Join the Digital Exchange Conversation April 27


Join community organizers from Minnesota, Missouri, and Tennessee for this Digital Exchange webinar focused on the power of stories to bring people together in community. You’ll hear from the organizer of a national festival, the founder of a regional museum, and a local writer and media artist about their experiences lifting up diverse narratives to contribute to their community’s sense of place. Cheryal Lee Hills joins the conversation as a regional development leader using storytelling as an intentional practice for community development.

Lauren K Carlson is a poet and media producer residing in Dawson, Minnesota. Her poems have recently appeared in or will appear in Blue Heron Review, Heron Tree, The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, The Windhover, and Fiolet&Wing: a fabulist anthology. She is the creator and producer of “Poems from the Field” a web series distributed by Pioneer Public Television which uses poetry to explore with richness and depth the creative and spiritual lives of rural Minnesotans. More at

Faye Dant is the Executive Director of Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center in Hannibal, Missouri. A fifth-generation African American Hannibalian and descendant of Missouri slave, James Walker. She grew up here in Douglasville and attended local schools including segregated Douglass School, Hannibal High School, and Hannibal LaGrange College. Her life experiences in the era of segregation, integration, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement lead to the creation of Jim’s Journey. She received a B.A. from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She has worked for more than thirty years in Human Resources and is married to Hannibal native Joel Dant; together they have three adult children. Some of her board obligations include the Missouri Humanities Council, the Marion County Historical Society, the Grants Panel for the Missouri Folk Arts Council and the NEA, Our Town Grants Panel.

Cheryal Lee Hills is the Executive Director of the Region Five Development Commission (R5DC), A ffiliate 501c3 North Central Economic Development Association. With over 25 years of experience in community and economic development, Cheryal currently provides oversight of over three million dollars in project, levy and grant annual income. She oversees a high performing sta ff of six who deliver a range of professional planning and project management services. She covers a wide array of domains including economic/community development, business lending and transportation just to name a few. Cheryal serves on several local, state and national boards. Cheryal has the valuable ability to welcome and gather diverse strengths to meet collective goals. She states that on issues such as local foods, renewable energy, and broadband to the rural last mile, she is deeply committed to rural people. As she truly enjoys her job and considers work one of her hobbies. Outside of this domain, Cheryal has a very large garden the Minnesota woods from which she enjoys canning and drying different foods.

Kiran Singh Sirah is President of the International Storytelling Center, producers of the world acclaimed National Storytelling Festival, based in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Kiran has established a number of award-winning arts, cultural and human rights programs in the UK. After 9/11 he developed programs at National Museums Scotland, and created a number of peace and con flict resolution initiatives exploring issues of religious, ethnic, and sectarian con flicts in Scotland and Northern Ireland. He went on to lead the Helen Keller International Arts award, establishing disability arts part of Glasgow’s Creative UNESCO City of Music. In 2011 Kiran embarked on a Rotary Peace Fellowship, focusing on focusing on the folklore of “home”. Working across the arts, cultural and peacebuilding and the international development community he emphasizes his interest in “the power of human creativity, arts, storytelling and social justice, and the notion of a truly multicultural society.” In 2012, Kiran was invited to give a key note address at the RI- United Nations Day at the UN headquarters, entitled Telling Stories That Matter- A project that encourages the use of arts, culture and diverse storytelling within the international peace building community.

Roughly every three weeks, these Digital Exchanges offer an opportunity for folks to come together and engage with leaders working across the dynamic range of fi elds that compose the foundation of rural creative placemaking. Each of these one hour Digital Exchanges will feature 2-4 voices from across the country, sharing specif c themes, challenges, and opportunities we collectively encounter in this work.

Learn more at

Comments are closed.