Kentucky Humanities, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, will be bringing the Spark! Places of Innovation exhibit to Kentucky! This exhibit explores innovation and invention in rural communities and features diverse stories gathered from across the nation. The exhibit will stop in 7 sites across the state, all selected as locations that may not ordinarily receive such a large-scale exhibit. 
In addition to Spark!, Kentucky Humanities is facilitating the Youth Innovation in Rural America (YIRA) grant. This grant partners each site with a local school district or youth organization and encourages them to come together to find innovative solutions for local community problems. Each program will receive $1,000 dollars to put forth towards these solutions, and participants will document each step in the design process. Each site will also receive training in the innovation and design process from Adam Taylor Brown, founder of the Lexington-based brand strategy and design company, Marrow.  
Make Plans to Visit:
June 17 - July 22, 2023 
July 29 - September 2, 2023
September 9 - October 14, 2023
October 21 - November 25, 2023
December 2 - January 13, 2024
January 20 - February 24, 2024 
Mt. Sterling
March 2 - March 30, 2024 
For more information about Spark! Places of Innovation, visit the Smithsonian Instition’s Museum on Main Street website at 
Here is a link to 
WDKY. The Bluegrass Heritage Museum is a hidden gem in Kentucky, and there's ... Museum on Main Street program and the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Youth Innovation in Rural America - Kentucky Project

In conjunction with this Museum on Main Street exhibit coming to Kentucky, Kentucky Humanities is participating in the Youth Innovation in Rural America (YIRA) project. Inspired by Spark!, which highlights innovation in rural America from the perspective of the people who lived it, students in grades 7-12 participated in a community-based design challenge. Local high schoolers played a leading role in brainstorming and identifying the unique challenges faced by their community. Information was gleaned from community conversations and interviews. This information was used to develop a project. As students brainstormed issues, solicited input from the community, and identified a challenge to tackle, the host community benefited with open community discourse and enhanced youth involvement as a way to inspire innovation within the community.

The YIRA project helped each of the participating host communities engage young people in the community in a problem identifying and solving process prior to the Spark! exhibit arriving in the community. The host site coordinated with a local high school teacher to lead his/her students to serve as a community problem identifier and solver.

Adam Taylor Brown, Brand Strategy and Design Consultant of Marrow, led an exercise with the selected students at each of the participating communities. He led the class in a Problems & Solvers game, talked about how ideas are developed and the process of following through to solve problems. The purpose was to help students see themselves as innovative thinkers and part of the solution to problems that exist in the community. Brown helped inform students about what an innovative thinker is, as well as and guide them in the innovation process. Following the game, the students began to think about a small problem in their own community and discuss possible solutions. They then designed a project to help solve this problem.

Kentucky Humanities with support from the Smithsonian Institution, offered each of these communities $1,000 to be used in the project developed by the students to solve a community problem.

Boyle County - Centre Works, Boyle County High School, Boyle County Public Library

Students in Danville began their project by interviewing approximately 65 Boyle County residents. The residents were asked a number of questions about their positive experiences and their challenges living in the county. After reviewing all of the data gathered through the empathy interviews, the students determined that one of the biggest challenges facing the Boyle County community is the lack of safe and inclusive gathering places for young adults to come together and interact. The students have had several brainstorming sessions to discuss this problem, and they have put together a prototype that the plan to unveil to the community at an upcoming event on June 11th at CentreWorks.     



Montgomery County - Montgomery County High School, Gateway Regional Art Center, Smithsonian Institution's Cooper Hewitt Museum
Montgomery County High School partnered with the Gateway Regional Arts Council (GRAC) on a series of projects designed to address multiple community issues. Students designed and developed the Montgomery County Mental Health Art Show, and the MoCo Traveling Art Gallery, both of which featured student artwork with an emphasis on mental health. Another group of students designed and built a model multi-purpose, solar powered gazebo as potential addition to their high school. Students also developed ideas and informational posters on creating community safe spaces, as well brainstorming ways to help the local humane society. The multitude of projects showcased the abundant innovation and creativity in small-town America.  


Daviess County - Owensboro Innovation Academy, Owensboro Museum of Science and History
Students at the Owensboro Innovation Academy (OIA) identified the growing mental health needs of teens in their community as their top priority. They developed a mentorship program to assist students transitioning from the middle school to high school with current high school students as assigned mentors. OIA students hosted emotional support animals, art therapy, and a field day for mentors and mentees. The project sought to prioritize the mental health of teens in Owensboro, and to continue to explore and invest in effective interventions like mentorship and art therapy to support improved mental health outcomes of Owensboro teens and pre-teens.  
Below is a video the students made about their participation in the YIRA project.
Clark County - George Rogers Clark High School, Bluegrass Heritage Museum
The students at George Rogers Clark (GRC) High School in Winchester identified litter as the largest issue facing their community. To address this issue, students developed the anti-litter project titled, “L.I.T.- Littering Is Terrible!” Students brainstormed areas with large amounts of litter in Winchester and organized routine trash pick-ups. Students enlisted the help of local Fire and Police Departments to support these cleanups, and publicized the project through social media and local newspaper postings. Students also developed an informational slide show designed to reduce future litter through education and awareness.