Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange announces 2017 program!

RUX 2016 Design SMALL

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) has convened more than 130 Kentuckians from 24 counties. The Kentucky RUX network aligns people working across the arts, agriculture, community health and small business to work together towards the transformation of Kentucky’s economies, communities and sense of self.

The Kentucky RUX network will showcase a new Kentucky community this year, the sixth to participate. The Kentucky RUX network welcomes the communities of Bowling Green and the surrounding region as a host community, and the Kentucky Folklife Program at Western Kentucky University as a regional partner. The Kentucky Folklife Program is housed in the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at Western Kentucky University.

Photo credit Izzy Broomfield.

The mission of the Kentucky RUX is to grow relationships across divides to build a more collaborative and connected Commonwealth. Founded in 2014 by Art of the Rural and Appalshop, and supported by the Rural Policy Research Institute and several Kentucky businesses, the Kentucky RUX has collaborated with 52 distinct partners from every corner of the Commonwealth. Our 2016 cohort of 75 participants showcases the Commonwealth’s diversity: more than 75 percent of RUX leaders are under 40, and 25 percent are people of color. Of these, 67 people completed the rigorous program, at a rate of 90 percent.

Kentucky RUX programming is focused on people, places, and partnerships. In each weekend-long Community Intensive, participants enjoy a local experience of the host community, explore our common identity and culture, and contribute to place-based strategies to address our shared social and economic future.  These exchange labs and their resulting collaborations are central to achieving the RUX vision: a future in which Kentuckians value each other, create common ground, and understand our interdependence.

Members from across the state will gather in Lexington June 23-25, in Bowling Green July 28-30, and in Harlan County Sept. 29-Oct. 1 for the Kentucky RUX program’s fourth year.  Past host communities include Louisville (2014-15), Paducah (2015-16), and Whitesburg (2014-15).

Photo credit Sarah Schmitt.

Applications are available and are due by April 28, 2017. Applicants from South Central Kentucky and the Western Kentucky Coalfields will receive priority consideration. To learn more and apply, visit: www.kyrux.org.

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange Steering Committee Members: Alexia Ault – Higher Ground at Southeast Community and Technical College (Harlan), Ada Smith – Appalshop (Whitesburg), Savannah Barrett – Art of the Rural (Louisville), Shane Barton – UK Appalachian Center (Lexington), Ivy Brashear – MACED (Berea), Landee Bryant Greene – Maiden Alley Cinema (Paducah), Nick Covault – Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts (Louisville), Stefani Dahl – Norton Healthcare (Louisville), Mark Kidd – Handbarrow (Whitesburg), Josh May (Whitesburg), Cheyenne Mize – STRIVE (Louisville), Sarah Schmitt – Kentucky Arts Council (Frankfort), Gerry Seavo James – The Explore Kentucky Initiative (Frankfort), Ashley Smith – The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center (Lexington), Tanya Torp – Step By Step Lexington, Richard Young – Community Development Consultant (Lexington).

2017 Kentucky RUX Regional Host Partners: The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington, The Kentucky Folklife Program in Bowling Green, and Higher Ground at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan.

About Appalshop: Appalshop is a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center in the heart of Appalachia producing original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books. Their education and training programs support communities’ efforts to solve their own problems in a just and equitable way. Each year, Appalshop productions and services reach several million people nationally and internationally. http://appalshop.org/

About Art of the Rural: Art of the Rural is a collaborative organization with a mission to help build the field of the rural arts and shape new narratives on rural culture and community. We work online and on the ground through interdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships to advance engaged collaboration and policy that transcends imposed boundaries and articulates the shared reality of rural and urban America. http://artoftherural.org/




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 www.laurenkcarlson.com.

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 www.ruralgeneration.org/digital-exchange




Statement on Proposed Funding Cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts

Art of the Rural strongly supports the continued funding of the National Endowment for the Arts — for its economic and cultural impact, and for the way it helps rural communities take advantage of local opportunities and collectively vision the future of their places.
The front porch of a cabin at Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky; Photo: Savannah Barrett

Art of the Rural strongly supports the continued funding of the National Endowment for the Arts — for its economic and cultural impact, and for the way it helps rural communities take advantage of local opportunities and collectively vision the future of their places.

To take stock of the contributions of the NEA in this moment when its funding is in jeopardy, we might begin by celebrating the economic impact of the NEA’s investment in our communities and share the success of this work far beyond the arts and culture field. Without question, we can find ample and undeniable evidence of the Endowment’s ability to serve as a lightning rod for matching and amplifying investments on the local and regional level across all fifty states. The data exists and, indeed, it is already influencing community and economic development decisions across the country.

Similarly, it is hard to imagine our cultural landscape without the presence of the NEA, which conducts vital research, builds cross-sector partnerships with other governmental entities, supports individual artists, inspires creative placemaking, and celebrates vernacular culture through its Folk Arts program and its Heritage Fellowships. Yet, dwelling for a moment even on the impact of NEA’s support of folk arts opens up a crucial point of difference that may be left out of many defenses of the NEA: the rural context.

Rural America comprises roughly 75% of US land, and 15% of its people, yet only receives (optimistically) 6% of American philanthropy’s support each year. This inequity frames the inconsequential place rural communities hold in the priorities of so many of our nation’s foundations. In this absence of responsibility, the National Endowment for the Arts has provided the kind of leadership and program design that fairly funds rural projects and includes these voices in national conversations. Defunding the NEA would disadvantage the everyday life of rural Americans.

In its support of artists, culture bearers, and community-based projects, the NEA has provided a clear model for how we must address the confluence of economic and cultural challenges facing our rural regions. As expressed so frequently throughout the course of our NEA-funded Next Generation initiative with the Rural Policy Research Institute, rural places are facing three consistent challenges: maintaining vital economic opportunities, remaining exciting and inclusive places for the next generation of its citizens, and providing an environment that encourages civic and social participation across all parts of the community. The NEA not only understand this, but has been crucial in catalyzing partnerships with other governmental, private sector, and philanthropic entities towards those ends.

The transition after a national election should provide an opportunity to reassess the outcomes of our nation’s investments. We must not lose sight of the results of the economic and cultural investments the NEA has made in rural people and rural communities, and the ways in which these programs have transformed the potential for folks to imagine, and act upon, their future.