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Southeasts Appalachian Program receives funding for additional arts programming

A coalition coordinated by the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College (SKCTC) recently received $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program in support of eighteen months of innovative arts programming fostering community interaction focused on emerging regional artists as part of a larger community renewal effort.

Proposed work includes: arts activities designed to promote the role of art and design in community and create an economic development hub; mentoring and training of local young creatives as they produce art and community arts engagement projects; and expansion of a pilot program with higher education partners offering baccalaureate-level classes in the arts not previously available in the area.

The project also includes a regional rebranding effort involving arts, tourism and local government, culminating in a conference celebrating arts, adventure tourism, local food production and the promise of youth. The conference will take place in late summer or early autumn 2015. Art making activity includes: 1)a new Higher Ground community performance; 2) student-driven arts mini-festivals; 3) documentary arts workshops; 4) creative writing workshops; 5) public art residencies; and 6) high school theater residencies.

The initiative builds on the Harlan County Project (2002-2006), in which over 2,000 community residents participated in an arts-based community response to prescription drug abuse, and Higher Ground, which in 2013 was fashioned into a fourth production, a rousing, yet poignant musical about the areas foggy future, that was toured to four non-traditional theater spaces across Harlan County and with the support of ArtPlace America.

In addition to SKCTC, coalition partners in the Our Town proposal include Appalshop, a media arts center in Whitesburg; the creative writing program at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.; the Harlan County Fiscal Court; the Tri-Cities Main Street Program; the City of Harlan Tourist and Convention Commission; the University of North Georgia Department of Visual Arts and local and regional artists.

Our communities within Harlan County are so very unique and are such fountains of creativity, noted Elana Scopa, a faculty member at SKCTC and a long-time participant in previous programs, including appearances in the Higher Ground play series. This funding for a new cycle will allow the art-making endeavor to continue and will be tremendously beneficial.

For further details about the project and how community members can get involved, contact Professor Robert Gipe, SKCTC Appalachian Program director, by phoning (606) 620-3913 or at

Professor Robert Gipe teaching a class