Abby Huggins was raised in Wilkes County, North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Elementary Education. Afterwards, she collaborated with rural organizations in Grenada and Alaska, working with youth, elders, and families around education, culture, community, food access, and housing justice. Abby spent several seasons working on sustainable farms, first in Alaska, then in North Carolina. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi with an emphasis on foodways, oral history, and Appalachia. Abby officially moved to Kentucky in 2017 as an Appalachian Transition Fellow through the Highlander Center, collaborating with Hindman Settlement School and the Appalachian Food Summit on establishing the East Kentucky Food & Dance Trail, a project that connects stories and places where people gather around food and dance. Abby has continued living in Knott County, growing the Food & Dance Trail, dancing, hiking and sharing food as much as possible. New to KYRUX this year, Abby is grateful and excited to share with and learn from people across the Commonwealth!
Alex Dadok, Lexingon
Bio: Alex Dadok, Director of Advocacy at Fahe, connects with decision-makers and partners to provide Fahe’s perspective on making communities and economies work in Appalachia. Prior to Fahe, Alex directed operations and developed new business at two growth-stage companies, advised a federal judge on complex business cases, served as a regional economic development strategist, and carried out investigative economic research as a Fulbright Scholar in Peru. Alex grew up traveling Fahe’s service area, going from his Mother’s home in Durham, NC to his Father’s in Bloomington, IN. He is glad to be advocating on behalf of Fahe’s Members. Outside of work, he enjoys being outside, bicycling, reading, playing music, and visiting with friends and family.
Alex Walter, Slade
Alex Walter is an activist, rock climber, writer, and traveler. Originally born in South Georgia, he moved to Kentucky for school in 2011. Since then he’s fallen in love with the state and calls Kentucky his home. He spends part of his year based out of Lexington, and part of it traveling. When he’s not traveling and rock climbing, he works with the Kentucky Workers League as they strive to build worker’s power in the bluegrass. His dream for Kentucky is to see a state where the working class is in the front seat!
Alison Huff, Louisville
Alison Huff led the successful 2015 merger between Walden Theatre & Blue Apple Players to create Commonwealth Theatre Center, where she serves as Managing Director. Alison serves on the Steering Committee of the Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 arts & culture plan and Co-Chair of its Cultivation Committee. She is also Founder/President of the nonprofit start-up Elevator Artist Resource, a hub for artists & creators to gain access to resources, professional development, and promotional tools needed to elevate economic growth & community engagement. She is also leading an initiative to establish an innovative Collective Impact model for the arts & culture sector through her work chairing the Impact Committee of Arts & Culture Alliance (ACA), a network of 100+ regional organizations. She spent the last two years as ACA’s President and also served on the board of Greater Louisville Inc. Alison was honored as inaugural recipient of Fund for the Arts’ Allan Cowen Innovation Fund for Advancement of the Arts, through which she attended Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program for Nonprofit Leaders. In addition, Business First’s honored her in its 2014 “Forty Under 40” list. Alison holds a Master’s in Public Administration with specialization in nonprofit management from University of Louisville.
Alix Mattingly, Louisville
This particular Kentucky specimen is often found making cool visuals and/or eating delicious food. When approaching subject in the wild be prepared for all of the following scenarios: hugging, high fives, offering/cooking of food, conversations about the cultural stratification of people based on wealth, collaborations, discussion of food justice and an over use of the word "y'all". Subject is over joyed to be returning to RUX and will offer skills gained as a journalist, marketer and human to help the cause.
AuCo Lai, Corbin
AuCo Lai is a queer POC chef based in SEKY. Originally from NJ, they've been a member of the east Kentucky community for 18 months. Currently, they are a sous chef at the Wrigley Taproom in Corbin and one of five Edward Lee Foundation - Women Chefs of KY fellows.
Brando Vanschoyck, Pine Top
Brando Vanschoyck is the owner/artist of Deathless Forge. He is an artist, musician, blacksmith, metal fabricator, and welder from southeastern Kentucky. He has been involved with artwork and custom projects of all kinds since he was a child. He considers himself a blue-collar craftsman from The Appalachian Mountains. Everything he creates is one of a kind and handmade in his back yard.
Britton Shirley, Paducah
Britton Shurley is a Dean and Associate Professor of English at West Kentucky Community & Technical College where he edits the literary journal Exit 7. He was the recipient of Emerging Artist Awards in poetry from the Kentucky Arts Council in both 2011 and 2017. His recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Hamden-Sydney Poetry Review and The Massachusetts Review. He lives in Paducah, Kentucky with his wife, the poet, Amelia Martens, two daughters, a dog, and a garden.
