Founded in 2010, Art of the Rural is a national arts and culture non-profit organization that works to resource artists and culture bearers across the country to build the field, change the narrative, and bridge divides.
While our work reaches across many geographies, we operate a field office in Kentucky and a central office in Winona, Minnesota, a town located within Dakota homelands, on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Throughout our nearly fifteen-year history, we’ve collaborated with cross-sector partners from a range of cultural and geographic backgrounds to shape programs that contribute to a more equitable and healthy future for rural America and Indian Country.
Each of our efforts are designed to advance three core strategies:
Through our national gatherings, we’ve collaborated with partners such as First Peoples Fund, Rural Policy Research Institute, and Sipp Culture to build alignment around policy opportunities (Next Generation Rural Creative Placemaking Summit, 2016), and call the field to action towards a more equitable philanthropic landscape (Rural Generation Summit, 2019). These gatherings have been supported by knowledge-building efforts, including case studies, research labs, presentations, roundtables, think tanks, keynotes, and digital storytelling.
We also foster storytelling and dialogues that have supported hundreds of artists and cultural organizations in telling the story of their work and connecting with the rural arts and culture field. Exhibitions, podcasts, and publications also deepen this work, including the High Visibility: On Location in Rural America and Indian Country initiative with Plains Art Museum, the first large-scale exhibition and publication effort to consider contemporary art practice, and intercultural exchange, across these geographies.
Recent regional storytelling projects include the Rural-Urban Solidarity Project, a film series uplifting stories of rural racial justice actions following the killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020. With our Spillway initiative in the Upper Mississippi River region, we are matching storytelling work with long-term Fellowship support to artists, culture bearers, and the organizations that support those local creative ecosystems.
We’ve also built long-term, place-based platforms to bridge divides and build intercultural networks, including the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (founded in 2014) and the Minnesota Rural-Urban Exchange (launched in 2022), which strengthen the intercultural leadership and bridging capacity of these regions through a creative leadership curriculum and statewide networks.
We seek to meet folks not only where they are, but listen and learn about where they have been as well — and to cultivate the conditions for equitable, long-term exchange.
Along our journey, we’ve been grateful to learn from thousands of partners and contributors who have shaped our values and evolved how we work towards our shared future.