Arts & Culture / Business / Civic Engagement / Design




designs opportunity in rural America by increasing economic mobility and decreasing population loss.


The concept of Thrive dates to 2007, followed by a formal launch in 2009. Since then, Thrive has been an energetic leader within Delta regional development.

Located on Cherry Street in Helena, Arkansas, Thrive began by offering affordable strategic planning and marketing services to local small businesses and non-profits. These efforts were then stabilized in 2010 through the creation of the Helena Entrepreneur Center (now the Helena Start-Up Program), a small business incubator that provides business plan classes and one-on-one consulting as well as branding and design services. In 2011, Thrive created the monthly downtown celebration Helena Second Saturdays (now the Cherry Street Fair) to provide a marketplace for local merchants, artisans, and musicians—leveraging the cultural assets of the region towards downtown investment and rejuvenation of community pride. In 2015, Thrive was awarded a very competitive National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town grant which has made it possible to launch the Thrive Arts, Design Mentorship Residency program which works within the Helena-West Helena public school system to provide industry experience to students within an existing STEM framework.

Spud’s Thoughts:

I love uncovering new hubs of innovation around the country – and this is easily one of my favorites that I’ve stumbled across lately. The org began when two designers decided to pick up and move their practice from NYC to Helena, Arkansas. The cost of living was much cheaper so they were able to lower the price they charged for work. They also ended up having lots more time which they were able to invest in other programs that they deeply cared about – such as supporting local economic development, placemaking, and launching other startups. I think this is one of my favorite examples of how you don’t need to follow the traditional model for economic development and how small towns are paving the way for new, creative approaches. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend you swing by and learn from what they are doing.