Cara Cooper, Lexington
Cara Cooper has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Florida International University and has been involved in the environmental movement since 2008. She served two years on the National Sierra Student Coalition’s Executive Committee (2012-2013) as the trainings liaison where she worked with staff and volunteers to streamline and solidify their youth leadership development program. In 2013, she became the state organizer for the KY Student Environmental Coalition and moved to her birthplace of Kentucky. With KSEC she has trained hundreds of people in grassroots organizing skills, helped build dozens of new youth leaders and founded a week-long youth-led leadership and organizing camp, called Catalyst. She is dedicated to anti-oppressive organizing, building roots in her community, youth empowerment and organizing for the long haul. In 2015 Cara started her own grassroots training and facilitation business called Brighter Future Consulting in order to provide access to grassroots skill building to other local organizations and causes that are dear to her heart. She loves animals, both the mountains and the beach, live music and cooking delicious vegan food for her friends.
Chanda Campbell, Hazard
Chanda Campbell was born and raised in Hazard, Kentucky. She is a proud mother of two and a self-proclaimed nerd. She majored in theatre with an emphasis in costume design, and has at least dabbled in anything that's artisitic. In her spare time, Chanda sings, plays ukulele, paints and writes. She is also an active member of her community and volunteers as much time as she can to serving on various committees and lobbying in Frankfort.
Chris Burns, Covington
Chris Burns in the Owner of Commonwealth Bistro, a historically inspired, and locally sourced restaurant located in Covington, Kentucky. Commonwealth Bistro’s goal is to create experiences that support the common wealth of the community through love for food. Burns is a classically trained chef who started his culinary journey attending Scarlet Oaks in High School, then earning a culinary degree from Sullivan University. He served as Executive Chef for six years at Jean Ro Bistro, downtown, Cincinnati. Burns is passionate about supporting the local food movement and his community. He served as a leader of the Awesome Collective of Covington, dedicated to celebrating the “awesomeness” of the city by engaging residents, schools, and businesses in creative events. He also helped open the 7th Street Urban Community Garden in Mainstrasse. He has a great interest in locally grown food and heritage cuisine. Burns’ vision as an entrepreneur is that “our business can add value to the community fabric, and allow us to invest in our employees. That we can best serve our guests and tell the story of Kentucky and local food producers.” He resides in a 1920’s bungalow in Covington, Kentucky with his wife Tess, and his cat Marzipan.
Chris Stewart, Bowling Green
Chris Stewart is an attorney who lives in Bowling Green. Before law school, he attended the California Institute for the Arts and worked as a professional violinist in Los Angeles. He returned home to Kentucky and attended UK College of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 2016. As a blind person, Chris is deeply committed to the equal inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society. His training in the law has afforded him the opportunity to write and speak about this critical issue. Additionally, he has written about election law and the law of democracy. Chris's work has been featured by the American Bar Association, the Kentucky Law Journal, the London School of Economics and Politics, and the Journal of Public Law. Chris is married to his best friend and fellow RUX participant Emily Pike Stewart. They're the proud parents of Chris's guide dog, Baron, and they recently became the proud new owners of Bowling Green's smallest bar, Shots.
Christina Murtaugh, Cadiz
Christina Murtaugh spent the past decade working to build sustainable peace across the globe. She recently moved back to Trigg County to pursue a goal of developing more equitable and peaceful communities across the Commonwealth. She is beginning this new career focus by learning about existing work, historical challenges, and root impediments to social change across the state. Her previous work in international peacebuilding includes: helping lead a multi-project rule of law portfolio in Libya; supporting the development of a new approach to reforming justice and security systems; and facilitating a process to redefine the business model and marketing strategy for peacebuilding education and training. Ms. Murtaugh graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Political Science and Economics and from the College of William and Mary with a J.D.
Daniel Martin Moore, Louisville
Daniel Martin Moore is a recording artist & producer from Hardin County.
Danny Nezat is a senior student at the University of Kentucky and currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Writing Rhetoric and Digital studies. As a multimedia student he has trained to perform in a wide range of diverse fields such as journalism, broadcasting, filmmaking and event organization. His ability to embrace new ideas and adolescent wonder of the world, combined with his varied life experiences make him amicable to almost any situation. He has extensive mechanical experience ranging from repairing jet engines and overhead cranes to golf club repair and swimming pool maintenance. His level of understanding of how things work, provides him with an ability to understand issues on a multi-dimensional level and makes for an ideal partner in problem solving.
