Arts and culture is often valued for its ability to enrich lives. More tangibly, arts and culture supports local economic development, better health outcomes, and higher educational attainment.
Central Appalachia enjoys rich artistic traditions in music, crafts, literature, and theatre, among others. As many communities transition their workforce to meet community needs, arts and culture hold untapped potential to foster creative economies that create new jobs and rejuvenate underutilized buildings and downtown corridors. Research shows that creative places attract a range of industries because such places become attractive locations to live, work, and play.
The Arts & Culture Group (ACG) works together to support arts & culture-based approaches to economic development in Central Appalachia. The group focuses on three areas of interest that will comprise their work moving forward: creative placemaking, arts education, and cultural heritage.
The ACG’s strong focus on creative placemaking supports an Appalachian transition that is entrepreneurial, inclusive, and elevates the ingenuity and promise of local solutions. Creative placemaking fosters local economic development entrepreneurship by recirculating money into local businesses and inherently takes an asset-based approach where artists and creatives use what is already present in the community to enhance, adapt, and rejuvenate it.
Arts education is often the type of education that loses funding first and is perceived as less important. Between 1982 and 2008, students receiving any arts education declined from 65% to 50%. The ACG promotes arts education as an important piece of a robust regional (and national) economy that supports children to make good judgements, understand multiple perspectives, and think critically. Creative thinkers are excellent problem-solvers and with the rise of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) education, experts agree that the arts inform and intersect with multiple disciplines. The result, over the long-term, is a better educated workforce and more entrepreneurship, both of which support the Appalachian Transition.
One of the core issues that continues to undermine our work and the Appalachian transition is a long-standing negative perception of Appalachia. Much of that perception stems from a narrative that Appalachian culture is backward and resistant to change. On the contrary, ACG members hope to lift up an accurate, locally-created narrative that demonstrates Central Appalachia’s rich artistic and creative history, which has challenged structural inequities and been a voice for positive social change.
In 2020, the group created "Stories of the Power of Art", an exploration into Appalachian culture and heritage. Read the full report here.
Read where we make the case for the ACG's focus areas in our case statement.
Co-Chairs of the Arts & Culture Group
Heather Pontonio, The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation
Eric Waggoner, WV Humanities Council
Members of the Arts & Culture Group
Donna Collins, Ohio Arts Council
David Cooke, Berea College Appalachian Fund
Tim Deaton, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky / Appalachian Arts Alliance
Shannon Ford, Tennessee Arts Commission
Bob Reeder, Rural LISC
Lora Smith, Appalachian Impact Fund
David Stocks, The Educational Foundation of America
Susie Surkamer, South Arts
Pat Weir, Berea College
Betsy Whaley, Mountain Association
Joy Young, South Arts
Kathy Allen, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
Sharon LaRue, Kentucky Foundation for Women
Candace Mullins, Berea College
Mary Fant Donnan, Alleghany Foundation
Stephanie Hyre, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation
Margo Miller, Appalachian Community Fund