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

Puposky
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

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

Laura Seter

Laporte
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

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

Dawn Espe

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

Maddy Fisher

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

Matt Fluharty

Winona
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

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

Cheryal Hills

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

Salma Ahmed Ibrahim

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

Teresa Kittridge

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

Benya Kraus

Waseca
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

Winona
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

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

Erik Takeshita

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

Moira Villiard

Duluth
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


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