JASPER — Identity. Land. Community. Persistence. Managing change.

The five themes above all fall under the umbrella of change in rural America. And in the not-too-distant future, those topics will be explored in a series of free programs hosted through the combined efforts of the Jasper Community Arts, Jasper Public Library and Dubois County Museum.

“I think that, hopefully, the programs that are offered are a unique entry point into having an open discussion about how the community has changed,” said Arts Director Kyle Rupert. “I think the larger goal is that we have a diverse group of people that attend that can speak from a multitude of backgrounds and perspectives, and that we can learn how one change that has occurred in Jasper may have impacted me and I may have dealt with it differently than ... this person has.”

The events — their formats have not been finalized — will come to the area thanks to a $1,500 grant from a collaboration between Indiana Humanities, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting public humanities, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program.

The team of Jasper entities previously applied to be one of six Indiana communities to host a Smithsonian-curated traveling exhibit called, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” but was not selected. Instead, Jasper was among nine other communities offered the stipend to develop programs, mini-exhibits and other projects related to the themes of the “Crossroads” exhibit.

Rupert explained that the programs won’t be entirely Jasper-centric, however, as cities and towns in Dubois County continue to interconnect and see themselves as part of a bigger unit.

“I think our group has taken a sense of thinking larger than just Jasper, although Jasper might be the starting off point,” Rupert said. “But looking at the county as a whole, since that’s been a big push the last few years from a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different corners.”

Though they haven’t been officially set, the programs could include guest speakers that address various topics, as well as book and film discussions that kick-start talks related to area change. Five total programs will take place between September and June 2020.

“The big thing that they’re (Indiana Humanities) trying to accomplish is to start discussions within communities,” Rupert said. “Start dialogues about what type of change has been occurring, how has that impacted the community, how has the community dealt with that change. What does that change mean? Or what could it mean? And really, they want to start conversations within communities.”

The Smithsonian exhibit will travel to the Washington County Historical Society in Salem from Oct. 26 to Dec. 8, and will be in Posey County from May 9, 2020, to June 21, 2020, when the University of Southern Indiana’s Historic New Harmony nonprofit organization hosts the moving fixture.

Indiana Humanities is bringing the “Crossroads” exhibit to Indiana as part of its new, two-year initiative called INseparable. According to a press release, it “invites Hoosiers to explore how we relate to each other across boundaries, real or imagined, and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.”

“Conversations about change in our rural communities are vital to the future of Indiana,” Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities, said in the release. “We are excited to be able to utilize the ‘Crossroads’ exhibition as a catalyst for dialogue around the past, present and future of rural Indiana.”

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