Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America

The Regional Network in Kentucky supports the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange; above: Alex Udis, a square dance caller and community organizer from Louisville, joins Kim Owsley, a Native American artist and healer from Hindman, to take in the view from Pine Mountain during a Rural-Urban Exchange. Photo Credit: Savannah Barrett

To learn more about Next Generation, visit

Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America, engages artists, organizations and communities across public, private and philanthropic sectors to advance collaboration, innovative strategies, and “Next Generation” leadership in rural creative placemaking. In 2015, Next Generation was selected as one of five national “knowledge building” projects supported by an Our Town award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Through the expertise and networks of the Rural Policy Research Institute and Art of the Rural and the program’s regional and national partners, Next Generation operates through three interlinked activities:

Regional Networks that spark exchange, collaboration, and dissemination of best practices; a Digital Learning Commons that shares this knowledge and contributes further perspectives from across the rural arts and culture field; and a Rural Creative Placemaking Summit that merges the activities of the Networks and Commons and expands the rural placemaking network.

“Art of the Rural: Creating Thriving Places Beyond the City” was a panel discussion hosted by the Wormfarm Institute as the final event of Fermentation Fest 2014–A Live Culture Convergence. Panelists included Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America; Matthew Fluharty, Art of the Rural; Charles Fluharty, Rural Policy Research Institute; Sarah Lloyd, Wisconsin Farmers Union; and Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development.

Regional Networks

Regional Networks self-define their objectives, enhance linkages across the community and economic development, arts, and policy communities, and create cross-sector projects that address the needs and opportunities of their shared regions. The 2015-2016 cohort of Regional Networks were organized in Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota. In each, Next Generation facilitated three integrated strategies for rural advancement:

1 – A Regional Network Working Group that advanced institutional, public and private support for Regional Networks while informing policy and practice across the region

2 – Collaborative Projects designed with Next Generation leadership to enhance cross-sector networks and articulate a common mission for their shared region
3 – Regional Convenings
that facilitated the convergence of these cross-sector networks. The first round of these gatherings occured in summer of 2016.

Rural Creative Placemaking Summit

The Rural Creative Placemaking Summit was designed to enhance cross-sector collaboration, elevate intercultural perspectives within the field, and build policy presence for deeper consideration of rural creative placemaking. Held October 12-14, 2016 at the University of Iowa, this gathering shared reflections from Regional Network members, connected lessons across geographies, and built deeper cross-sector collaborations. Together, we presented a sustained argument for the centrality of rural creative placemaking – as a field, and as a strategy for development and community sustainability.


Knowledge Building and Learning Commons

To assert the essential role of arts and cultural organizations in economic and community development, the metrics built by Next Generation inform and validate program and policy exemplars as an essential component of knowledge building in this field. Through the production and release of case studies, policy briefs, publications, videos and podcasts, this digital Learning Commons offers an inclusive platform for features, commentary, and best practices from across the rural arts and culture field. The Learning Commons is developed by Arts and Ideas, whose design combines social giving, civic engagement, and into a single platform. To visit the Learning Commons, visit:

Charles Fluharty (Rural Policy Research Institute) and Savannah Barrett (Art of the Rural) present their work with the Next Generation Initiative regarding creative urban + rural alliances for this CommunityMatters® and Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™ event.

Next Generation Digital Exchange Webinars

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 ­fields that compose the foundation of rural creative placemaking. Each of these one hour Digital Exchanges feature 2-4 voices from across the country, sharing speci­fic themes, challenges, and opportunities we collectively encounter in this work. This Digital Exchange series is made possible through the support of the Rural Policy Research Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts and the McKnight Foundation, and is produced at the Outpost collaborative space in Winona, Minnesota, national headquarters of Art of the Rural. To register for upcoming webinars, view past webinar recordings, or learn more, visit:

AOTR_1_line_2_color_PMSRupri-Logo_finalThe Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI): Established with bipartisan support from members of the United States Senate in 1990, RUPRI is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It is the only national policy institute solely dedicated to the assessment of the rural impacts of public policies and programs.

To learn more about Next Generation, visit