Maria Sykes found rural community development and arts administration by way of architecture and design. She graduated in 2008 from Auburn University, a program known for a focus on community-engaged rural design, with dual Bachelor of Architecture and Interior Architecture degrees. After school, Maria sought after a community where her skills and passions could be utilized for good. Following a summer visit to the town of Green River (pop. 952) in beautiful southeastern Utah, she moved there to co-found Epicenter with colleagues from architecture school. Epicenter is a non-profit organization focused on community and economic development through arts and design. During her time at Epicenter, she has co-led the renovation of a 100+ year old building using mostly volunteer labor and an inconceivably tight budget; co-founded the Frontier Fellowship which has hosted 50+ artists/designers in five years; and facilitated countless successful arts workshops, small projects, and community events. In addition to directing Epicenter's ongoing arts and design programming, Sykes presents on her place-specific and socially-engaged practice and consults on rural projects internationally. During her time at Epicenter, the collective's work has been honored by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah Housing Coalition, the Community Foundation of Utah, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Curbed, and the Design Futures Council. Sykes loves small town living, winter canyon hiking, front porch sitting, and summer river swimming. Sykes continues to co-direct Epicenter and has a contagious passion for working in the rural.