Catch these performers at Rural Assembly Everywhere April 20 + 21

We are proud to present a diverse slate of performers and artists at Rural Assembly Everywhere April 20 and 21st. From poets to singers to graphic artists,  the creative spirit interspersed through each day will bring you joy and inspiration. Register to hear and see these through-provoking performances during our MainStage from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday April 20 and 21st. 

Senora May 

Senora May is an engaging singer-songwriter and compelling onstage performer.  She’s an artist whose talent will only grow because she knows so well who she is.  Like the best songs, hers become more intricate and remarkable once they’re listened to more often and more closely. She’s like the countryside itself:  not easy to define, impossible to tame, and always interesting. 

Kelle Jolly Vocalist Kelle Jolly, “The Tennessee Ukulele Lady”, is one of East Tennessee’s most celebrated jazz musicians. She and her husband, saxophonist Will Boyd, were the 2015 MLK Art Award recipients in Knoxville. She is the founder of Ukesphere of Knoxville, a ukulele group for all ages. As an ambassador of jazz, she has traveled to Muroran, Japan as Knoxville’s Sister City representative at various jazz festivals and events.  Kelle Jolly is the host of Knoxville’s newest radio show on WUOT 91.9FM (, Jazz Jam with Kelle Jolly, an hour-long show that celebrates great local, national and international singers of jazz. She is also the founder of the Women in Jazz Jam Festival (

Robert Gipe is the founding producer of the Higher Ground community performance series in Harlan County, Kentucky. He is the author of three novels (Trampoline, Weedeater, and Pop) published by Ohio University Press. He is the former director of Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College Appalachian Program and Educational Services Director at Appalshop, a media arts center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee and lives in Harlan, Kentucky.

Rural Shakespeare Co. Colby Pilkey is the artistic director of Rural Shakespeare Co., which brings the works of Shakespeare to McMinn County, Tennessee, and providing educational outreach to the community in order to foster a love for the Bard.

Eliza Blue is a shepherd, writer & folk-singer. In addition to being a regular columnist with the Daily Yonder, her weekly column ‘Little Pasture on the Prairie,’ is carried by twelve different print publications, she is a regular contributor to South Dakota Public Radio and Prairie Public Radio with her monthly series: ‘Postcards from the Prairie.’ She also writes and hosts a new traveling concert television show, Wish You Were Here.’ Read Eliza’s recent New York Times Op/Ed about ranch life here
Her first book, Accidental Rancher, is now available. Order here

Cody & Alex Cody & Alex, a musical duo living in East Tennessee with roots from New Orleans. They pair piano, trumpet, ukulele and a multitude of sounds with Alex’s beautiful voice.

Nikky Finney was born by the sea in South Carolina and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She is the author of On Wings Made of Gauze; Rice; The World Is Round; and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. Her new collection of poems, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, was released from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 2020.

Joy Priest is the author of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of a 2021 NEA fellowship and a 2019-2020 Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, and has won the 2020 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from APR, and the Gearhart Poetry Prize from The Southeast Review. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, The Atlantic, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Her essays have appeared in TheBitter SouthernerPoets & WritersESPN, and The Undefeated, and her work has been anthologized in Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-HopThe Louisville AnthologyA Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, and Best New Poets 2014, 2016 and 2019. Joy received her M.F.A. in poetry, with a certificate in Women & Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina. She is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston. 

Shuly Cawood

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is an award-winning writer and the author of four books, including the newly released poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning (Mercer University Press, 2021), winner of the 2019 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry, the short story collection, A Small Thing to Want (Press 53, 2020), the little advice book, 52 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself When I Was 17 (Cimarron Books, 2018), and the memoir, The Going and Goodbye, (Platypus Press, 2017). Shuly has an MFA in creative writing from Queens University and an MA in journalism from The Ohio State University. She writes columns for the Johnson City Press and The News & Neighbor. Shuly’s creative writing has appeared in places such as The Sun, Brevity, and The Rumpus, among others. Find a list of publications here. She also teaches memoir and essay writing. Learn about her next class here.

Nhatt Nichols is a multidisciplinary artist and writer raised on top of a mountain in the Okanogan, Washington State. Throughout her career, she has used drawing, poetry, and comics to break down political and environmental issues, finding new ways to meet people where they are and ask them to reach deeper. A graduate of The Royal Drawing School in London, her focus is on using drawings and words to tell stories of the challenges rural America faces. She is the editorial cartoonist for the Port Townsend Leader and creates freelance comics for various news outlets. Her new book, This Party of the Soft Things, contains poetry and drawings on ecological disaster and hope and will be released by Bored Wolves Press in fall 2021.

Shoshana Bass and Sandglass Theater Company Having been raised in a traveling family of internationally acclaimed puppeteers, Bass has spent her life witnessing and in dialogue with artistic voices of diverse cultures, heritages, and perspectives. Now she performs, directs, and choreographs internationally. She is the festival director for Sandglass’ Puppets in the Green Mountains International Festival and serves on the board of the national Network of Ensemble Theaters. Shoshana also produces the family-friendly “Winter Sunshine” series, as well as the social activist “Voices of Community” series. She is a touring ensemble member with Sandglass Theater in Babylon, Journeys of Refugees; Rock the Boat; and Punschi and her solo performance When I Put On Your Glove. As a rural-based artist touring frequently to cities, she is especially interested in the contribution of rural experiences and voices to cultural work and community practice. 

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