Rural Regenerator Fellowship

From drastically shifting economies, increasing diversity and aging populations, to the effects of climate change and COVID, rural places in the Upper Midwest need leaders who know the importance of creativity and culture in cultivating effective models for rural community health, economic vitality, and civic engagement.

The good news is that there is an abundance of creative rural community development already happening all over the United States. From Utica, Mississippi to Palouse, Washington, some of the most effective reimagining of rural places can be tied to the efforts of local artists and artisans, makers, culture bearers, writers, performers, filmmakers, and the community leaders and organizations who support them.

These leaders are generating creative people power in many ways: By organizing events or developing spaces that challenge the status quo, hosting story circles that help inform community planning, creating markets and platforms for creative entrepreneurs, producing theater about land stewardship, turning vacant buildings into creative hubs, designing more welcoming public spaces, and more.

Rural Regenerators are critical voices in their communities, as well as in national policy, where too often, diverse rural perspectives and expertise are excluded or absent from decision making processes that affect these communities deeply. Rural Regenerators see wild possibilities when communities are most stuck, and they use art, culture and creativity to help reframe challenges and opportunities, build relationships, repair historic harms, and dream big about a future that works better for everyone.

About the Fellowship
Springboard for the Arts is excited to expand on its 10 years of work in supporting and connecting creative rural leaders in the upper Midwest who are committed to strengthening their communities through art, culture and creativity. The Rural Regenerator Fellowship will facilitate long term learning and exchange across rural geographies and provide financial support to these leaders so they can think big as they grow, shift or expand their leadership efforts.

With the inaugural cohort starting in 2021, the Rural Regenerators Fellowship will bring rural artists and creatives together with rural organizers and other cross-sector leaders for learning, exchange, and problem solving around issues facing rural communities. For the next three years, each cohort will focus on a specific rural issue that serves as a nexus for Fellows to build collective knowledge, understanding and problem solving around. The 2021 Cohort will have a focus on equitable post-pandemic relief and recovery.

10 Fellows will be selected from communities of 50,000 people or fewer across the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and the Native Nations that serve those geographies). Fellows will be selected based on their demonstrated commitment to rural arts-based community development, their interest in sharing their own experiences and learning around this work with other fellows, and their desire to grow, adapt, or launch new work that will strengthen their community. People who are Black, Indigenous, Native, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, women and gender non-binary people, and/or people with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply, and will be prioritized in the selection process.

The Fellowship is a two-year commitment. During year one, Fellows will participate in a combination of virtual and in-person learning exchanges with other members of their cohort, receive one-on-one mentorship, and an unrestricted financial stipend to support their work. In year two, Fellows will have access to travel support for site-exchanges with another cohort member, and residency time in Fergus Falls, Minnesota for time for reflection, research, creative work, and/or project prototyping.

Fellows will receive $10,000 in flexible funds to support their existing work and/or to launch a new project in their community.

Fellows can be individual artists, makers, and culture bearers, grassroots organizers, community development workers, public sector workers and other rural changemakers who are committed to advancing the role of art, culture and creativity in rural development and community building.

Fellowship Details

Year 1 activities:
– Fellows will receive a flexible $10,000 stipend to support or grow their existing creative leadership efforts in their rural community.

– Fellows will participate in two in-person retreats in the Fergus Falls, MN area, in October 2021 and April 2022 (subject to COVID safety and protocols)

– Fellows will have opportunities to connect with one another and national guest speakers/facilitators through monthly virtual meetups.

– Fellows will receive 1:1 support from Springboard’s Rural Regenerator team.

– Fellows will be supported in sharing and amplifying their story on national platforms.

Year 2 activities
– Fellows will receive travel support for a site exchange with another cohort member.

– Fellows will receive travel support to attend and present at the Rural Arts and Culture Summit.

– Fellows will be offered a 1 – 3 week solo residency in Fergus Falls for time for reflection, research, creative work, and/or project prototyping.

2021 – 2022 Fellowship Timeline

April 15, 2021 – Applications Open

April 30, 2021, 12 – 1pm CST – 1st Virtual Info Session Register

May 21, 2021, 12 – 1pm CST – 2nd Virtual Info Session Register

June 11, 2021, 11:59pm – Applications Due

July 28, 2021 – Applicants notified of status

October 2021 – Retreat #1 in Fergus Falls, MN

April 2022 – Retreat # 2 in Fergus Falls, MN 

October 6 – 8, 2022 – Rural Arts and Culture Summit in MN

October 2021 – October 2022 – Monthly Virtual Meetups, site exchanges and residency  

– Applicant must be at least 18 years of age.

– Applicant must live, work or have a strong connection to a rural community in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and the Native Nations that share those geographies.

Selection Criteria

– Successful applicants will have at least 2-3 years of demonstrated commitment to advancing the role of art, creativity, and culture in rural community development. This experience can be formal or informal.

– Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to exchange within the cohort setting, both by being willing to share their knowledge and experiences, and being curious about other cohort member knowledge and experiences.

– People who are BIPOC, Native, LGBTQIA+, Women and gender non-binary people, and/or People with disabilities will be prioritized in the selection process.

  • While “rural” has a broad definition and we know people have multi centered relationships with place, we will prioritize applicants that currently live or work or demonstrate a strong connection to communities of 50,000 people or fewer.