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John’s Story

"In a small town, your audience is everyone"

John Davis is the founder and former Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts. His work creating and developing the Lanesboro Arts Campus initiative resulted in its selection as one of the top 12 Small Town Artplaces in America for 2013, as well as a 2014 Bush Prize for Community Innovation Award winner. In September of 2014, the City Council of Lanesboro, MN passed a unanimous resolution proclaiming “That the entire community be designated as an Arts Campus”, becoming the first small town in America to make such a proclamation.

Mr. 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, MN (pop. 754). His innovative work in New York Mills, Minnesota (pop. 1,200) has been recognized as a national model for rural economic development in the arts, and New York Mills, MN was twice recognized as one of the top 100 small arts town in America. Davis is also the creator of the Great American Think-Off philosophy competition and the Kids Philosophy Slam program.

Davis has over 25 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 has also been featured in Corporate Report Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, and the NBC Today Show.

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