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A diverse group of Minnesotans gathered recently in Fergus Falls to plan how they can support a national effort to help rural communities attract and retain the next generation of leaders. As a component of their “Next Generation: The Future of Rural Arts and Culture Placemaking” collaboration, The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) and Art of the Rural (AOTR) selected Minnesota as one of three states chosen to create a Next Generation Working Group.

Collen Landkamer, Minnesota State Director for USDA Rural Development and Michele Anderson, Rural Program Director for Springboard for the Arts were chosen as Co-chairs for this initiative, part of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town Knowledge Building Grant. It is intended to foster deeper appreciation of the essential role arts and cultural organizations can play in rural economic and community development, build stronger collaborations between these sectors, and highlight the critical role these connections play in creating rural communities which can attract and retain the next generation of rural leaders. These 50 Minnesotans from across sectors worked together to create priorities for future action, and that work is now underway.

“These Minnesota partnerships and the national efforts of Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute unite strong policy perspectives with robust arts and culture innovations taking place across America,” said Matthew Fluharty, executive director of Art of the Rural, which recently relocated in Winona, “The next generation of rural citizens and leaders demand resilient, inclusive and creative places. We find the pathways to that future in the space where these fields converge.”

This Minnesota Working Group mirrors similar efforts underway in Iowa and Kentucky, and these representatives will gather together to share ideas, exchange plans, and build further connections at the national Rural Creative Placemaking Summit, to be held at the University of Iowa, October 12-14, 2016

Landkamer and Anderson will be advancing this innovative collaboration with a diverse and experienced Minnesota Working Group, selected from across the states diverse regions and sectors, including Michele Anderson, Co-Chair Springboard for the Arts; Colleen Landkamer, Co-Chair USDA Rural Development; Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation; Jennifer Bergman, Brainerd HRA – Housing; Joseph Allen, White Earth Tribal & Community College; Kelly Asche, Center for Small Towns; Courtney Bergey, Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA); Toni Carter, Ramsey County; Anna Claussen, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP); Neal Cuthbert, McKnight Foundation; Kathy Draeger, Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development; Dave Frederickson, Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Rick Goodeman, Southwest Housing Partnership; Bob Gunther, Minnesota House; Nicole Helget, Humphrey Institute; Cheryal Lee Hills, Region Five Development; Kevin Kelleher, Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED); Michelle Kiley, Initiative Foundation; Anne Kilzer, Minnesota Workforce Council Association; Patrice Kunesh, Federal Reserve Bank Center for Indian Country; Sarah Lovan, McKnight Foundation; Randy Maluchnik, Carver County; Jim McDonough, Ramsey County; Mary Minnick-Daniels, East Central Regional Arts Council; Erin Murphy, Minnesota House of Representatives; Scott Olson, Winona State University; RT Rybak, Generation Next; Tony Sertich, Northland Foundation; Sheila Smith, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts; Ben Winchester, University of Minnesota Extension (for a complete roster, with affiliations, see below.)

“Minnesotans has a strong sense of place, deep connections to their hometowns, but also great regional innovations and rural/urban collaborations emerging across the state,” Landkamer said. “We have always been blessed with strong philanthropic investments in emerging public-private innovation, and this is one we must now support.”

“The next generation wants to live in creative, inclusive and diverse places, and rural communities must build such dynamics, support the next generation of artists and culture bearers, and actively recruit them into the civic life of those places,” Anderson added. “This initiative adds another layer to the great efforts in which we are all engaged, to achieve this connection, and build such a future.”

For additional information about the National Next Generation Initiative, visit the website at Next Generation, email, and follow Next Generation on Facebook and Twitter.

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