Starting a business is never easy, and starting a “non-traditional” business in a rural area – in this case an online record label – proved especially challenging. The Hosfords had to make numerous trips to Lincoln and Omaha – each over two hours from Albion -- to find information about starting and running a small business.
Though too late by then to help the Hosfords, in an effort to assist other local entrepreneurs the Hosfords partnered with Paul’s mother Mari who was then the local librarian, then city administrator Layne Groseth, the Albion Economic Development Corporation and Albion’s natural gas provider to create a first-of-its-kind Small Business section at the local library. This group contacted larger libraries and college business teachers to compile a list of recommended books and magazines. The gas company donated a computer with business plan software, and the PrairieLand RC&D’s director, Al Mittan, brought a pickup full of bookcases up from Lincoln.
Once the Small Business section was set up, the Albion Education Foundation paid for annual business magazine subscriptions.
This was an important step into increasing community involvement. In 2004 Paul began writing a column for Albion’s weekly newspaper and guest editorials for larger papers. This writing provided a great way to share ideas and start conversations – especially about rural development.
In 2005 the Hosfords agreed to take over the Albion Area Arts Council, an organization which presents concerts, plays and speakers as well as arranging educational arts and humanities residencies in area schools. This has given them a wonderful opportunity to support the “cultural infrastructure” of this area, an area with no other local access to the fine arts.
Managing the Arts Council has allowed the Hosfords to introduce thousands of school students to a wide array of artists, speakers and musical styles. The Hosfords are proud to have instituted an annual Fine Arts scholarship to high school seniors in the nine communities the Arts Council serves. It’s also given them another way to connect (and occasionally perform) with an array of excellent performers, presenters and others who support and promote the arts, such as here when Paul and Thomas joined The Lightning Bugs in concert.
The importance of bringing the arts and humanities to young people was highlighted when, as part of a state-wide survey of rural students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their communities, local middle school students named the Arts Council as this area’s leading strength. Over the years many artists have worked with students, including Acoustic Eidolon (below) and percussionist Michael Fitzsimmons who taught students in four area schools how to build and play their own drums.
Two years after taking over the Arts Council Paul was asked to serve on the board of the Boone County Historical Society. This afforded him an opportunity to help strengthen this area’s “sense of place” – a vital element in building sustainable communities. The Historical Society operates a museum, presents events, and hosts regular visits by school groups and senior citizens.
The Hosfords also host school groups at their farm, a farm which has been in their family since the pioneers first settled this area. They’ve taken legal steps to preserve both the unbroken prairie and the extensive Native American remains on their property and enjoy introducing students (and adults through speaking engagements) to this area’s rich Native history. The Nebraska State Historical Society has been very supportive of their efforts and has loaned them over 50 Native American artifacts to use in educational activities. Archaeologists from this organization have even taught the Hosfords how to conduct digs, digs that local young people have been able to participate in.
Currently the Hosfords are working with the Prairie Plains Resource Institute to re-establish native plants and grasses at their farm so students can gain a better understanding of what this area used to be like. Their hope is that by nurturing a bond to this land and its history, young people will consider returning here when they start their own families someday.
The Hosfords’ work with students, especially through the Arts Council, dovetails nicely with something Paul has been doing since the early 1980s -- demonstrating string instruments in area schools, especially when there were still several one- and two- teacher country schools in this area (Lori taught country school in Boone County for 17 years). Many young people around the Albion are have never seen a stringed instrument other than a guitar, and they enjoy learning about a variety of other instruments.
With the start of Painted Heart the Hosfords have had opportunities to discuss business opportunities with students as well. During these visits the Hosfords have emphasized that computer technology and the Internet are making it possible to do things in rural areas that had never been dreamed of before. It’s the Hosfords’ belief that young people should not only be able to go other places after college, they should have the option of coming back home too, and they are doing what they can to show young people this.
Their work in rural development has led the Hosfords to many interesting places, including a partnership with several innovative “eco-architects” and teachers, including acclaimed German architect/educator Martin Despang, who for a time was teaching at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Professor Despang immediately embraced the opportunity to incorporate sustainable building concepts into rural revitalization efforts, assigning his students to get to know this area and design buildings they felt would help it grow. The vast majority of the students’ designs were for buildings that would, like the arts, draw people together since interaction is what makes communities strong.
The Hosfords’ work with students not only led to the development of many sustainable building concepts, it helped acquaint the student architects with rural areas. In a book of eco-friendly school designs developed for Albion, Martin’s students at the University of Arizona (the Hosfords had worked with them via email and Skype) said in the introduction,
“As a class we would like to thank Paul and Lori Hosford for taking the time to educate us on the beauty of rural communities and all that they have to offer. It was a great pleasure working with both of you…”
Through their collaborations Professor Despang and the Hosfords have developed an approach to rural development they term “re-pioneering. “ Re-pioneering, which has gained attention across the U. S and Canada, including through an article in the magazine The Furrow, encourages rural people to combine modern resources with the vision and hard work of the original pioneers in order to more fully participate in today’s global economy. For as Professor Despang puts it – and the Hosfords have learned through Painted Heart – we live in a “glocal” world – a world that, thanks to technology, is both global and local at the same time.
Painted Heart Music is a good example of re-pioneering, and though the Hosford’s involvement in such a broad range of activities has taken time away from music (in addition to everything just listed Paul also served on Nebraska’s governmental ethics commission from 2007 to 2015), they hope the work they’ve done on the Painted Heart CDs Yesterdays – and especially on Generations – work that links the past to the present and the future – will encourage others to draw upon their own legacies as they pursue their dreams for tomorrow.
To mark Paul Hosford's 30th anniversary in the music business, Painted Heart has released an album with tracks from 15 jazz, classical, original and Christmas albums Hosford has produced through the years.
To celebrate his induction to The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame, Pablo FreeSpirit assembled tracks by an eclectic group of Nebraska guitarists, singers & songwriters who compose, produce and perform an assortment of tasteful compositions in a variety of styles.
Jazz Guitar Central features a variety of styles and instrumentation by guitarists Dave Askren, Michael Coppola, Rick Hanna, Steve Herberman, Paul Hosford, Rich Hughes, Laurent Madelgi, E. Shawn Qaissaunee & Richard Boukas.