The Impacts of the GlasStation on the Town of Farmville

In 2017 East Carolina University was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks: Research grant to investigate the social and economic impacts of the The GlasStation on the town of Farmville, North Carolina.

The research team included David Griffith, Christine Avenarius, K.C. Kuang, Michael Crane, Megan Millea, Jazmine High, Nick Ellis, and Kate Bukoski. Thank you to East Carolina University, the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and the Division of Research, Economic Development, and Engagement for their patience and contributions to this project.

You may download the full report here.


This research demonstrated that the combination of anthropology and economics to evaluate the impact of a creative placemaking project on a rural community can yield meaningful results. When combined, the disparate sets of data tell the story of a community whose revitalization was impacted by, but not solely reliant on the presence of a university glass blowing facility. While the GlasStation made an economic impact on the town of Farmville, perhaps the most important reason for the town’s arts revitalization is that this focus is authentic to the history and culture of the community.

One of the take-away lessons from this project is the concept of authenticity. Farmville residents view its recent arts focus as a revitalization of an historic tradition, which is likely a significant reason why the community has embraced this direction. The sense that the arts are intrinsic to the history and fabric of the town, and authentic to its identity has, perhaps, spurred the adoption of this approach to rethinking the town’s character. Viewed through this lens, the arts are not an innovation but a restoration and a connection to the town’s history. In other words, this creative placemaking endeavor has been successful not only because it has a beautiful new glass blowing facility, but because the arts and an arts-focused economy feel true and authentic to the community. The community’s positive perception of the GlasStation and its contributions to the town’s revitalization is the strongest indicator of the aspect.

One of the goals for this project was to evaluate the feasibility of the initial research design as applied in a rural context. In retrospect, one of the strengths of the research design was the parallel mixed-methods design and the combination of anthropological and economic approaches assessing the impacts of the GlasStation as creative placemaking. However, the planned sample sizes were significantly optimistic given the rural context of Farmville. If this study were replicated, smaller sample sizes for assessing the social impact are both realistic and feasible. However, the small sample sizes on the economic side pose limitations for generalizing findings — especially as secondary indicators of GlasStation’s success. In replicating the study, a research design utilizing one—or many—control locations to compare social media data scrapes and findings would be an interesting approach. Further, other online data sources such as Google, Trip Advisor, and  Facebook would add additional data points and create a more robust assessment of quality of life indicators.