David Sykes, Pikeville
David Sykes was attending Harvard College is the early seventies when the oil embargo created the coal boom in his eastern Kentucky home place. He returned to work in the family business, living through the coal economy's cycles of boom and bust, raising a family. Just after the tune of the century competitive pressures and family circumstances led him to sell the business and seek career in IT. He trained at Sullivan University and was able to land a position with a small independent firm in Pikeville where he has worked for more than a decade. An avid musician and multi-instrumentalist, in 2015 he partnered with Artist Collaborative Theatre in Elkhorn City to co-found Appalachian Symphony, a group which gives guitar and banjo lessons weekly to all comers. He is the primary teacher. He has appeared as an actor in "Blood Song: The Story of the Hatfields and Mccoys" in McCarr Kentucky, and played in the live band during three productions at the ACT. He just finished a run as Thomas Putnam in Arthur Miller’s 'The Crucible" there. He has this spring co-founded the "Pikeville Dulcimer Workshop" which teaches beginning mountain dulcimer at the Pike County Co-operative Extension Service.
Donald Mason, Lexington
Donald Mason is the Executive Director of the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington. Tasked with directing the historic African American venue into a leading regional arts center, Donald has become an advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity in the Central Kentucky region and beyond. He presented “Breaking Barriers: Diversity in Arts Leadership and Programming” nationally at the 41st Annual League of Historic American Theatres Conference in Los Angeles, CA and an updated presentation this year in Austin, TX. Donald serves on the LexArts Board, Picnic with the Pops Commission, Business Volunteers for the Arts, EMERGE Conference Steering committee, Projects committee for Leadership Lexington Alumni and co-founder of the Origins Jazz Series. He holds a B.S. in Management and Ethics from Asbury University and is an MBA candidate at Southern New Hampshire University, holding a Masters certificate and Modern Musician specialization from Berklee College of Music. Donald founded and fronted the funk band, Soul Funkin Dangerous as the lead singer/songwriter. Beyond the arts, Donald is a double boxer dad (Max and Bella), as well as keeper of four turtles (Cannonball, Miles, Mingus and Thelonious), plays Magic: The Gathering competitively and would love to have lunch with Bill Withers.
Elaine Russell, Frankfort
Elaine Russell grew up around the dinner table, with a large family in Louisville, Kentucky. This is where she learned her manners, how to tell stories, and a love for kale. Today, Elaine is a registered dietitian and holds a Master’s degree in Community Nutrition from Eastern Kentucky University. She is a program coordinator at the Kentucky Department for Public Health and leads the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky, a statewide network that focuses on improving access to healthy foods and physical activity. Her upbringing, education and experience leads her to believe that the power of food goes far beyond the influence of our health. She believes food has the ability to bring people together, describe a culture, build local economies and soothe the soul.
Eleanor Miller, Bowling Green
Eleanor Miller is from Louisville but currently lives in Bowling Green where she is pursuing her master’s in Folk Studies with a focus in Historic Preservation at Western Kentucky University. As a graduate assistant at the Kentucky Museum, Eleanor works with students from local schools, offering tours and leading programs based on the museum’s exhibits. In the spring, Eleanor worked on a curriculum project for Pine Mountain Settlement School, collaborating to update the storytelling component of their education program. This summer, she will be interning with Local Learning and the Journal of Folklore and Education as well as with the Historic Preservation Coordinator in Bardstown, Kentucky. With many varying interests, Eleanor has a strong desire to combine her future aspirations in historic preservation and public folklore with her love for Kentucky.
Emily Cornwell, Mayfield
Emily Cornwell is a student at Murray State University studying political science, agriculture, and sociology with the intent to attend law school upon graduation. Emily is from Graves County, but has experience in activities throughout Kentucky including an internship in the Secretary of State’s office and Lead Kentucky, a leadership program for college women. On Murray State’s campus, Emily is pursuing an honors diploma through the Murray State Honor’s College and serves as an Honor’s Ambassador. She serves in student government and on the executive team for Murray State Lion’s Club. Emily represents Murray State students on multiple university committees, particularly working on academic advising practices. She works year round on Toys for Tots, Special Olympics, and other Calloway County community organizations as an active member of Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority. Emily’s work revolves around the idea that community organizing brings people of all backgrounds together to learn and work for each other and the common good.
Emily Stewart, Bowling Green
Emily Stewart is an actor/producer specializing in theater, musical theater, and voice over, and she has narrated or done post-production on hundreds of audio books through her business GoBunny Media. Emily recently relocated to New York City for work and travels home frequently to Bowling Green to visit husband Chris, a fellow member of this year's cohort. She and Chris are also co-owners of Shots, a bar in downtown Bowling Green selling specialty flights of handcrafted shots and boozy baked goods.
Finnley Willow hails from the border of Harlan County in the coal fields of Appalachia. Finnley in currently working as a health care aid and working on starting a small online business helping people express themselves through Their personal dress. Finnley is passionate about animal welfare, the environment, and community.
Gary Bentley, Lexington
Gary Bentley, born and raised in Whitesburg Kentucky worked as an underground coal miner for ten years before moving to Muhlenburg County where he would finish his mining career two years later. Now residing in Lexington, Gary is an avid cyclist and writer.
