Reflections on #kyrux2017: Lexington

By Nicole Musgrave

On June 23rd, roughly 70 people from all across Kentucky gathered in Lexington for the first community intensive of the 2017 Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX).  As a first-year RUX member and a relative newcomer to Kentucky, I was eager to spend the weekend getting to know a new city and a new group of people.  I was also self-conscious about living in Kentucky for less than a year and not yet developing an identity as a Kentuckian.  I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the conversation.

Over the course of the weekend, I developed a better understanding of Kentucky as I listened to my fellow RUX members tell stories about their connections to this place that we share.  Hearing how other people identify with their home gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I view my own relationship to Kentucky.

I also gained a greater familiarity with Lexington.  I had the chance to hang out in a variety of bars, breweries, and arcades, experiencing Lexington nightlife while getting to know RUX members.  I ate at a number of restaurants – such as Sav’s Grill and Third Street Stuff – that I probably wouldn’t have made my way to had I just ventured to Lexington on my own.  I got to hang out at the Justice House, a community space near downtown that’s the home of RUX members Christian and Tanya Torp.

I also learned about different aspects of Lexington’s history and landscape, such as the Davis Bottom neighborhood, a racially diverse but economically depressed area near downtown that recently became a community land trust and has been rebuilt as Davis Park.  I learned how Lexington’s horse country heritage is embodied in the urban areas of the city – by street names such as Race Street and Oliver Lewis Way – and in the rural areas outside the city – by the surrounding farms with rock fences and grazing horses.  I also had the chance to hike around McConnell Springs where I realized that the karst landscape that’s familiar to me as a resident of South Central Kentucky also extends up to Lexington. (I also learned the word ‘karst’ for that matter).

Since this first weekend in Lexington, my identity as a Kentuckian has strengthened.  I feel more connected and anchored to this place, and can now say that I have friends all over the Commonwealth.  I have a better understanding of how the different regions of Kentucky are perceived and how they’re experienced (and how at times there’s a discrepancy between the two).  I know a bit more about the state’s challenges and points of pride.  And I also had fun!  I heard my fellow RUX member Tim Morton describe RUX as a “fieldtrip for adults,” and it’s kind of like that.  Without having to do any of my own planning or research, I was able to have an exciting and diverse introduction to Lexington.

Through the connections I made over the weekend, I was able to visit Lexington again a few weeks later to interview people who were associated with some of the spaces that we spent time in during the RUX weekend.  I visited with Pat Gerhard, owner of Third Street Stuff; Kenneth Demus, a resident of the Davis Park neighborhood who made the transition from Davis Bottom; Ashley C. Smith, formerly with the Lyric Theatre; and I was able to drop in on a Heinz Breakfast hosted by the Torps at the Justice House.  To learn more, click on the photo essays below.

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Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange featured in Wall Street Journal

“What we have found is that it’s really difficult to hate someone you’ve had deep, meaningful, transformative experiences with—and whose community you’ve really come to value because you’ve felt welcome and appreciated there.” –Savannah Barrett, Director of Programs at Art of the Rural and Co-founder of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange is featured in The Wall Street Journal. We’re excited to share our work with the world and to contribute positive stories about Kentucky and rural America. We’re grateful that The Art Of The Rural, Appalshop, and the RUPRI Rural Policy Research Institute, and the #KYRUX2017 Steering Committee, host partners, and network support this work every day.

Kentucky RUX was also featured in US News and World Report, a Louisville Public Media interview, the Kentucky New Era, and the Bowling Green Amplifier.

Read the Wall Street Journal Article: America, Meet America: Getting Past our Toxic Partisanship

Listen to the WFPL/Louisville Public Media Interview: Louisville, Not Kentucky: Dissecting the State’s Urban-Rural Divide

Read the US News and World Report article, syndicated from Kentucky New Era: Kentucky Man Taking Part in Rural-Urban Exchange

Read the Bowling Green Amplifier article: WKU’s Kentucky Folklife Program to host the 2017 Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange cohort in Bowling Green

Delta Regional Authority Offers Funding and Technical Assistance to Strengthen Local Economies through Arts and Culture

imgresCreative Placemaking Initiative Supports Community Development

MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA), in partnership with leading national arts and government organizations, today announced the Delta Creative Placemaking Initiative to strengthen the Delta economy and improve the quality of life for the region’s 10 million residents. DRA will contribute nearly $460,000 to stimulate economic and community development efforts in local communities through the Delta’s arts and culture sectors.“This pilot program recognizes the importance of incorporating the arts and culture sectors into economic and community development efforts to enhance the quality of place and quality of life in Delta communities,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill. “At DRA, we understand that we must support our region’s cultural and creative economies to assure the rural way of life will continue as we build more entrepreneurial and inclusive communities. That is why we are partnering with national experts in the field who can lend their experience to help us promote the arts and culture that make the Delta region one of the most iconic places in the world.”

Partners included in the effort are: ArtPlace America, the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Development Organizations, Springboard for the Arts, Art of the Rural, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, among others.

“The Delta region has a strong and deep tradition of artists working alongside their neighbors to shape their communities’ social, physical, and economic futures,” said Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America.  “It is thrilling that the Delta Regional Authority will now make investments through the Delta Creative Placemaking Initiative in recognition of this history.”

To better align arts and cultural activities within existing economic and community development strategies, DRA and its partners will collaborate with municipalities, counties and parishes, local development districts, and other economic development organizations to form cross-sector partnerships with the region’s arts and culture sectors by implementing a series of regional workshops and providing seed investments up to $30,000 per successful applicant.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and cultural make important contributions to the U.S. economy:

  • In 2014, the arts and cultural sectors contributed more than $729 billion or 4.2 percent to the U.S. economy – in fact, arts and culture produced more than some other sectors, such as construction ($619 billion) and utilities ($270 billion);
  • Between 1998 and 2014, the contribution of arts and culture to the nation’s gross domestic product grew by more than 35 percent;
  • Spending on arts and cultural goods and services in 2014 reached $1.1 trillion;
  • Employment increased by 3.8% to support more than 1 million jobs in core arts and cultural production industries.

In Arkansas alone, employment in arts and culture grew 2 percent in 2014, accounting for about 35,000 jobs in the state and about 3 percent of statewide employment.

To advance these efforts, DRA will implement six regional workshops in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi this summer. The workshops are designed to more deeply inform local elected officials, local development districts, economic development staff and leadership, and other non-arts sector decision-makers about the advantages of supporting the creative and cultural economies and how to implement these efforts through regional collaboration and strategic planning.

DRA’s Creative Placemaking Regional Workshops will take place in June and July 2017 in the following locations:

  • June 26-27: Paducah, KY
  • June 29-30: Wilson, AR
  • July 6-7: Greenville, MS
  • July 10-11: Vicksburg, MS
  • July 13-14: Tuskegee, AL
  • July 17-18: Arnaudville, LA

Local government entities, in partnership with at least one non-profit organization, can submit applications for Delta Creative Placemaking seed investments of up to $30,000 beginning today. In addition to the seed investment, successful applicants will also receive up to 50 hours of coaching, mentoring and technical assistance to advance creative placemaking efforts in their communities.

For funding details, visit:

About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. To date, the DRA’s SEDAP investments, together with its state and local partners, have leveraged federal resources into nearly $3.5 billion in public and private investment into local small business owners, entrepreneurs, workforce improvement, and infrastructure development projects. DRA investments have helped to create and retain more than 37,000 jobs, train more than 7,300 workers for 21st Century jobs, and deliver water and sewer improvements to more than 66,000 residents.
Learn more at


Media Contact:
Andrew Moreau