Minnesota Artist Ashley Hanson was selected by the Obama Foundation to join the inaugural 2018 Fellows class. Selected from more than 20,000 applicants from 191 countries, Hanson will join a two-year, non-residential program that brings together 20 leaders representing 11 countries around the world who are creating transformational change on many of the world’s most pressing problems. The Obama Foundation selected Hanson to continue her work using the arts to help rural communities connect across difference, revitalize their rural spaces, and create new narratives across the United States.

The Dalin family recently donated a building on Prentice Street to Hanson, which she hopes to refurbish as an “artist residency and creative community gathering space.” The new space will become the new headquarters of the Department of Public Transform, a nation-wide project geared towards promoting arts and community- based participation.

“I am honored and humbled to be a part of the very first Obama Foundation Fellows class and to join a diverse class of community-minded civic innovators,” said Hanson, “With the Obama Foundation Fellowship, I will be able to continue and strengthen the work of the Department of Public Transformation to advocate and elevate the work of rural artists, leaders and practitioners across the country.”

The Fellowship will offer hands-on training, leadership development, and a powerful network for Fellows to amplify the impact of their work and inspire a wave of civic innovation.

Over the course of the two-year program, Obama Foundation Fellows will participate in four multi-day gatherings to collaborate with one another, connect with potential partners, and break down silos to advance their work. The first Fellows gathering will be in Chicago in May.

Each Fellow will also develop and pursue with the Foundation a personalized plan to leverage the fellowship and Obama Foundation resources to take their work to the next level. As Fellows put their plans into action, the Obama Foundation will assist with access to mentors, coaches, and additional resources.

“The 2018 Obama Foundation Fellows come from diverse backgrounds but share a common desire to make positive change and create the world as it should be,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “By bringing these individuals together, we hope to help amplify the work of our Fellows so it has a widespread impact. On behalf of President and Mrs. Obama and the Obama Foundation family, I congratulate our new Fellows and look forward to working with them.”

The work of the 2018 Fellows will support the Obama Foundation’s broader mission to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of civic leaders. Geographic diversity, commitment to the Obama Foundation’s values, and existing work all factored into the selection process.