WHO WE ARE
The Art of The Rural staff is comprised of the next generation of rural Americans: those who have stayed, those who have left, and those who have returned.
We recognize that “rural arts and culture” is not the sole province of individuals born and raised in a place census officials deem “non-metropolitan.” All of America has a stake in this work. Art of the Rural operates from an understanding that a great deal of the art, culture, and policy surrounding rural issues emanates from beyond its geography — and we encourage participation with our colleagues both in urban America, as well as in international locales.
We believe that hierarchical thinking often works to the detriment of rural America. Thus, Art of the Rural functions as a decentralized, collaborative organization. Whether working individually, or in consortium with partnering groups across the arts and culture landscape, we operate within a network of cooperation and cross-pollination:
Polly Atwell is the Fiction Project Steward. She is the author of the novel Wild Girls (Scribner 2012). Her short fiction has appeared in journals including Epoch and Alaska Quarterly Review, and in the anthologies Best New American Voices and Best American Mystery Stories. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Cal Poly State University.
Savannah Barrett is the Program Director for Art of the Rural. She was raised in Grayson Springs, Kentucky, and holds a Masters Degree in Arts Management from the University of Oregon with a concentration in community arts. Savannah is a passionate advocate for arts access in geographically and economically isolated places, and has recently published academic research relating to the rural arts programs of the Cooperative Extension Service.
She contributed her enthusiasm to the Kentucky and Oregon arts communities for the past ten years, first in high school as a founder of a local arts agency in her hometown, and most recently as the Education Manager for the Louisville Visual Art Association and the facilitator of the Oregon Folklife Network / Lane Arts Council collaboration to form a Culture and Education Alliance in the Eugene area.
Matthew Fluharty is a visual artist, writer, and field-based researcher living in Winona, Minnesota, a town placed along the Mississippi River. He is the Executive Director of Art of the Rural, a member of M12 Studio, and he serves on the national council of Common Field. Matthew’s poetry and essays have been widely published in the US and abroad and are present within the field-establishing publication A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier (Jam Sam, 2014), as well as in To Make a Public: Temporary Art Review 2011-2016. His essay “Burn the Maps,” considering contemporary rural-based art and cultural practice, was commissioned MNArtists and the Walker Art Center for their convening Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age.
His collaborations with M12 Studio have recently been featured at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Center for Contemporary Art (Santa Fe), and the Iowa State Fair. His multidisciplinary collaboration with Jesse Vogler in the American Bottom region of the Mississippi River was recently the subject of an exhibition at Central Features in Albuquerque and the recipient of a grant from the Mellon Foundation. He is currently working with HereLab to enable community engaged environmental data networks in Winona and along the Mississippi River.
Kenyon Gradert is the American Culture Studies Project Steward. He is a doctoral student in English at Washington University in St. Louis with research interests in religion and philosophy, romanticism, and the Frontier within nineteenth-century American literature. He was raised on a third-generation grain and cattle farm in northwest Iowa where his immediate and extended family continue to live, mostly as mechanics and farmers. Currently, his little brothers and father poke about the blackest dirt in the Midwest and, when crops are in, fly over it, cropdusting in their magnificent, yellow Air Tractors.
Jennifer Joy Jameson is the Folklife Programming Project Steward. She is a Nashville, Tennessee-based folklorist/ethnographer (MA, Western Kentucky; BA, Indiana) and Highlander Center-trained cultural organizer, specializing in the sustainability of folk and traditional arts, and in the utilization of community arts toward progressive social change. She has worked with museums, archives, festivals, and arts and cultural organizations on the federal, state, and local level, and has taught folklife studies and English courses at Middle Tennessee State University and Western Kentucky University.
In 2012 Jennifer founded the Nashville Folk + Free Skool, a grassroots organization dedicated to facilitating accessible arts, cultural and agricultural programming led by and for Nashvillians. Her work is motivated by a practice which prioritizes the holistic and sustained well-being of the expressive communities and individuals with which she partners.
Rachel Reynolds Luster is the Founding Project Steward in Vernacular Arts. She was born and raised in Arkansas and now lives in Couch, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains. She is a folklorist, fiddler, librarian, and community organizer, and her work focuses on addressing the holistic health of her home county through land-based cultural and economic initiatives. Her publications include the co-edited Anthology of Arkansas Folksong, several entries for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, and a biographical sketch of one of her folklore heroes, Mary Celestia Parler, published in both the Overland Review and in An Anthology of Arkansas Women’s Lives.
She facilitates the Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Co-Op and is the Myrtle Librarian at a rural outpost library of the Oregon County Library System. She is currently working on her dissertation, an exploration of the application of principles of ecology and restoration biology to cultural practice and the methodology of cultural workers.