Rural Generation

 Gratitude to Mary Welcome for Rural Generation branding design.

The Work of Rural Generation

Rural Generation is a coalition facilitated by Art of the Rural and operated through core partnerships with ArtPlace Americathe Center for Rural StrategiesFirst Peoples Fundthe Mississippi Center for Cultural Productionthe National Consortium of Creative Placemaking, the Rural Policy Research InstituteSpringboard for the Arts, and Summit host partners Alternate ROOTS. This initiative is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America and guided by a national Working Group and Executive Committee.

Together, we will host a national Rural Generation Summit in the Mississippi Delta May 22-24 to embody the value, diversity, and nuance of contemporary rural culture and inspire lasting connections to rural people and places.

Beyond this work in 2019, we are committed with our partners to build a cross-sector, rural-focused collective impact intermediary to leverage our social, cultural and natural resources to address sustainability, regional cohesion, and rural quality of life.

2019 Rural Generation Summit

The 2019 Rural Generation Summit is designed as a unique blend of immersive local engagement with our Delta host partners, regional development impact for the host communities, and a distinct rural thought leadership applied to expressing the rural dimensions of equity and social justice in the arts and culture landscape. To achieve this trifecta for the rural field, we are aligning research, practice, and policy towards the cohesion and innovation of the rural creative field.

A Summit of this nature in this cultural moment presents a historic opportunity to consider the practices, projects, institutions, and funding priorities that build equity for communities that have been historically disadvantaged. Given the current social climate in our country, we feel that Rural Generation’s direct engagement with rural communities can embody the value, diversity, and nuance of contemporary rural culture and inspire lasting connections to rural people and places. To join the movement and lend a hand, contact us at

Rural Generation Working Group

Alissa Benoist and Lakota Vogel (Four Bands Community Fund)

Pam Breaux (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies)

Anna Claussen (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

Jackie Clay (Coleman Center for the Arts)

John Davis (Bush Fellow)

Maria De Leon (National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures)

Susan Duplessis (South Carolina Arts Commission)

John Fenn (American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress)

Ruby Lopez Harper (Americans for the Arts)

Carol Harsh (Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Service)

Em Johnson (Blue Sky Center)

Teresa Kittridge (100 Rural Women)

Patrice Kunesh (Center for Indian Country Development)

Spencer Lucker (Delta Regional Authority)

Robert Martin (Clear Creek Creative)

Nikiko Masumoto (Masumoto Family Farms)

Jenna Moran (National Association of Counties)

Bob Reeder (Rural LISC)

Ashley Walden Davis and Mark Kidd (Alternate ROOTS)

Emily Wornell (Ball State University, RUPRI Center for State Policy)


The Executive Committee

Michele Anderson and Carl Swanson (Springboard for the Arts)

Savannah Barrett and Matthew Fluharty (Art of the Rural)

Lyz Crane and Adam Erikson (ArtPlace America)

Chuck Fluharty (Rural Policy Research Institute)

Whitney Kimball Coe (Center for Rural Strategies)

Lori Pourier (First Peoples Fund)

Carlton Turner (Mississippi Center for Cultural Production)

Thomas Young (National Consortium for Creative Placemaking)

Summit attendees get to know one another through square dance at the 2016 Next Generation Rural Creative Placemaking Summit in Iowa City, which brought together 300 people from 38 states.

Next Generation to Rural Generation

Launched in 2014 as a partnership between Art of the Rural, The Rural Policy Research Institute, and a host of national networks, Next Generation: The Future of Arts and Culture Placemaking in Rural America worked for five years to involve artists, organizations, and communities in meaningful dialogue and learning exchange to self-define contemporary rural culture and advancing public and private sector decision making.

Next Generation developed platforms the field has urgently desired for years: a Digital Learning Commons to express rural value through storytelling and research; multi-state regional networks for collective impact and field building; a Digital Exchange webinar series to align diverse sectors in conversation; and an inclusive, intergenerational national summit that convened 300 leaders and public policy decision makers from 38 states. By alternating between face-to-face exchange and digital engagement, we contributed to a national rural creative placemaking network that consistently elevates local and regional innovation, expands intercultural leadership, and forwards a deeper conversation about the cultural wealth of rural America.

The initiative partnered with the Delta Regional Authority and 130 Delta communities through a Creative Placemaking Investment program, worked with the South Carolina and Kentucky Promise Zones to organize a young artist’s exchange, and coordinated with a regional hospital and community development corporation to develop a Kentucky convening on the intersections of food, art, education, health, and social cohesion. These impacts are matched by the work of the RUPRI Rural Cultural Wealth Lab, one of four inaugural National Endowment for the Arts Research Labs. This national effort unites cultural policy experts, social science researchers, and economists to explore the role of cultural wealth in rural innovation and sustainability. Pairing this groundbreaking research team with internationally-recognized culture bearers ensures that rural values are embedded in this unique evidence-based research, building innovative metrics that substantiate rural creative placemaking impacts and strengthen public policy outcomes.

We recognize that our context for this work has shifted in the past two years, as the public dialogue about rural America and rural Indian Country has revealed a national enigma. Much of this national conversation lacks nuance and amplifies structural challenges for rural communities and Indian Country, who are disadvantaged by both urban-normative narrative and a deep inequity in philanthropic support, as less than 2% of arts foundation funding supports rural. The field is defined by a geographic, cultural, social, and economic distance, which is augmented by these challenges. We feel more urgently that ever that the future of the people and places we all love relies on how we reach across these distances –  and how we welcome others to join us.

As a result, Next Generation evolved in name and purpose to meet these unique challenges and opportunities. In addition to the sustaining collaboration between AOTR and RUPRI, we’ve invited a cadre of national organizations with leadership in rural convening, field building, and philanthropy to join our efforts. Next Generation rebranded as RURAL GENERATION to represent core partnerships with Art of the Rural, ArtPlace America, the Center for Rural Strategies, First Peoples Fund, the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, the National Consortium of Creative Placemaking, the Rural Policy Research Institute, and Springboard for the Arts. The initiative is supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant and by ArtPlace America. Together, we are working to build a collective impact model that leverages our social, cultural and natural resources to address sustainability, regional cohesion, and rural quality of life.

Digital Learning and Exchange

The Digital Exchange series draws on the power of connection to bridge further conversation across the regions, sectors, and place-based philosophies that make the work of creative placemaking so essential to the future of our rural places. 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. The understanding gleaned from these digital explorations directly contribute to our national fieldbuilding efforts, simultaneously informing the design of Next Generation’s national programs while inviting new collaborators to generate knowledge and connection across the rural creative placemaking field.

Regional Networks

From 2015-2017, Next Generation piloted Regional Networks in three states to 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.

2018 Kentucky Food+Art+Health convening in Owensboro evolved from the Next Generation Regional Network in Kentucky.

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:

Homepage from the rural learning commons– a component of the Next Generation Rural Creative Placemaking collaboration with RUPRI.

To learn more about Rural Generation, visit