About Public Transformation

Hello, my name is Ashley Hanson. About five years ago, I started a theater company called PlaceBase Productions with my colleague, Andrew Gaylord. We work with rural communities to tell their stories through original, community-driven, site-specific musicals. The core of our work is to ask questions, listen deeply to the answers, and to share what we learn in a way that helps us all connect, and move forward, together.

The recent presidential election brought to light major divides in our country - including a profound disconnect between urban and rural areas. It has revealed that we are not talking to each other openly enough, that we don’t understand each other deeply enough and that many assumptions are being made on each side. As an artist, I started questioning what is my responsibility in all of this? How can I do my work better? How can it dig deeper to better connect individuals and communities across these great divides? I decided to do what I know best - ask questions, listen deeply to the answers, and to share what I learn in a way that helps us all connect, and move forward, together.

So, I bought a bus, a little yellow school bus converted into a living space, named Gus!

This January, Gus, my dog Bodie, and I will be embarking on a six-week cross country road-trip having conversations, making art, and documenting the incredible work rural-based artists, cultural leaders, and arts organizations are doing to make their communities a more vibrant, healthy, connected place to live. We’ll be documenting the process with video, audio, photos, written reflections, songs, letters and art objects.

Mobile Artist Residency

I am a strong believer in collaboration and getting as many people on board as possible, so I am opening up the bus to other artists to join me along the way - like a mobile artist residency - to create work about their experiences with the communities we visit. When it is all over, we will compile all of the stories and works of art into a multi-media exhibition - which we hope will be useful for artists, organizers, planners, really anyone living in and working with rural communities which we will share online, at the Rural Arts & Culture Summit, at the Rural Placemaking Summit, at small town galleries across the country, and - hopefully, everywhere…

Meet the Mobile Artists in Residence for the Public Transformation journey:

Photographer / Videographer Ali Rogers of PranaLens (Jan 5-6)

Writer / Photographer / Fashionista Randi Carlson (Jan 8-21)

Photographer Ellie Moore (Jan 21-26)

Theater Artist Hannah Holman (Jan 31-Feb 6)

Additional artists will also contribute to the project remotely and in collaboration with me following the road-trip. These artists include citizen artist Mary Rothlisberger, writers Michele Anderson and Matthew Fluharty, musician Brian Laidlaw, and playwright Jessica Huang. Artist residency positions are still available both on and off the bus (!) contact me at publictransformation@gmail.com for more information.

We will be sharing regular updates from the road on our Stories Blog and in email newsletters. Sign-up for the Public Transformation Newsletter at our Contact page. If you have any questions, ideas, feedback, thoughts, concerns, please reach out. 

Thank you for your time and support!


Ash & the Department of Public Transformation