The CIRD workshop in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky sought to promote the integration of arts and culture into existing community plans, raising awareness about the potential of artisans and craft industries to contribute to the economy of a fifty-four county region (population: 21,931).
The Central Appalachia Institute for Research and Development—a non-profit dedicated to alleviating economic distress to Central Appalachia, partnered with the University of Pikeville to bring the communities together to see artists present their work, and hear success stories of art revitalizing rural communities from speakers, such as the Mayor of Berea, KY. Artists, entrepreneurs, planners, city officials and state representatives, as well as residents across the region interested in investing more in its rich art and culture came together at the conference.
During the two and a half day workshop, participants had the opportunity to listen to and work with a number of dynamic speakers. Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, a Principal at Metris Arts Consulting, gave a keynote presentation on arts and economic development, and Ed Barlow, Vice President of Northstar Ideas, led discussions on using branding to improve the communities’ economy. Sarah Evans, an educational Consultant for the Southeast/Southcentral Educational Cooperative, spoke about incorporating art within the communities’ school districts, where the arts are often the first to be cut. Linda Caldwell, Executive Director for the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association, presented on fostering preservation, museum education, and oral history collections in communities. June Holley, of Network Weaver, led a session on strategies for rural collaboration to address how the whole region can work together, and Mayor Connelly, of Berea, KY, spoke about Berea’s success in capturing arts and culture as economic drivers, and involving local government.
Representatives of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Arts Council, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Endowment for the Arts also provided information regarding potential funding, incentives, programs, and other resources on arts and cultural development on a Resource Panel.
Participants not only gained an understanding of the arts as an essential element in community development, but understood the need to develop a plan for making the arts a priority in their own community. As Bob Stewart, State Secretary of Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage stated, "People are looking at art in a new way: as a bottom line. Any comprehensive plan that does not include arts is incomplete and ineffective.” A participant reflected that the workshop was valuable for "meeting with similar goals and dreams for their community, and learning about communities with successful development of a tourism industry that helped to revitalize the economy and create jobs at home."
At the workshop, the participants crafted a resolution to support art as an economic driver, officially recognizing the value and potential of arts and cultural resources in contributing to Kentucky's economic growth, and outlining goals and actions to be taken to support arts and culture--encouraging art education, creating a committee on job growth through the arts, and more.
Post-Workshop Accomplishments: The Kentucky Arts Council hosted two additional follow up workshops in May 2014 with funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The funding benefited the 54 county Appalachian region by providing follow up information for communities and individuals. The workshops were intended to provide arts-related tools, resources, and ideas that can initiate economic growth and development. The first workshop, titled “Vibrant Communities: Putting arts and cultural development to work”, was held May 9, 2014 at the Rowan County Artisan Center and provided resources and information for community based groups, organizers, local officials and leaders, policy makers, businesses, arts and cultural organizations and other community stakeholders interested in innovative and collaborative projects. 70 participants attended the workshop. The second workshop, “Artists as Entrepreneurs: Putting arts and cultural development to work”, was held May 13, 2014 at the Knott County Opportunity Center in Hindman and provided support for artist entrepreneurs interested in developing, managing and expanding their businesses. 45 participants attended.