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the Cooperative

Abbey Blake

Board Member

Abbey Blake is a visual artist who works within printmaking, sculpture and fiber arts. Blake received her BFA in printmaking and biomedical art from the Cleveland Institute of Art and her MFA in printmaking with minors in sculpture and ceramics from the University of Iowa. Blake grew up on a farm in Burton, Ohio and now lives in the northwoods of Minnesota. She is an Art Instructor at Itasca Community College and she is currently making a body of work about the iron range. Her work focuses on the relationships humans have with various landscapes and their resources. She makes connections between those relationships and how they echo our interactions and connections to one another as humans.

Robert Martin

Board Member

Robert Martin grew up in the North Woods of Wisconsin and is focused on emphasizing queerness and queer narratives in rural American spaces. Martin earned their BFA in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin-Stout (2017), and is a current MFA candidate in Studio Practices at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the Painting and Drawing Dept. They have exhibited at the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau, GOCA in Colorado Springs, Sierra Arts Gallery in Reno, IDS Tower in Minneapolis, and locally around Boulder. They were a 2020 Rough Gems Curator at Union Hall in Denver, a 2019 NEST (Nature, Environment, Science & Technology) Grant recipient at CU-Boulder, and their work was featured in UW-Stout’s 2017 Journal of Student Research.

Jake Miller

Board Member

Jake Miller is a sculptor and 3rd year graduate teaching associate at the University of Tennessee. He received his BFA from Western Illinois University in 2016. Originally from northwestern Illinois, Miller’s work examines his circumstances growing up in a small farm town. Through his use of traditionally blue-collar objects/materials he creates sculptures that highlight the problems surrounding toxic masculinity in rural communities. Millers work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably Foley Gallery New York City, NY, Upstream Gallery New York City, NY, and Zg Gallery Chicago, IL. He has participated in many artist residencies and workshops such as Farwell house Plank road residency, Fredrick, IL 2018 and The A.I.R. and demonstrating artist at Atelier de la Nature, Arnaudville, La in 2019. Miller is a director and founding member of the newly formed Rural Midwest Artists Cooperative,an organization created to help bring more art and art education to rural areas of the Midwest. 

Sophia Ruppert

Board Member

Sophia Ruppert earned an MFA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a BFA from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Her work has been exhibited nationally in galleries and museums including the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria, Louisiana, The Virago in Contemporary Art and Adornment in Seattle, Washington, Art St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri, the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford Illinois, and the Anderson Gallery and Drake University. In 2020, she received the Gilbert Bayes Award from the Royal society of Sculptors, the Mayor’s Art Award from the Kimmel Foundation for the Arts, and was selected as an Emerging Artist by Fiber Art Now. She currently lives and works in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Heidi Zenisek

Board Member

Heidi is a self-identified Midwestern Heifer. She was born in a barn to humble farmers surrounded by dirt, corn, cows, and rust. Soon after, she became an Eastern Iowa 4-H child prodigy, winning more ribbons than one can count. With those glory days behind her,Heidi now spends her time making sculpture with, about, on, and of the farm. She has exhibited throughout the United States and Iceland, and has participated in numerous residencies such as HEIMA, Franconia Sculpture Park, and Salem Art Works. In 2016, she was a Fellow at The LungA School in Iceland and has twice been invited to exhibit at the Icelandic Light Festival, List í Ljósi. She holds a BFA from the University of Iowa, an MA from Eastern Illinois University, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland. Although based on the East Coast now, she forever pines to be back in the countryside amongst the whimsy and brutality of nature.

Harris Boden


Harrison Boden is a queer interdisciplinary ceramics artist who was born and raised in Montrose, Missouri as the only and last male descendant of a family farming tradition sustained for over a century. Growing up in a conservative midwest town of less than 300 people, Harrison’s former years were fraught with difficulty which he now uses as conceptual groundwork for his practice. 


Harrison broke the mold of family tradition to receive his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Northwest Missouri State University in 2020. Immediately following graduation, Harrison relocated to State College, Pennsylvania where he currently resides working toward his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University. 


Harrison’s work explores themes of lost and found, navigation and location which he filters through a queer lens to create multimedia sculptures that question his gender identity, upbringing and place within the LGBTQIA+ community. He is interested in the relationship between being physically and mentally lost and feeling trapped within the constraints of traditional masculine and feminine esthetic expectations.

Madison Hager


Madison Hager grew up in rural Wisconsin and spent her youth active in the local 4-H club, which is where she learned to sew, cook, garden, and participated in the county fair.   Madison received her bachelor’s degree in Art from UW-La Crosse and Master's in Fine Arts in Sculpture + Expanded Practice at Ohio University.  Her current research investigates the gendering of work in the home as well as her own relationship to domestic space using performance art, sewing and installations.  Madison has exhibited at institutions such as the Devos Museum of Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design and The Esther Allen Greer Museum Gallery.  As well as being a practicing artist Madiosn is the Curator for the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau, WI.


Abigail Rose Hedley


Abigail Rose Hedley was born, raised, and is currently positioned in the Midwest. They are a multi-disciplinary sculptor and fabricator who specializes in fiber arts and metal fabrication. Receiving their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa, while working as an artist assistant and fabricator for the Public Art Incubator. Assisting in creating public artworks for artists from across the country, displayed around the Midwest. Within Abigail’s current work they focus on translating how Midwest communities communicate trauma, and the lingering and expansive effect traumatic moments can have. Rendering common utilitarian objects in softer media and distorting the viewers perspective by embedding aspects of these complex narratives and power dynamics within the final form. 

