Ashley Hanson is a social practitioner, theater artist, storyteller, and lover of rural places. She is the co-founder of PlaceBase Productions, a theater company that creates original, site-specific musicals celebrating small town life and the founder of the Department of Public Transformation, an artist-led organization that connects and supports rural-based artists and collaborates with local artists and civic leaders in small towns to develop creative strategies for increased community connection, civic pride, and equitable participation. She is the Director of the first Small Town CAIR (City Artist in Residence) program and The YES! House, creative community gathering space in Granite Falls, MN (pop. 2767). She was recently named a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow for her work with rural communities. She holds an MA in Applied Theater from the University of Manchester (UK) with an emphasis on the role of arts in rural community development. She is also a musician, whose recent album - The Kirkbride Sessions - explores the ‘underbelly of ruralness.’ She spends most of her time on the road visiting people who call rural places home and believes wholeheartedly in the power of play and exclamation points!