Stand With The Arts

“Appalshop has been here in this town for 48 years and has been an example of the diversified economy we really need in this region.” – Ada Smith on CBS Sunday Morning


As the 2017 budget saga in Washington unfolds, Appalshop and bedrock arts organizations across the country have been called on to reflect the legacy impacts of public arts access on communities. Here are just a few of those news spotlights;

Since its inception, Appalshop has used cultural organizing and place-based media, arts and education to document the life and concerns of people living in Appalachia and rural America. Appalshop’s methodologies are rooted in the belief that the arts present opportunities to preserve and share culture, cultivate economic opportunities and provide tools for communities to achieve justice and equity on their own terms.

Founded in 1969 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, Appalshop has thrived for nearly 50 years as a nationally award-winning center for filmmaking, theater, radio and educational programming. Based in the heart of eastern Kentucky’s coalfields, Appalshop has been a resource for sharing regional perspectives and creative arts with a national audience in ways that were previously unavailable.

Recognizing the ability of the arts to catalyze community investment and development, Appalshop has long regarded the arts as an economically viable pathway towards healthy communities, higher education attainment and job growth. Nationally, it’s easy to see the monetary gains from the arts. Arts industries contribute $698 billion to the national economy, according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts. That’s four percent of America’s GDP. The same study found that creative and cultural industries employ 4.7 million people across the U.S. And for every 100 jobs created, there are 62 additional jobs created from new demand for the arts.

In Kentucky, creative arts industries collectively employ 108,498 people, as of the Kentucky Arts Council’s 2015 Creative Industries Report. This makes up 2.5 percent of Kentucky’s total employment, earning $1.9 billion annually. The presence of creative industries is particularly important in a state that battles against stereotypes held by a number of Americans.

Appalshop’s public affairs and educational programming — including a community radio station (WMMT) and a creative youth development program (Appalachian Media Institute) — work to share the real stories and voices of Appalachia, beyond what is often portrayed in the national media. The Appalachian Media Institute not only provides a program for regional youth to learn to create their own films, but also pays competitive salaries to young people — often their first experience in the workforce. Coal miners, fast-food workers, prisoners, truck drivers, community activists, high school students, teachers, musicians and artists continue to articulate compelling solutions for a better way of life for their families, their communities and their country.

Appalshop’s total income for the last four years has surpassed $5.2 million and nearly all of that money is spent directly in central Appalachia. Spanning five decades of economic transition,  Appalshop has continued to create art, to share stories, to educate and elevate youth, and thus amplify the narrative of Appalachia in its own words. The 100+ documentary films Appalshop has made, hundreds of plays and thousands of featured artists all produce creative work that shines a light on life here.

In harder times, it is our songs that sing us to sleep and our photographs that remind us of better days. It is the movies you’ve seen, the plays you’ve watched, music you’ve played, the books you’ve read that have helped to shape who you are today.