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2019 Rural Arts & Culture Summit draws leaders from around the country to Grand Rapids, MN, share creative people power in rural places


September 20, 2019

Grand Rapids, MN – The 2019 Rural Arts & Culture Summit is only two weeks away, and will be held October 3-5, 2019, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The Rural Arts & Culture Summit is a biennial, practitioner-driven gathering that celebrates and expands the field of rural arts-based community development, which will bring 350 leaders from around the country to the Reif Center for the Performing Arts.

Full schedule & registration:

The Summit is unique in its values. It is practitioner driven, it always takes place in a rural community, and it is focused on supporting and building power for people who are often left out of the narrative about rural places. It is one of the largest gatherings of rural artists and community leaders in the country. The 2019 Rural Arts & Culture Summit will highlight:

• Creative people power and how arts and culture are shaping our rural places. In a conversation moderated by Whitney Kimball Coe, director of the National Rural Assembly, artists, civic leaders and elected officials will share their experiences making a living in the region, incorporating art and culture into local challenges, hopes for the future of the communities they call home, and the implications of these experiences and ideas in the national rural development field. The conversation will feature Moira Villiard (American Community Indian Housing Organization), Delina White (Anishinaabe fashion designer and bead work artist), Annie Humphrey (Native American Music Awards 2018 Artist of the Year), Sonja Merrild (Grand Rapids Arts & Culture Commission/Blandin Foundation), and Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux (Mayor of Grand Marais).

• Economic development in rural places through a new National Governor’s Association report “Rural Prosperity through the Arts and Creative Sector”. Pam Breaux, CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, will share creative policy solutions that draw on home-grown arts and cultural assets to address the urgent issues facing rural America. Following this keynote, Breaux will lead a conversation with three national leaders, Susan DuPlessis (South Carolina Arts Commission), Em Johnson (Blue Sky Center), and Michele Anderson (Springboard for the Arts) who are each leading bold arts-based economic and community development strategies in their own communities. By connecting policy to practice, this conversation will examine the important intersections of economic development and cultural equity, the complexities of rural narrative and identity, how to adapt to shifting local and national politics, and the opportunities and challenges of this work going forward.

• The arts and culture of the Grand Rapids community. Artists from the region will be participating and featured throughout the Summit. Public tours and welcome events on Thursday include a preview of “beyond borders” at the MacRostie Art Center, a new Indigenous Invitational exhibit curated by MAC Gallery Director Kayla Aubid and Colleen Bibeau of the ISD #318 American Indian Education Program, a fashion show from the local indigenous artist collective, Buckanaga Social Club, and Nicole Camen’s Fungi Bridge Project Installation, a new piece of temporary public art selected by the Grand Rapids Arts and Culture Commission in partnership with Forecast Public Art. The First Friday Art Walk, a monthly tradition of the Grand Rapids community, will bring together Summit participants with local residents to enjoy art demonstrations, live music and other activities starting at 4pm.

With over 60 presenters and 350 attendees from around the country, this unique gathering continues to build community and impact. The Summit is an opportunity to look beyond narratives of division and instead to develop rural-urban solidarity, build relationships through creativity and culture, and explore what is possible in our rural places.

Through the support of The Bush Foundation and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Rural Arts & Culture Summit is able to offer scholarship support specifically for Native American and Indigenous artists and leaders. Registration scholarships ($300 value) and travel support (up to $500 to help cover travel and/or lodging expenses) will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis as space and funds allow. Notification will be sent within one week of application submissions.


This year the Rural Arts & Culture Summit is offering a special Kid's Track for parents who are unable to leave their kids at home or find childcare. The Kid's Track is available during the Summit’s six plenary and breakout sessions, and will be led by a team of experienced Minnesota-based teaching artists and volunteers. Parents will otherwise be responsible for their children during all other times during the Summit (breaks, meals, evening events).

About the Rural Arts & Culture Summit

The Rural Arts & Culture Summit is a biennial, practitioner-driven gathering that celebrates and expands the field of rural arts-based community development by providing a space for learning, relationship building and celebration of the role of art and creativity in building strong, healthy and resilient rural communities. Since its launch in Fergus Falls, Minnesota in 2011, and three gatherings in Morris, Minnesota hosted by the Center for Small Towns, the RAC Summit has convened more than 1,300 people from across the country, establishing a rich network of exchange among some of the most creative individuals who are driving their rural communities forward.

About Springboard for the Arts

Springboard for the Arts is an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists. Our work is about building stronger communities, neighborhoods, and economies, and we believe that artists are an important leverage point in that work. Springboard’s mission is to cultivate vibrant communities by connecting artists with the skills, information, and services they need to make a living and a life.


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