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Higher Ground Coalition at SKCTC is named finalist for support by arts organization

Woman singing on the Higher ground stage accompanied by male singers

The Higher Ground Coalition of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College has been named a finalist for support from ArtPlace, an unprecedented private-public collaboration of nine of the nations top foundations, eight federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, and six of the countrys largest banks.

The Higher Ground Coalition, as operated by SKCTC, Is a county-wide coalition with years of experiences in creating participatory community arts projects in the rural Appalachian coalfields and works to collaborate with the college in areas of architecture and design and local economic development and tourism efforts to create art, to transform space, change community expectations and increase community vitality, explained Robert Gipe, Appalachian Program Director at SKCTC.

The coalition, working in concert with the Southeast Education Foundation, has requested funding for various art-related and cultural projects for the betterment of Harlan County noted Gipe. He went on to explain that the coalition since 2001 has engaged over 3,000 of Harlan Countys 28,000 population in art-making projects.

In our home area with high unemployment, we have been able to produce three musical dramas addressing drug addiction, strip mining, race relations and the outmigration of our youth. The entity has also created tile mosaic public art and organized nine youth arts festivals. The plan to increase community vibrancy in the next decade combines the coalitions ability to engage the public in art making with local economic development efforts and the power of design to transform space, he said.

With many former coal company towns now fallen into bad conditions, Gipe disclosed that an element of the overall project would be to urge property owners to collaborate with the University of Kentuckys College of Design in order to transform four to six neglected buildings into multifunctional art spaces. Our next community plays would be created in the transformed spaces. The model used to create the plays will transfer production skills to the youth, promoting future coalition stability. With our educational partners, transformed spaces will serve as sites for formal secondary and post secondary art education and incubators for locally managed art and performance venues.

The national finalists for support from ArtPlace, according to its President Carol Coletta, represent the best proposals for projects of the more than 2,000 applications from across the United States. She said the finalists, of which the Higher Ground Coalition is a part, were chosen for their potential to have a Transformative impact on community vitality with community projects running the scale from temporary art spaces to permanent performance venues, from music festivals to art walks, from street scaping to artists residencies.