Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange

Exchange Network members release heart-shaped lanterns from Lala Land Studios during the Louisville RUX
Photo Credit: Aron Conaway


The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) is accepting applications for 2016/2017 program, hosted in Paducah, Harlan County, and Lexington. Deadline to submit your application is April 30, 2016. Apply by visiting:

If you cannot access the online application, you may also apply by mail or email. To email your completed PDF application, download this PDF and return to To return your application by mail, print the PDF and mail to: KY RUX c/o Josh May, 91 Madison Ave, Whitesburg, KY 41858. Download the PDF here: KY RUX Application

Launched by partner organizations Art of the Rural & Appalshop in 2014, the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange is a catalyst for collaboration between arts, agriculture, and small business as driving forces in community and economic development across rural and urban Kentucky. In the past two years, the Rural-Urban Exchange network has assembled 75 next generation leaders from every corner of the Commonwealth to connect networks, build new models, and share resources within local communities and across regions. The Exchange is a new approach to creative placemaking that builds a statewide network integrating key community development sectors in partnerships to address our shared social and economic future.

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange documentary video created by Tyler McDaniel

Last year, in partnership with the Kentucky Arts Council and Maiden Alley Cinema, the Exchange connected leaders from the coalfields of Appalachia to the cities of Louisville, Lexington, and Covington, to the river towns of southwestern Kentucky. We have activated network members in 16 counties in Kentucky, brought together over 20 locally-owned businesses to discuss KY’s shared economic future, and facilitated over a dozen statewide collaborations in sectors ranging from small business, to community development, visual arts & agriculture. These networks are committed to advancing projects that not only provide significant economic impact, but cultivate place-based development that improves quality of life for Kentuckians. To date, Kentuckians have collectively invested nearly $160,000 of in-kind contribution.


The first cycle of this project began with exchange between Whitesburg and Louisville, the second expanded to include Paducah, and the long term vision will expand the Exchange’s reach to include all five regions of Kentuckyover the next five years. As the Exchange grows, we’re developing both discipline-specific working groups and a larger constellation network of Exchange participants across the Commonwealth. This network is complemented by the development of a statewide steering committee to support this network’s growth and capacity building. The Rural-Urban Exchange 2016 will convene in Harlan County, Lexington, and Paducah.

RUX at Americana in Louisville. Art making Mapping RuralUrban Connections. Photo by Aron Conaway

Rural-Urban Exchange members map their experiences in the state of Kentucky at the Americana Community Center in Louisville, 2015.
Photo Credit: Aron Conaway

Regional Hosts for the 2016 Rural-Urban Exchange include: From Harlan, Higher Ground and the Southeast Community and Technical College, Pine Mountain Settlement School; From Lexington: Shane Barton (University of Kentucky Appalachian Center), Ivy Brashear (MACED), Tanya Torp (KFTC, the Justice House, Step by Step Lexington), Richard Young (North Limestone Development Corporation); From Paducah: Maiden Alley Cinema.

Juanita performs with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Casper at the Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival’s annual YouthBored Punk Show as a 2015 Rural-Urban Exchange Band-In-Residence
Photo Credit: Kimberly Owsley

Rural-Urban Exchange Mission Statement: Together, we are creating opportunities for Kentuckians to cultivate relationships across divides in order to build a more unified and equitable Commonwealth for all.

Rural-Urban Exchange Vision: We believe that by acknowledging our complex inheritance of historical divides and abundant assets, Kentuckians can work together to transform the present into an inclusive and equitable future.

Imagine a Kentucky where:

  • Kentuckians have a shared sense of place, and can see beyond boundaries between people and places that are imposed by traditional power structures.
  • Kentuckians are more empowered ambassadors of their communities and of Kentucky, and work together creating solutions to the challenges we face.
  • Kentuckians are welcome as neighbors in other communities across the Commonwealth, and are inclusive across geography, ideology, identity, race, class, sector, and other barriers.
  • Kentuckians value themselves, seek common ground, and embrace interdependence.

Thank you to our 2015 Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange sponsors!

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange network is a part of the Kentucky Regional Network within the national Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America” initiative. Through the combined expertise of the Rural Policy Research Institute and Art of the Rural, Next Generation 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.

We invite you to join us in working towards investment in Kentucky’s common ground.

By Aron Conaway. RUX in Paducah at Maiden Alley Cinema

Rural-Urban Exchange members gather outside of Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah.
Photo Credit: Aron Conaway

You can also learn more about the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange on the National Endowment for the Arts’ Community Matters webinar, through this Daily Yonder article, in the Kentucky Arts Council’s Creative Industries Report, and in the April issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

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.


“The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supports the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.”