Summer Institute at Appalshop, Whitesburg, KY

By Imagining America | March 08, 2016

Imagining America & Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project

July 14-18, 2016

How can arts and culture promote individual voice and collective agency, unbounding a community’s imagination and ambition in order to create the conditions for economic development? How can a community organize itself to build an economy that’s broad-based and sustainable?

Join Appalshop; Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life; Lafayette College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project; and teams of artists, scholars, and community leaders from across the country for a 5-day hands-on institute to explore these questions. The foundation for our inquiry is the culture hub being built in Letcher County, Kentucky, in the sickest and poorest congressional district in the nation, where the assets of arts and culture are being mobilized and synthesized into new forms of value and wealth creation.

Teams are invited from Imagining America colleges and their communities. During the Institute, participants will explore what’s taking place in Letcher County and create their own approach for inclusive development in their home community. Institute components include:

  • Investigating the history, animating ideas, and policy environments for arts- and culture-based economic and civic community development, through presentations and dialogue.
  • Training in methodologies for economic development based on community cultural assets, including local institutions of higher education. Appalshop will share its experience engaging all parts of the community, including working-class and poor people, in arts-based development initiatives. EEGLP will introduce theories and practices for an approach to economic development based on cultural assets. IA will share its knowledge about engaging colleges in democratic community work in ways that impact both the community and the higher education institution.
  • Experiencing Appalachian culture, including performances that demonstrate the role of local music in development; screenings of rare historical footage from the Appalshop archive; discussions with Appalshop’s documentary filmmakers, photographers, radio journalists, grassroots theater producers, and mixed-media visual artists; a square dance at the Cowan Community Center; and more!
  • Art making, including a 23-hour production period in which each participant will choose to create a short play, short film, set of photographs, music recording, or radio documentary in collaboration with Appalshop professional artists and their community partners.
  • Collaborating with the rest of your team to determine an approach to inclusive development in your home community.

About the Collaborating Organizations

Appalshop, founded in 1969 as a media arts job training program, became its region’s cultural anchor institution by producing the largest extant body of films, plays, and recordings about Appalachia’s heritage and ongoing struggles. Three years ago, with the help of a team of economists from the Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Program at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and scholars from the national higher-education consortium Imagining America, Appalshop launched a strategy to become a regional culture hub for economic and civic development: judged to be its best bet on a new economy that will lift Appalachia out of a century of poverty created by multi-national industries that exported the region’s wealth.

For more information, contact Imagining America Assistant Director Jamie Haft at and 315-345-3931.