AMES, Iowa — Artist and community organizer Ashley Hanson will share her discoveries from a cross-country road trip through rural America in a lecture at Iowa State University.

Hanson’s multimedia presentation, “Public Transformation: A Documentation of Art in Rural America,” will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, in the Pioneer Room at the Iowa State Memorial Union.

Following the 2016 presidential election, Hanson — a social practice and theater artist whose large-scale public performances put rural life at their center — was curious about how other artists working in rural areas were contemplating the geographic and psychological divides of the Trump era.

In January 2017, she bought a little yellow school bus and set off on a fast-paced “fact-finding mission” she called “Public Transformation.” With a rotating cast of mobile artists-in-residence, her six-week road trip documented the work of rural-based artists, cultural leaders and arts organizations as they consider their often-conflicted place in American culture.

In her presentation, Hanson will provide a snapshot of the lives, work, stories, themes, artifacts and questions she encountered while visiting 24 rural communities (all with populations under 10,000) across the country. She will facilitate discussion about the role of art in small-town life and the successes and challenges of making art in rural America.

About the speaker

Hanson is the co-founder of PlaceBase Productions, a community-driven theater company that creates original musical productions celebrating small towns, and of Curious Incidents, an immersive-event collaborative. She is the director of the Small Town CAIR (City Artist-in-Residence) Program in Granite Falls, Minnesota, and she is also a musician, whose recent album, The Kirkbride Sessions, explores the “underbelly of ruralness.”

Hanson holds a Master of Arts in applied theater from the University of Manchester, England, with an emphasis on the role of arts in rural community development.

Symposium and workshop

Hanson is one of five guest speakers participating in the (d)innovation: Transforming Design for Society Symposium Monday, March 26, at the ISU College of Design. She will also lead a workshop Tuesday afternoon, March 26, for the “Social Capital: Seeing, Making, Doing” option studio taught by Lisa Bates, ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development field specialist, and Jennifer Drinkwater, assistant professor of art and visual culture and community arts extension specialist.

Her visit is co-sponsored by ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development and the interdisciplinary design program in the College of Design.


Jennifer Drinkwater, Art and Visual Culture, (515) 294-5270, jd1@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu