Davis receives Bush Fellowship to expand rural advocacy work Lanesboro Arts adopts collaborative leadership model

John Davis was the recent recipient of a prestigious Bush Foundation fellowship.
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A really nice surprise.

That’s what Lanesboro Arts Executive Director John Davis had to say about recently being awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Bush Foundation.

Davis, who has served as executive director from 2000 to 2003 and 2007 to present, was among 24 Bush Fellows for 2018, chosen from an applicant pool of 751.

“For me, it’s really exciting because being awarded a Bush Fellowship gives me the time and the resources to continue the work I’ve been doing in the field of rural arts, but to expand it on a more national level,” said Davis.

Though a partnership with the Rural Policy Research Institute, Davis will remain living in Lanesboro, but will have the opportunity to travel, presenting at national conferences as well as internationally. So far he has been invited to speak in Canada and Australia.

He’ll also frequently travel back and forth to Washington, D.C., in order to learn more about policies for rural America, “especially the intersection between arts, economic development and rural policy.”

Sharing Lanesboro

Davis said over the next two years, he plans to share his amazing experience as the executive director of Lanesboro Arts, including his work with the Lanesboro Arts Campus Initiative.

“We got grants from ArtPlace America and the National Endowment for the Arts, essentially to work on reimagining what a community can be and strengthening its assets through historic preservation. We got money to fix up the gallery building and the St. Mane Theatre and money to help with signage and information in the community parking lot,” he said.

“Getting these grants allowed our organization to present Lanesboro and the work our organization is doing across the country.”       

Davis was the recipient of the 2011 Visionary Leadership Award from the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits for his community-building work in the arts in Lanesboro. His work with the Lanesboro Art Campus Initiative contributed to Lanesboro being named one of the “Top 12 Small Town Artplaces in America” in 2013, as well as Lanesboro Arts being awarded a Bush Prize for Community Innovation in 2014.

David has more than 30 years of experience with small town and rural creative social change work. He is a national speaker on rural arts issues and his work has been featured on National Public Radio and broadcast on C-Span; it also has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times and the NBC Today Show.

A new journey     

Davis said he is really excited about being able to learn from other organizations regarding strategies to help strengthen rural communities across the country.

“It’s a really nice way to end a phase of my career as an executive director and start a new journey looking to amplify a voice to advocate for rural America and Lanesboro,” he said.

New model

At the end of this month, Davis will step down from his position as executive director. He will be replaced by a collaborative leadership team consisting of current staff members.

Gallery Director Robbie Brokken, Program Director Adam Wiltgen and Advancement Director Kara Maloney will collaborate to lead the organization after Davis’ departure.

“This approach will best position Lanesboro Arts for the future while also facilitating, by design, true co-creation with stakeholders and creative cooperation both within the organization and across the community,” said Board Chair Bonnie Handmacher.

The leadership team and board members have updated and revised systems, policies and procedures to ensure shared responsibility and organizational sustainability. Additional support for ongoing leadership, training, capacity building and resources for both implementation of, and dissemination of information regarding, the innovative collective leadership model is being provided through a recently awarded two-year grant from the Mardag Foundation.

Open house

An open house celebration to honor Davis and his accomplishments will take place Tuesday, June 26, from 4 to 7 p.m. at The Granary in Lanesboro with refreshments provided by Pedal Pushers Café.