about us

Together, we are growing relationships across divides to build a more collaborative and connected Commonwealth.

What is RUX?

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) is helping Kentuckians discover their common identity, history and culture. Now in its fifth year, this partnership between Art of the Rural and Appalshop brings a 75-member cohort together over three weekends each summer. During these weekend-long RUX Community Intensives, RUX members get to know one another as friends and collaborators, and then get down to business – working in pairs, groups or as a body – sharing our talents and skills, working on the challenges facing our Commonwealth, and building a better future for all of us. 

RUX programming is designed to help members develop professional skills and leadership potential while exploring all that Kentucky has to offer, so that folks begin working together while sharing home cooked meals, hiking our state’s mountains and deltas, building campfires, or square dancing together. RUX changes the context of professional collaboration to help members deepen bonds, inspire stronger accountability, and create the conditions for creativity.

Our alumni testify that RUX helped them develop meaningful relationships across the state, learn about other Kentucky communities, lend their own expertise, and create an invaluable network. They also say it’s fun and rewarding – personally and professionally.

The Kentucky RUX has served 160 Kentuckians from 34 counties since the program’s founding in 2014. 

Story circle at the UK Art Museum convening during Lexington Community Intensive, June 25 2017, photo by tim morton.jpg

Our Vision

Vision: We envision a future when Kentuckians value each other, create common ground, and understand our interdependence.

We believe that by acknowledging our historical divides and abundant assets, Kentuckians can work together for our shared future.


  • Kentuckians have a shared sense of place, and can see beyond boundaries that exist between people and places.
  • Kentuckians are ambassadors of their communities and of Kentucky, working together to create solutions to the challenges we face. 
  • Kentuckians are welcome as neighbors in other communities across geography, ideology, identity, race, class, sector, and other barriers.
 The RUX Steering Committee smiles holds each other close during the 2018 Steering Committee retreat at Scenic Cabin Rentals.

The RUX Steering Committee smiles holds each other close during the 2018 Steering Committee retreat at Scenic Cabin Rentals.

RUX Family

Kentucky RUX was founded by Savannah Barrett (Art of the Rural) and Josh May (formerly Appalshop) as a joint program of the two organizations, and has been supported by Art of the Rural, Appalshop, and the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI). The program is guided by a statewide steering committee in collaboration with RUX staff members Savannah Barrett and Ada Smith. RUX is supported by the Rural Policy Research Institute, regional host partners, and dozens of Kentucky businesses. 

About Appalshop: Appalshop is a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center in the heart of Appalachia producing original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books. Their education and training programs support communities' efforts to solve their own problems in a just and equitable way. Each year, Appalshop productions and services reach several million people nationally and internationally. http://appalshop.org/

About Art of the Rural: Art of the Rural is a collaborative organization with a mission to help build the field of the rural arts and shape new narratives on rural culture and community. We work online and on the ground through interdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships to advance engaged collaboration and policy that transcends imposed boundaries and articulates the shared reality of rural and urban America. http://artoftherural.org/

Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange Steering Committee Members: Alexia Ault - Higher Ground at Southeast Community and Technical College (Harlan), Savannah Barrett - Art of the Rural (Louisville), Ivy Brashear - MACED (Berea), Izzy Broomfield - Mountain Tech Media (Corbin), Nick Covault - Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts (Louisville), Jim Guthrie - Hub + Weber Architects (Covington), Mark Kidd - Handbarrow (Whitesburg), Maria Lewis - Western Kentucky University Libraries, Cheyenne Mize - STRIVE (Louisville), Sarah Schmitt - Kentucky Oral History Commission (Frankfort), Gerry Seavo James - The Explore Kentucky Initiative (Frankfort), Ada Smith - Appalshop (Whitesburg), Ashley Smith - The Fayette Alliance (Lexington), Richard Young - Community Development Consultant (Lexington). 

2018 Kentucky RUX Regional Host Partners: BLDG in Covington, The Kentucky Folklife Program in Bowling Green, and Hindman Settlement School in Hindman. Past host communities include Harlan (2016-2017), Lexington (2016-2017), Louisville (2014-15), Paducah (2015-16), and Whitesburg (2014-15). To discover more about the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, visit us on Facebook or join our mailing list