Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities, introduces the INseparable initiative to discuss rural-urban themes in Indiana. She also unveiled the statewide book read for Jean Thompson’s novel “The Year We Left Home.” CNHI Indiana staff photo by  Scott L. Miley
Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities, introduces the INseparable initiative to discuss rural-urban themes in Indiana. She also unveiled the statewide book read for Jean Thompson’s novel “The Year We Left Home.” CNHI Indiana staff photo by  Scott L. Miley
INDIANAPOLIS — When Julie Parke was applying for a grant to host a Smithsonian-created exhibit, she interviewed two local officials about the changing urban and rural mix in Elkhart County.

One of the officials, a county commissioner, told her, “Our hearts value agriculture, but our pocketbooks value manufacturing.”

That comment reinforced her goal with the exhibit. “We have to find a happy marriage between the two,” she said Tuesday. 

Parke, director of the Elkhart County Historical Museum in Bristol, was among six recipients Tuesday of $2,000 grants for a traveling Smithsonian-curated exhibit titled “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

The exhibit will begin its journey in September and help people in small towns understand economic and social changes. The exhibit will also visit Dillsboro, New Harmony, North Manchester, Salem and Vernon.

The exhibit is part of the wider “INseparable” initiative by Indiana Humanities, including a reading project for students in grades K-12 and a call-out for artists to create short films about urban, suburban and rural Hoosiers.

The Shelfie Challenge asks students in K-12 to read five books related to life in rural, urban and suburban America.

Indiana Humanities also announced a statewide book read of Jean Thompson’s “The Year We Left Home,” a novel that spans 30 years in the life of a Midwestern family.

“What we’re trying to do is create space and opportunity for people to wrestle with these issues on their own and in conversation with others,” said Keira Amstutz, CEO of Indiana Humanities.

Parke hopes to generate lively community meetings.

“Some people in the Nappanee area are bringing back mint farming; that used to be a big thing,” she said. “What can we learn about the Anabaptist commitment to traditional farming methods? What can the people who have the Fruit Hills Winery teach us about family legacy?

“We also want to talk to kids,” Parke added. “We want to talk to students in 4-H and FFA. What do they see 25 years down the road when they’re looking at a rural kind of career.”

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