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The Connectors

Meet the 2022 Cohort & Core Connectors

Our inaugural 2022 Cohort joins our Core Connectors in this adaptive and emergent journey of creating meaningful exchange in and across our Minnesota communities.

2022 Cohort Connectors

Our 2022 Cohort is composed of 15 Minnesotans with varied experiences of leadership, career, geography, age, ability, expertise, gender, race, sexuality, culture, and class.

These leaders in the arts, community development, education, environment, healthcare, and business sectors represent many regions of Minnesota, including Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Hubbard, Lake, Ramsey, Scott, Winona, and Yellow Medicine counties. They commit to four community intensive weekend gatherings over a two-year period, where they set out to understand and value the culture, landscape, context and people of each place. This year’s cohort members look forward to Community Intensive weekends in the Frogtown/Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul and Mahnomen County/White Earth Nation.

Cate Belleveau

theater director, ecologist, writer, INFJ Jungian and Artemis archetype, rural art maker, educator, MUM of Millenials, kayaker & backpacker, alpine areas lover

Conie Borchardt

St. PaulListener-Vibration. Heart Artist. Luth-opalian Sufi Dancer. Mixed Asian. Rural-Urban. Gen X-er. Community Song & Dance Leader. Budding Organizer & Storyteller.

Autumn Cavender

Granite FallsDakota, mother, partner, midwife, decolonization activist, Indigenous animist, artist, ancestral femme, Sci-fi/high fantasy nerd

Julie Drechsler

St. Paul
Mom, sister, favorite aunt, friend, keen quilter, farm kid, community builder, youth advocate, Aussie/American, LGBTQIA ally

Laura Joseph

St. Paulmother by choice, appreciator of slowness and rest, hoosher/small world maker, believer in embodied knowledge, seeker of meaningful/deep connections, curator

Penny Kagigebi

Detroit Lakes
Advocate for JOY and Mino-Bimaadiziwin (good life/good health) through Ojibwe Culture+Arts, QUEER2-Spirit, Relative-Grandmother-Wife-Niece-Sister-Auntie

Marcus Larson

JordanGardener, Painter, chameleon, Social Butterfly, YouTube addict.

Su Legatt

Moorheadartist, mother, daughter, photographer, rural advocate, connector, baker, love of the outdoors, musician

Guillermo Enrique Narváez

St. Paul
Community advocate and activist - educator - parent - environmentalist - food explorer

Ginger Porcella

St. Paul
devil-may-care rebel cowgirl; art instigator; dog snuggler; comedic relief; music maker and dreamer of dreams

Jeremy Radtke

Granite Falls
Chronic optimist, Designer, Fun-haver, Communicator, Western MN advocate, Family guy, Lover of Adventure

Joy Davis Ripley

Writer, photographer, artist, professor, mother, life partner, daughter, friend, cyclist, gardener, Southerner, introvert, person with disabilities

Laura Seter

Mom, partner, daughter, granddaughter, sister, gardener-in-training, podcast junkie, journal keeper, evolver. Double Scorpio

Dan Thewis

Two Harbors
Father, Husband, Son, Brother, Teacher, Coach, Friend, Cook, Christian

Core Connectors

Our Core Connectors, or Steering Committee, have been meeting virtually for over a year to ideate, co-create, and generate a pathway forward for the Minnesota Rural Urban Exchange.

Thankfully, we do not do this work from scratch. Launched first in Kentucky by Art of the Rural and Appalshop in 2014, the Minnesota Rural Urban Exchange leans heavily on the values, framework and insights of our friends in Kentucky. Through a virtual learning exchange, our Core Connectors received direction, guidance and experiential knowledge from our fellow Kentuckians. With their own perspectives, vision, and grounded reality of Minnesota, our Core Connectors are building off of this base to adapt the model for our place and people.

Joe Allen

Mahnomen; White Earth Nation
Project Director, Gizhiigin Arts Incubator
Father, Lakota, Ojibwe, Artist, Rural, Mentor, Entrepreneur, Introvert

Anna Claussen

Founder, Voices for Rural Resilience
Farmers daughter, mother, tomboy, social strategist, twin, scarf hoarder

Dawn Espe

Equitable Development Specialist, Region Five Development Commision
Wife, mother, planner, gardener, cook

Maddy Fisher

Economic Development Specialist / Lead for MN Fellow, Southern MN Initiative Foundation
leader, dancer, friend, daughter and deep conversationalist

Matt Fluharty

Executive Director, Art of the Rural
father, visitor, writer, artist, curator, zen wanderer, listener

Ashley Hanson

Granite Falls
Founder and Director, Department of Public Transformation and PlaceBase Productions
theater artist, enthusiast, climber, Leo, extrovert, adventurer, yogi

Emma Higgins

Lead for Minnesota Fellow, Grant and Program ResearcherNew Yorker, Runner, Improviser, Extrovert, Traveler, Barista, Rural Advocate, Advocate for Women

Cheryal Hills

Executive Director, Region Five Development Commisionrural, feminist, gardener, bridger, spiritual, atheist, change agent, equity advocate

Salma Ahmed Ibrahim

Lead for Minnesota Mental Health FellowSomali, Black, Muslim, Community Organizer, Writer

Teresa Kittridge

Founder 100 Rural Womenmother, sister, aunt, rural advocate, rural woman, curious, traveler, community servant, seasoned

Benya Kraus

Co-Founder & Minnesota Executive Director, Lead for AmericaDaughter, sister, Rural Advocate, Catholic, Thai-Midwest Fusionist, Eating with Hands Enthusiast

Jane Leonard

St. Paul
President, Growth & JusticeTwin, community builder from birth, family kin-keeper, Rurban advocate, flashlight/duct tape gal

Jonathan Locust

Associate Vice-President, Office of Equity & Inclusive Excellence, Winona State UniversityBlack American man, Father, Husband, Meditator, Entrepreneur, Committed to bringing higher vibrations to the world.

Kathy Mouacheupao

St. Paul
Executive Director, Metropolitan Regional Arts CouncilHmong American woman, daughter of refugees, arts administrator, auntie, Saint Paulite, creative collaborator, optimist

Jeremy Staab

Director, National Advancement at Artspace Projects, Inc.Dakota, Arts Administrator, Social Justice Advocate, Brother, Uncle, Friend

Erik Takeshita

Interim Executive Director, Arrowhead Regional Arts CouncilSon, grandson, husband, father, Community builder. committed to social justice

Moira Villiard

Community-engaged artist, freelancer, and muralista community organizer, muralist, a descendent of both Indigenous and settler heritage, emo/punk kid at heart, a pluralist, a sweet potato and squash chef

Cassie Williams

Inver Grove Heights
Labor Educator, University of Minnesota
Black woman, mother, artist, poet, educator


Coffee + Connection

Coffee + Connection

Join us monthly!
Not a part of our 2022 cohort but still wanting to grow social capital, and cultivate relationships across racial, economic and geographic divides? Join us virtually the second Friday of every month for informal connection over coffee, lightly facilitated by our Core Connectors and intended to remove barriers that set us apart from others.


Meet the 2022 Cohort Connectors!

In 2022, after two years of virtual learning, ideating and co-creating the Minnesota Rural-Urban Exchange, we welcomed our inaugural cohort at Community Intensives in Rondo and Frogtown in St. Paul, and in Mahnomen and the White Earth Nation.


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Anna at mnruralurbanexchange@gmail.com

The Exchange

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The Connectors

Meet the 2023 Cohort and Core Connectors


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