Jack LeSieur, Bowling Green
Jack LeSieur currently serves as the Director of the Downing Museum in Bowling Green, KY. He is a two-time graduate of WKU and holds the B.A. in Anthropology & Interior Design and M.A. in Folk Studies. A self-proclaimed “Jack of All Trades,” he currently maintains a small art studio in downtown Bowling Green, where he paints and creates mixed media works of art. Through his public service work, he hopes to educate individuals in the commonwealth about the diversity of arts and culture in Kentucky, as well as bring awareness to issues in the LGBTQ community. A native of Brownsville, he is proud of his Kentucky heritage and hopes that through his commitment to public service, he can help create a more just, open, and creative commonwealth.
Jacob Ryan, Louisville
Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting - a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom created by Louisville Public Media. He’s worked for public radio since 2013, covering issues related to housing, transportation, poverty and politics. His reporting has changed public policy and won awards. Jacob believes in the power of storytelling. Stories can educate and empower. Stories preserve the past and shape the future. Stories connect. He’s excited to hear the stories of Kentucky during his time with the RUX – and help write a few more along the way. Jacob is a proud Kentuckian. He’s an Eddyville native and a WKU grad. He currently lives in Louisville’s Clifton neighborhood with his family.
Jag Ashcraft, Corinth
Raised in Corinth, Kentucky, Jag Ashcraft graduated Kent State University with degrees in Fashion Design, Digital Science, & Marketing. These interests were spawned by a passion to understand how individuals interact beyond spoken language. Motivated by sustainable practice, Jag’s work in fashion focuses on cradle-to-cradle design. He imagines that an answer to how we can develop more sustainable practices is to reflect on traditional craft-making techniques while combining them with the digital tools of today. Jag believes that fashion’s intersectionality as a necessary commodity and art form provides a perfect outlet for individuals to practice social good and environmental conscientious creativity. Driven by collaboration, he is also a practicing graphic designer, entrepreneur, and mentor to college students.
Jess Aldridge, Irvine
Jess Aldridge is the owner of JSA Marketing and the Operations Assistant of the Estill Development Alliance. She has a passion for working with small businesses, rural communities, and in the tourism sector. As a graduate from the University of Kentucky with degrees in Arts Administration and Integrated Strategic Communication, she has sought out ways to use her career to help others and be an enthusiastic supporter of the Commonwealth. Jess is a fun-loving optimist who enjoys good conversation, puppies, and new adventures. As an ENFP and chronic “joiner,” she loves that her work allows her to meet and connect with people from a variety of backgrounds and mindsets.
Jessica Crafton, Lexington
Jessica Crafton grew up wandering the fields of the family farm in her hometown of Henderson, Kentucky. She remained in her beloved home state for college, attended WKU and received two bachelor degrees, one in Chemistry and a second in Art History. She left Kentucky shortly thereafter to fulfill her dream of solo thruhiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and, once completed, she returned to teach for the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, to pursue her love of stained glass and to live a sustainable and minimalistic lifestyle. She continues to backpack around the bluegrass state shedding weight from her pack with the end goal of reaching that ideal yet seemingly unattainable “ultralight” status.
Jessica Evans, Hindman
Jessica Evans is a Boyd County, KY native, and earned her BFA in Ceramics from East Tennessee State University in 2006. Throughout her career, Jessica has held positions at museums, galleries and art centers developing programming, marketing, exhibits, outreach and teaching clay classes. As Executive Director at the Appalachian Artisan Center, Jessica has provided administrative leadership for the Center since 2015. She works closely with artists and community partners to market the Center and its programming, curate exhibits for the gallery and museum, and plan arts-focused events in order to develop the creative economy in Eastern Kentucky. She manages AAC's Ceramics Studio-- teaching workshops, organizing outreach and demonstrating at festivals. Her idea for a "Culture of Recovery" in Knott County was recently funded through ArtPlace America's National Creative Placemaking Fund as a way to bring both emotional and economic healing through the arts.
Jessie Watts, Hazard
Jessie Watts is full-time student at Hazard Community and Technical College. He is currently majoring in Psychology with a focus in Human Services. He is president of the LGBTQ+ Allyance on campus as well as serving as an Ambassador to the President of the College. He has lived in Perry County for most of his adult life, but grew up in Winchester and attended George Rogers Clark HS. He has, at points, started school at UK as a Music Major, owned a salon, and been a professional bartender. He still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up.
Joe Manning, Louisville
Joe Manning is from Louisville, Kentucky, where he works as a writer, songwriter/performer, and the Deputy Director of the Louisville Story Program, a nonprofit dedicated to amplifying unheard voices and untold stories. Manning received an MFA focusing on nonfiction from Hollins University where he was a Jackson Fellow of Creative Writing. He's published award-winning essays, columns, and features for The Louisville Eccentric Observer and The Louisville Paper, has written for Fjords, Miracle Monocle, theRS500.com, and Oxford American, and was the 2017 C&R Press Chapbook Selection Winner. His first collection of single-topic essays, Certain Relevant Passages, was published by Dock Street Press of Seattle in August.
