Announcing the 2017 Rural Arts and Culture Summit

The 2017 Rural Arts and Culture Summit will take place Tuesday, June 6, through Thursday, June 8, at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Organized by Springboard for the Arts and the Center for Small Towns, the Summit gathers rural artists, arts organizations and community leaders to highlight arts-based strategies to rural community and economic development.

In the current social and media climate, where there are many think-pieces and narratives around rural communities, the Rural Arts and Culture Summit offers an opportunity to connect directly to rural practitioners, artists and leaders. The Summit will feature artists and community organizations who are using the arts to address specific rural challenges, such as creating inclusive communities, improving quality of life, and influencing migration patterns to small towns. In addition, rural artists and organizations will have the chance to connect with state and national resources and expand their skills through professional development workshops. The work and ideas of rural artists of all disciplines will also be featured throughout the Summit.


The featured plenary session on Wednesday, June 7th, will bring together four cultural leaders to discuss a variety of cultural equity issues in small towns and how the arts can help create more inclusive communities:

  • Anton Treuer, an Ojibwe scholar from Bemidji, Minnesota
  • Michael Strand, a potter and activist from Fargo, North Dakota
  • Meredith Martin Moats, a folklorist and founder of the McElroy House in Dardanelle, Arkansas
  • Carlton Turner, executive director of Alternate Roots from Utica, Mississippi

From pottery that encourages conversations among elected officials to a regional online platform for arts and activism tools, these artists and community leaders will share their perspectives of the current social climate in the rural communities they know and love, their hopes for the future, and tangible ideas of how artists, arts organizations can work together to bridge conversations across differences.


On Thursday, June 8, keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Metcalfe from Turtle Mountain, North Dakota, will share the stories and strategies behind her business, Beyond Buckskin, which empowers Native American artists and designers, advancing the quality of Native American fashion through education while providing an in-depth platform for societal participation. Inspired by historical and contemporary Native American clothing design and art, Beyond Buckskin promotes cultural appreciation, social relationships, authenticity and creativity.

“The Summit celebrates the incredible diversity of skill and talent that it takes to thrive in a small town, and the potential for artists to help carve the vision and engagement that is necessary to lead communities to their fullest potential,” said Michele Anderson, Rural Program Director for Springboard for the Arts. “Our typical participants wear many different hats in their community – they’re musicians leading weekly jams, or writers, sculptors and painters –  but they’re also city councilors, architects, farmers and educators. There’s something for everyone, as long as you care deeply about rural places and believe that we need as much creativity as possible as we plan for our future.”

Other highlights of the Summit will include:

  • “A Steady and Irresistible Wind,” a site-specific, place-based performance installation created by artist Bethany Lacktorin, which will take place during the Summit on and nearby the University of Minnesota, Morris campus. A follow up to Lacktorin’s performance, My Ocean, 2016, this piece is an ongoing exploration of diaspora where displacement, transition and growth as it occurs culturally, agriculturally, mentally and socially are expressed in story, music, movement and sound.
  • Workshops, panel conversations and demonstrations presented by over 30 practitioners throughout the nation.
  • “Range,” an exhibit in UMM’s Morrison Gallery curated by Andrew Nordin. Artists are invited to submit work for consideration to exhibit until April 1. More information about the exhibit can be found at

A full schedule of breakout sessions will be announced in early March. Registration for the Summit is now open, with special early bird discounts available until April 22. Register here:

For more information, including the Summit schedule, cost, and sponsorship opportunities, visit

The Rural Arts and Culture Summit was founded in 2011 in Fergus Falls. The 2017 Summit is sponsored by the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. Scholarship sponsors include: the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota, and the Southeast, Northwest and Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships of the University of Minnesota | Extension.