Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange

Together, we are growing relationships across divides to build a more collaborative and connected Commonwealth.

RUX members participating in a story circle at the University of Kentucky Art Museum during the Lexington Community Intensive, 2017. Photo by Tim Morton.


The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) is helping Kentuckians discover their common identity, history and culture. Now in its fifth year, this partnership between Art of the Rural and Appalshop brings a 75-member cohort together over three weekends each summer. During these weekend-long RUX Community Intensives, RUX members get to know one another as friends and collaborators, and then get down to business – working in pairs, groups or as a body – sharing our talents and skills, working on the challenges facing our Commonwealth, and building a better future for all of us. These collaborations are central to achieving the RUX vision: a future in which Kentuckians value each other, create common ground, and understand our interdependence.

Leaders from the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange present on the model at the national Rural Arts and Culture Summit in Minnesota, 2017.

RUX develops member’s professional skills and leadership potential while exploring all that Kentucky has to offer, so that folks begin working together while sharing home cooked meals, hiking our state’s mountains and deltas, building campfires, or square dancing together. RUX changes the context of professional collaboration to help members deepen bonds, inspire stronger accountability, and create the conditions for creativity. The result is a diverse network of leaders with the social capital and the capacity to create positive change. Activating that network is the ultimate goal of our time together.

RUX at work during the Western Kentucky Community Intensive at Land Between the Lakes, 2016.

Our alumni testify that RUX helped them develop meaningful relationships across the state, learn about other Kentucky communities, lend their own expertise, and create an invaluable network. They also say it’s fun and rewarding – personally and professionally.

Kentucky RUX has served 200 Kentuckians from 42 counties since the program’s founding in 2014, and will have been hosted in every region of the state by the end of 2018.

RUX is supported by the Rural Policy Research Institute, regional host partners, and dozens of Kentucky businesses. Current RUX host partners include the Kentucky Folklife Program in Bowling Green, Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, and BLDG in Covington. Past host communities include Harlan (2016-2017), Lexington (2016-2017), Louisville (2014-15), Paducah (2015-16), and Whitesburg (2014-15).

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange documentary video created by Tyler McDaniel


To discover more about the Kentucky RUX, visit

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.

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.