Kelsey Voit, Lousville
Kelsey Voit is an activist geographer dedicated to working toward sustainable, equitable, and liberatory communities through building people power to catalyze grassroots change. Voit graduated from the University of Louisville in May 2017 with a B.S. in Geography and minor in Social Change and spent much of her free time organizing with several labor, food, racial, and environmental justice groups. Kelsey is the Organizing Director for the Community Farm Alliance, where she works to support Kentucky agriculture through acting as a watchdog for and influencing policy, cultivating member leaders, building coalitions, and supporting local campaigns. Voit has called Louisville, Kentucky home for five years, and she supports food justice work on her own time through the New Roots Fresh Stop Markets and the Louisville Food Cooperative. Kelsey also likes to ride her bike, make music, grow and cook food, and dance with friends. Check out more of Kelsey’s work at www.kelseyvoit.com.
Kimberly Kelly, Wilmore
Kimberly Kelly is a native of Kentucky with roots in the Ashland area, and recently moved from Lexington to Versailles. She is a program assistant and counselor-in-training at the Methodist Homes of Kentucky in Jessamine County, and is pursuing a dual Master's of Clinical Mental Health and Addiction Counseling at the University of the Cumberlands. Her son, Patrick, is attending the University of Kentucky. Kayaking and hiking the Kentucky River Palisades are favorite pastimes, and she considers the natural landscape of the Bluegrass and beyond one of our Commonwealth's most valuable resources, second only to the warmth and goodwill of its residents.
Kris Patrick, Mousie
Kris Patrick, of Mousie, Kentucky, serves as full-time Adjunct Instructor at the Appalachian Artisan Center's Appalachian School of Luthiery. Kris has apprenticed in luthiery since 2013 and has achieved proficiency in the building and repair of many types of stringed instruments, including dulcimers, ukuleles, mandolins and guitars. Kris and Master Artist Doug Naselroad are a Kentucky Arts Council 2018 Folk Arts Apprenticeship grant recipient. Kris attended Big Sandy Community and Technical College and worked previously as an automotive technician. He aspires to continue building guitars and other signature hand-crafted instruments, inspired by the vast potential of the highly specialized craft field of luthiery.
Kristin Hatten, Lousiville
Kristin originally hails from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, but found herself as a resident of Kentucky after moving to Louisville for graduate school in 2014. After finishing school, she realized she had accidentally fallen in love with Kentucky and decided to stay and put down roots. Now, using her background in English and teaching, Kristin works in staff development and outreach at a growing property management company in Louisville; she spends her days formulating and facilitating training for new employees and continuing education for existing employees.
Kyra Higgins, Red Fox
Kyra Higgins is 19 years old. She grew up in Redfox of Knott County, Kentucky. Kyra is seeking a major in Theatre and Film and a minor in Communications at Georgetown College. She was a member of the 2015 STAY Steering Committee and accepted to participate in Appalachian Media Internship (AMI) in the summers 2015 and 2017. She has had the opportunity to be a student facilitator for the Field Academy in the summer of 2016. Kyra’s favorite activities include writing poetry, dancing with her flags, journaling, and drawing. She enjoys black and white films and silent films. Some of her favorites films by genre are Spirited Away (animation), Metropolis (silent film), V for Vendetta (drama), Singing in the Rain (musical), and Casablanca (black and white). She has a passion for listening to the stories of others. She wishes in this lifetime to direct a film of her own. She is seeking ways in which to take positive action to provide/find better opportunities for herself, community, and others like her.
Lance Minnis, Eminance
Lance Minnis is a partner in Commonwealth Financial Advisors, LLC, a locally owned and independent Registered Investment Advisor. As an amateur historian, passionate about social welfare and progress, Lance has served as past president of the Eminence and Shelbyville Rotary Clubs, on the Board of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, as an Ambassador with GLI, and currently as Treasurer and Board member of LIBA, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance. In 2017 he created Luminary, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to using music and storytelling events to promote conversation and solutions around Kentucky’s issues of water quality, sustainability, and economic justice, which successfully put on the Watershed Festival Kentucky at Historic Locust Grove. In addition to business and community efforts, Lance is an avid musician. He has been singing since he was a child, getting involved in folk and traditional music scenes. He currently sings sea chanteys and maritime music at reenactment events, fronts a bluegrass band and an Irish band, and teaches repertoire, ballads, and other song classes for the Louisville Folk School.