Stacey Rathert


Stacey Rathert is an artist originally from the way outs of Kansas, also known as the small farming community of Lancaster. Rathert received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science in Education in 2011 from Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. She then made an epic Uhaul voyage to the south to receive her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Mississippi, Oxford, in 2015. Currently Rathert is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi in the sculpture and foundations departments.

Despite her short stature, she is a teller of taaall tales. Working in a variety of scale, Rathert creates artwork that tells exaggerated and fantastical stories centered on themes of personal identity. She uses simple, whimsical imagery to illustrate her narratives, elevating the mundane through alteration. Typically this results in humorous contradictions of material, functionality, or commonly associated characteristics. Relating to the performance of exhaustive story telling, she is most drawn to materials that require meticulous methods to transform, such as cast metals, smithed and fabricated steel, fabric and fibers, and found objects. 

Outside of her academic and artistic endeavors Rathert enjoys a good, medium rare KC Strip with a side of carbs, adding to her collection of over 100 antique and toy sad irons, knitting and sewing, cooking and baking, but not doing the dishes, bowling, hikes with her cattle dog Mabel, escapes to the farm to drive tractors, restoring her 1971 International Scout, taking the long way home, and moving heavy stuff, over and over again.

Abbi Ruppert


Born in Nokomis, Illinois, Abbi Loree Ruppert grew up in a family plagued by mental illness, poverty, and toxic gender roles rooted deeply in religion and rural American culture. Ruppert’s work dissects the female self-sacrifice complex and celebrates victories against it. Ruppert exhibits work across the Midwest, recently showing at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, Foundry Arts Centre in St. Louis, and Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati. In September 2019, Ruppert installed her public sculpture “Revival” on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s campus. In 2020, she received the Outstanding Student Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center and was featured in the January/February 2021 issue of Sculpture Magazine. Ruppert currently lives and works in Edwardsville, Illinois. She will graduate with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from SIUE in May 2021.

Nicole Shaver


Nicole Shaver (she/her) grew up along Lake Michigan, where she skipped rocks and watched fishermen gut salmon as a child.  Largely inspired by ideas of place and belonging, she researches geographical sites and employs them as metaphorical compasses to navigate the space between reality and fantasy, the banal and the sublime.

She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA from the University of Iowa.  She has attended artist residencies in Colorado, Iceland, North Carolina, Ohio, Portugal, Vancouver, and Wisconsin, while exhibiting widely throughout the United States and Scandinavia.  Her work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and published in New American Paintings and Studio Visit Magazine.

Shaver is committed to growth of the artistic community in Wisconsin, working as Operations Manager for the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network.  She maintains a painting studio in Saukville, WI, shoots 35mm film, runs, swims and throws rocks when permitted.

Kacey Slone


Kacey Slone is currently a 3rd year Intermedia MFA Candidate and a professor of record, teaching Printmaking, in the Art + Art History program at the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her two BFAs, Printmaking and Graphic Design, from Indiana University Southeast in May 2018. Kacey was the Assistant Gallery Manager for the Pat Harrison Fine Art + Design Gallery and has interned at Louisville Magazine. Slone has assisted with Southern Graphics Council International and Mid-America Print Council conferences and served as a member of the MAPC board and is now a member of the Rural Midwest Artists Cooperative. Her work explores the topic of identity, and how place affects ones belonging. In her free time, Kacey is a photographer, adventurer, coffee drinker, playlist maker and long way home- taker.

Kaitlyn Jo Smith


Kaitlyn Jo Smith is an interdisciplinary artist focused on the present and future trajectories of America’s working class. Raised by skilled laborers in rural Ohio, Smith was thirteen when the housing market crashed and nearly every adult she knew was suddenly out of work. Her artworks render visible the intangible realities of unemployment by utilizing automation, machine learning and 3D scanning and printing. These technologies are directly linked to the loss of over 4 million US manufacturing jobs since 2000. Her work has been featured in PDNedu and Don’t Smile Magazine and has shown at the Tucson Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Arizona, Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, Flower City Arts Center in Rochester, New York, Harry Wood Gallery in Tempe, Arizona and CO-OPt Gallery in Lubbock, Texas.



Kyle Smothers


Smothers work is about what is unseen or passed by in everyday life. It is a critique of Western society’s focus on an end goal resulting in a point A-to-B movement through the world. This work is meant to encourage the viewer to be observant of the world around them and encourages the viewer to be present in the now. I feel it’s important that my work honestly depicts what can be found in everyday life. I’d like the viewer to experience the image as though they could have been present, experiencing the same objects or locations. This body of work was created exclusively in Northern Minnesota where I reside. It is an area that has experienced the boom and bust of iron ore mining. Travel through rural areas has been an important inspiration to the work. It exposes me to new scenes, which is energizing and gives a sense of freedom.

Amber White


Amber was trusted with sharp objects from a young age. Fillet knives, fish hooks, needles, and nails taught early lessons in dexterity and diligence. Her work reflects relationships formed through intense experiences of grief and wayfinding. Tree fragments, wasp nests, deer skin, bone, iron, and other non-human beings form a family of characters to confide in. The physical and emotional labor of the process allows for an attempt to preserve these interactions and a reminder of the urge for life to carry on. Although raised by hunters, trappers, and farmers, Amber earned a BA from the University of Minnesota (Morris) and an MFA from the U of MN (Twin Cities) where imposter syndrome nearly got the best of her. She has exhibited throughout the Midwest and international venues including Franconia Sculpture Park, Bemidji Sculpture Walk, the Edward J. and Helen Jane Morrison Gallery, Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim, The Beijing Film Academy, Duluth Art Institute, Sloss Furnaces Historic Landmark, and more. Amber currently lives in Osceola, Wisconsin.

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