Rural America Contemporary Art (RACA) is for and about artists living in rural areas across the United States.
RACA works from the slogan Making Nowhere Into Somewhere. This is wry commentary on what traditionally has been the perception of rural America among other artistic communities and culture centers—that artists working in rural communities are less progressive and more regional than artists working in urban areas.
But the Internet and social media (combined with the high cost of creative spaces in urban areas) is causing rapid shift in this paradigm. Today, rural American contemporary artists in all career stages and working in all mediums are found coast-to-coast and border-to-border. Look no further than RACA’s Facebook page to see how we continue to gather.
RACA, as an online community, digital gallery, and magazine (RACAonline, which will launch here in October), seeks to be a driving force in the recasting of the rural artistic identity from one of lesser importance to one of value and significance. It aims to develop community among contemporary artists who live and create in rural America, and to be a positive, vibrant, stimulating voice for the evolving identity of the rural contemporary artist. RACA seeks to contribute to the whole of American contemporary art through a culture of discourse, inclusion, and aesthetic engagement.
RACA is created by—and about—the people, places, issues, and events that are important to rural American contemporary artists.
This is Somewhere, was funded by the generosity of the McKnight Foundation. Filmed and produced by Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker of Works Progress. Over the period of a year Brian Frink was filmed working on his paintings and publishing the first issue of RACAonline. Also featured in the video are RACAonline editorial staff members Matt Willemsen, David Rogers and Stephanie Wilbur Ashe.
It is a brief look into the intersecting worlds of Brian’s artwork, his passion for rural culture and life at his studio/home, The Poor Farm.
We make nowhere into somewhere. Join us.
RACA currently seeks creative and critical work from artists working in all mediums—from visual art to popular music to flash fiction—for inclusion, discourse, and publication. In particular, we seek work that is from, about, or in conversation with rural America and contemporary art.
To submit work, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For visual artists, submit no more than 5 low-resolution images or a link to your website. Email for questions on submitting video. For writers, submit no more than 1000 words in an email or attached word document.
Brian is a painter and the CEO of RACA and Editor-In-Chief of RACAonline. He lives in southern Minnesota in the town of Mankato. He and his partner, Wilbur, live and work in the old Blue Earth County Poor Farm, which they have remodeled and renamed as Poor Farm Studios. In it they have space for the creation of Brian’s large scaled paintings and work related to Wilbur’s social justice theater groups. Originally from Plainfield, Illinois (population 2,800), Brian attended undergraduate school at Illinois State University in Normal. In 1979 he moved to Brooklyn, New York, becoming an “urban pioneer” in the then-nascent artist community of Williamsburg. In 1984 he moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. He and Wilbur, with their two children Blake and Annakeiko, moved to Mankato, Minnesota in 1989, where he began teaching painting and drawing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Justin Eells is an MFA writing student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He writes fiction and essays, and received his BA in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not writing or reading, he likes to cook and frequent museums, arts shows, readings, concerts, and parties.
Stephanie Wilbur Ash
Steph edits and manages the words for RACA and RACAonline. When she’s not doing that, she writes songs, scripts, short stories, novels, magazine features, and essays with Midwestern and/or rural identifications. She edits the magazine for the American Taekwondo Association. She sings with the Prairie Fire Lady Choir. On Facebook, she is Goth Mom. You can track her whereabouts at her website. Originally from Oelwein, Iowa (population 6,444), she currently lives in North Mankato, Minnesota, (population 13,437), in an original homesteaded cabin built in 1866 and rebuilt in 2004. She also lives in Minneapolis.
David is a graphic designer and part of the collaborative venture WR Design Lab. He also pushes pixels for RACA and RACAonline. Born in Iowa City, Iowa (population 68,948), he spent much of his youth running along country roads and making music in friends’ basements. During his undergraduate years, he lived in a range of communities, from Cotter, Iowa (population 48), to Santiago, Chile (population 4,985,893). He currently lives in Mankato, Minnesota, where he teaches design at Minnesota State University, Mankato. When not designing he can be found chasing after his two kids.
Matt is an educator, graphic designer, and the other half of the collaborative venture WR Design Lab. When he is not engaged in the day-to-day activities of teaching, designing, or collaborating, he provides a critical eye for RACA and RACAonline. Originally from Elkhart, Iowa (population 693), he now lives in North Mankato, Minnesota (population 13,437), where he teaches graphic design at Minnesota State University, Mankato.