Lauren Kallmeyer, Villa Hills
Lauren Kallmeyer leads a dual life as a Strategic Consultant with Humana during the week, and an herbalist and community organizer on nights and weekends. She is an organizer for the Kentucky Herbalism Alliance and the Whippoorwill Festival and shares her herbal knowledge and passion through educational workshops and a small "Community Supported Herbalism" business. She is focused on projects that promote Kentucky’s natural resources and herbalism as “medicine for the people” to grow herbal knowledge and promote sustainability in our botanically-rich state. She has a B.A. in Anthropology from Centre College, an M.A. in Communication from the University of Louisville, and is currently pursing an M.S. in Therapeutic Herbalism from Maryland University of Integrative Health. Originally from Northern Kentucky, she has lived in several locations throughout the state and recently relocated to Louisville.
Michel George is awesome. He works at a performing arts school. He is an avid gamer, amateur chef, shaman, and psychic. Michael is a homebrewer and amateur crafter. Michael is an Aquarius and eccentric and eclectic.
Mikaela Curry, Pikeville
Mikaela Curry is a published poet and community organizer living in eastern Kentucky. She holds advanced degrees in biological sciences and has worked as an environmental specialist, consultant, conservationist, and researcher. She is a founding member of Progress Pike, a community organization dedicated to addressing social justice issues and amplifying voices for positive social change in and around Pikeville, KY. She regularly performs spoken word poetry which reflects her passion for gender equality, environmental health and social justice in all aspects of life. She founded and manages the community poetry organization, Pikeville Poetry, which encourages increased participation in creative writing and thoughtful dialogue among peers and community members through workshops, contests, and open mic events. She is a full-time parent who also teaches English as a second language and dabbles in a wide range of hobbies from soap-making to scuba-diving.
Mitzi Sinnott, Flatwoods
Mitzi Sinnott believes art is a powerful catalyst to opening hearts and minds, and real change happens at the heart level first then action follows. Since birth, Mitzi’s mother kept her in a crib at her dance studio, ensuring that she’d learn that a strong visionary woman can positively impact a community through her artistic endeavors. Mitzi is the daughter of two artists. Over the last ten years, she has dedicated her creative work to sparking honest conversations about our legacy of race, class, and violence in America through her award-wining play; “SNAPSHOT: a true story of love interrupted by invasion, and presenting keynote performances on campuses across America. Mitzi uses her personal story to engage audiences, and set a tone for being bravely vulnerable, the very space where mutual respect and understanding is cultivated. Currently Mitzi’s company All Here Together Productions utilizes her expertise to convene conversations about race and class across industries and interests, building more tolerant communities, learning from the past, re-imagining our future, one story at a time. This is her life’s purpose, creating community from strangers.
Natasha Collier, Lexington
Natasha Collier is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky where she obtained a Masters of Arts in Arts Administration. She is a historian and community activist. She has 20 years of experience working with Kentucky history and culture and wishes to pursue increased advocacy for intersectionality in local history.
Neil Purcell, Bowling Green
Neil Purcell is a producer at WKU PBS in Bowling Green where he works on a variety of content related to music, culture, education, and Kentucky beauty. His passion is documentary film-making. He grew up in Fancy Farm and has traveled from one end of the state to the other but never stops being surprised by what it has to offer. This is his second year of RUX.
Nicole Musgrave, Hindman
Nicole Musgrave serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Hindman Settlement School, where she is tasked with expanding the Folk Arts Education Program to a curriculum-based model that will be used across the region. Nicole is a recent graduate from Western Kentucky University’s Folk Studies MA program, where she worked as the graduate assistant for the Kentucky Folklife Program. Nicole is interested in applied folklore work, using disciplinary methodologies to address social and cultural issues at the community level. Her work has focused on exploring the intersection of foodways and healthcare, particularly how individuals and communities negotiate traditional foodways practices with vernacular conceptions of health. Outside of her folklore work, Nicole teaches yoga, plays music, and works on various art projects.
OH Jackson Napier, Berea
OH Jackson Napier grew up in Breathitt County KY and spent several years living in a gay household in Dallas Texas. He has had the privilege of traveling to Italy, Ireland, Haiti, Denmark, and S. Korea. A 2017 Berea College graduate, Jackson holds a bachelors degree in studio art. His sculptural installations have dealt with issues such as systemic sexual abuse of women in coal camps through Esau scrip and absentee land ownership by government and corporate entities in Appalachia. He sees art as more than aesthetic expression, but as a means of beginning and developing conversations on difficult topics. After graduating from Berea College, Jackson interned with Michael and Carrie Kline in Elkins, WV. While there, he participated in gathering oral histories on high school desecration in the coal mining town of Mt. Hope West Virginia. Jackson obtained experience in collecting interviews, transcription, audio editing and grant writing. Jackson is now applying those skills towards his home in eastern Kentucky. He is collecting interviews on coal, opioid use, and disappearing food traditions and how they relate. Jackson sees factors such as extractive industry, economic desperation, and the disintegration of communal living as reasons why people turn to opioids.
