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CUMBERLAND, Ky. The Higher Ground performance series at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) is getting some attention at the national level.

Higher Ground will be part of By the People: Designing a Better America," a forthcoming exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. "By the People" is the third exhibition in Cooper-Hewitt's series on socially responsible design, and will be on display from September 30th, 2016 through February 26th, 2017. The first exhibition in the series to focus on conditions in the U.S. and its bordering countries, By the People will explore the challenges faced by urban, suburban and rural communities. Organized by Cynthia E. Smith, Cooper Hewitts curator of socially responsible design, the exhibition features 60 design projects from every region across the U.S.

By the People includes the story of Higher Ground 4: Foglights, a community performance piece produced by the Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College Appalachian Program in 2013. Foglights, an original musical theater production with a cast of sixty Harlan County, Kentucky residents, traveled to four locations in Harlan County in the fall of 2013. The play deals with the foggy economic future of the community and the many resources already present in the community for finding a path forward. Higher Grounds part in the Cooper-Hewitt exhibit focuses on the seven-stage stage design and digital murals that traveled with the show throughout the county.

The set was designed by Joseph Varga, working for Community Performance International. Set construction was directed by SKCTC theater faculty Michael Corriston and involved SKCTC Carpentry instructor Kenneth Bowling as well as many SKCTC students. The inkjet murals were designed by SKCTC students working with SKCTC Appalachian Program Director Robert Gipe and guest artists Chris Dockery and Paul Dunlap.

It is very satisfying when a collaboration like Foglights gains recognition. Many people contributed to the beauty and success of Foglights. Gipe said. Undertaking such a complicated project seemed ill-advised at times, but in pulling it off, we have seen an increase in confidence and capacity in both the students and the organizations involved. The project took the arts to underserved areas, but it also helped us gain insight into how to improve life in our community in an ongoing way.

Higher Ground is a community performance project coordinated by the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College. For the past ten years, Higher Ground has produced original musical dramas celebrating the joys and facing the challenges of life in Harlan County, Kentucky. Higher Ground 4: Foglights had the support of ArtPlace America, the Robert E. Frazier Foundation, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.