for students to connect — spaces like The Legacy Center — but also hopes to
reach students in over 20 counties through virtual learning classrooms.
The Legacy Center was the only Arkansas recipient of this national program.
“Investing in connectivity in rural Arkansas is necessary to help individuals, businesses
and communities meet the demands of the 21st century. I’m pleased that the West Dumas
Community Family Life Center is taking advantage of available resources to bridge
the digital divide that exists in our rural communities,” U.S. Senator John Boozman
said about the grant.
For Hunt, his passion knows no bounds.
“The only option for true transformation is to bring systems of economic development,
art and technology networks, creative programs, housing and retail venues that ignite
the population to see their worth,” Hunt said.