Paul Michael Brown
Paul Michael Brown, Lexington is the Development Director at Institute 193 in Lexington, and arts non-profit and gallery space dedicated to documenting and preserving the cultural landscape of the American South. He is a native of Daviess County and a graduate of Transylvania University (2012). He has written about art for Art F City, Gayletter, Raw Vision, and UnderMain. His research and curatorial interests involve Southern Art, Outsider Art, and art by queer people and people of color.
Paulina Vazquez-Gover, Whitesburg
Paulina Vazquez-Gover is from Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Eastern Kentucky in 2015. She is a daughter of Mexican immigrants who settled in Omaha, Nebraska. Paulina grew up dancing Balet Folklorico Mexicano which runs deep in her family, starting with her grandmother who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While living in Kentucky, she has collaborated with other Appalachian artists such as Carla Gover and Appalatin, to bridge similarities in culture and dance through the arts. Their project is called Cornbread & Tortillas, and they have performed around the state of Kentucky, as well as in Asheville, NC. Paulina has also had dance workshops for community events throughout the state. She is also involved in numerous projects including the Girls Rock Camp Alliance and is a WMMT volunteer radio host at Appalshop. She is a long-time musician, who recently started her own band with some lady friends and loves buying vintage clothing. She is married to a sweet baker and they have a dog named Nala and a cat named Winona Ryder.
Rachel Furnas was born in Memphis and raised in beautiful Christian County. She lived in Argentina and Lexington as an adult. When she came back she knew she was meant to improve her community. Rachel is the VP of the Young Democrats and an active member of a local non-profit Sister's Keeper. She puts a lot of effort in voter registration and education, as Christian county has had the lowest turn-out in the state. She also helps with litter pick up and am very passionate about community outreach. Her goal is to change and improve my county's stratification. As a mother of 2, she is dedicated to leaving her community better than she found it.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson, Lousville
Sarah McCartt-Jackson is a Kentucky poet, folklorist, educator, and naturalist. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University (BA, English and BA, Anthropology), Western Kentucky University (MA, Folk Studies), and Southern Illinois University (MFA, Poetry). She is the recipient of an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and has served as artist-in-residence for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shotpouch Cabin (through Oregon State University). She has been published widely by national literary journals, and she is the author of the poetry collection Stonelight (winner of the 2017 Airlie Prize) and three chapbooks: Calf Canyon, Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River, and Vein of Stone. She is also the Director of Programs for The Food Literacy Project in Louisville, where she leads experiential, farm-based education programs with an emphasis on discovery learning. She combines her backgrounds in poetry, folk studies, and environmental education through her poetry and as an educator in the literary and outdoor education communities.
Shane Terry, Emmalena
Shane Terry has lived in Knott County most of his life. Playing and writing music and working on art projects have been his hobbies and talents since childhood. Shane works with the Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman, KY, where he has learned the art of luthiery (making musical instruments) which combines both of his passions into one. Shane plans to attend Berea College in August where he will be majoring in Communications and potentially minoring in Art. He hopes to work with the Luthiery shop in Berea to continue learning and honing his craft of making instruments. Shane’s goal of obtaining a higher education is to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to help his community grow and progress along with the rest of Eastern KY.
Stacie Sexton, Lexington
Stacie Sexton is a reproductive justice activist and organizer from Whitesburg, Kentucky. She currently serves as Project Director of Kentucky Health Justice Network’s All Access EKY, a pilot program to bring comprehensive birth control to all Eastern Kentuckians. Before coming to KHJN, Stacie worked with Homeward Bound in Asheville, NC in partnership with local universities to guide addiction intervention initiatives for women in Buncombe County. She previously worked with Appalshop as an artist-in-residence and production assistant with WMMT FM and is an alum of the Appalachian Media Institute. She also serves as the Artistic Director of the Abortion Monologues of Lexington, board member of Lexington Fairness, and co-chair of the Lexington Fairness Awards. She holds a BA in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Sarah Teeple, Louisville
Sarah Teeple is an Ayurvedic and Nutrition Counselor. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical system which uses food as medicine, seasonal and natural living, healing herbs, digestive spices, and yogic and meditative lifestyle practices in order to restore radiant health, and minimize dis-ease in mind, body, and spirit. Sarah teaches Ayurvedic and herbal workshops and cooking classes, nutrition classes, and Kundalini yoga, and mindfulness meditation. Her medical specialty is treatment of anxiety and depression, autoimmune disease, and digestive disorders using these natural healing modalities. She also loves singing, spending time in nature, cooking, and being with her family.
To Stephanie Self, her idea of heaven is something akin to “eternal summer camp” – being outdoors, meeting new people, learning new things, and truly connecting with her surroundings – something that’s often difficult to do in regular life. She finds being a part of KY RUX to be a lot like “Kentucky Life” summer camp, which is why she is happy to return for year #2. Stephanie grew up western Kentucky and attended WKU. She worked in the hospitality industry for many years, but now works in student affairs in higher education, serving as Transfer Advisor for Madisonville Community College. She finds it hard to pick a primary interest area in KY RUX because she sees everything as being connected – which is very indicative of how she sees the world at-large Her strengths lies in being comfortable existing in the “in-betweens” and her willingness to foster collaboration in creative ways.
Tammy Clemons, Big Hill
Tammy Clemons is a native Kentuckian, and she and her partner are ecofeminist homesteaders/activists who live in an off-the-grid solar dome and give educational tours in their home and community. Over the past 20+ years, Tammy has worked personally and professionally on behalf of student groups, college committees, service-learning collaborations, mentorship programs, boards of non-profit organizations, and cultural institutions. She is also a theater artist and a media artist/teacher who has participated in several community theater productions, film festivals, media education programs, and documentary productions. She returned to graduate school as a non-traditional student after serving in various administrative roles at her undergraduate alma mater Berea College for a decade, and she is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. Her dissertation research focuses on the cultural productions of young visual media makers in Central Appalachia and how they envision, construct, and act upon possibilities for themselves and the region. Tammy’s long-term goal is to remain in her home region for a continuing career of engaging with young people of all ages as a cultural organizer, teacher, mentor, and collaborator.
Sellus Wilder, Frankfort
Sellus Wilder grew up very simply on a subsistence farm in Henry County. He went to Beloit College in Wisconsin to study creative writing, but graduated with degrees in acting and directing instead while becoming politically active in protest of the then-impending Iraq War. He moved back to Kentucky, served as a City Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem of Frankfort for a few years on a sustainability platform, and produced and directed a couple of feature films (including The End Of The Line, which is still being used to fight fracking pipelines around the country). Sellus ran in the Democratic Primary for US Senate in 2016 to push social, economic, and environmental justice issues throughout the election, and helped to kickstart an honest conversation about the need to diversify rural Kentucky’s economies in light of the inevitable collapse of the coal industry. Sellus is currently serving as the Executive Director of both the Kentucky Civic Engagement Table and Kentucky Voter Engagement Table, which coordinate and support the civic and voter engagement work of various non-profits and advocacy groups within our Commonwealth. He has a particular interest in developing narratives and approaches to bridge the urban-rural divide in Kentucky.
Taryn Henning, Lexington
A native Illinoisian, Taryn Henning’s introduction to Kentucky was through her undergraduate education at Berea College. It was there that she was exposed to the rich diversity of the state and that her commitment to community truly began to form. In all her endeavors since that time, Taryn has intentionally placed a focus on giving back to the communities in which she lives. Currently residing in Lexington, she serves as the Director of Community Engagement at Ampersand Sexual Violence Resource Center, where she works to create greater accessibility of agency resources to populations that are at heightened risk of experiencing sexual violence.
Taylor Adams, Hindman
Taylor Adams is from Ashland, Kentucky. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Kentucky where she received a bachelor's degree in History. Her studies focused on history of the Americas and Appalachian culture. After spending one year living and working in West Virginia, she was called back home to Kentucky where she now serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Hindman Settlement School. There she serves as an archives specialist where she works to make Hindman history more accessible to the local community and beyond.
Taylor Killough, Louisville
Taylor Killough is a journalist and producer who is passionate about food systems, the natural world, and how we interact with and care for it. She values listening more than talking and has an unwavering curiosity in…well, almost everything. Most of all, she cares about people and their stories. In the past, she’s worked as a youth and environmental educator, museum tour guide, and with the public radio oral history project StoryCorps. Originally from downstate Illinois and a nomad at heart, she considers herself lucky to have made a home in Louisville, her favorite city in the world. She currently works as a video and media producer. She’s also a reporter and blogger for Earth Eats, a podcast and blog at the intersection of agriculture and the environment. One day, she hopes to add farmer and bartender to her resumé. In her few spare free moments, you can find her swinging in her hammock, tending to her garden, or doting on her two sweet dogs.
Tommy Anderson, Shelby Gap
In the hills of the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, straddling the border of Virginia on the Pine Mountain ridge, Tommy Anderson gained his identity and passion from the joys and struggles of life here. In 2005 he joined the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) a Project of Appalshop, a program gave Tommy a clearer lens to view his home through, a literacy for media, a voice to tell a story, the inspiration to do more than he ever thought possible, and a strong will to stay put and give back to his mountain community. Today he teaches fiddle to grades 3-8, works at Appalshop, and is working on paying off and restoring a historic building in his hometown that he imagines being a community gathering place for at-risk and marginalized local youth.